2nd Annual Survivors Day – Rome 2011

ROME 2011

When we came back from Rome this time, we fully intended to write our report straight away. We were getting lots of e mails from everyone, how was it? Tell us all about it and of course we are as always, bursting to tell you all!

But there are two stories to tell when we report about these trips, one is all about the facts, the meeting in the Italian Parliament, the Survivors voice meeting with all our wonderful friends, the party in the Castel St Angelo. Then there is another story, the one that effects us all emotionally! How when we come back from the trip, we are exhausted, drained emotionally and almost unable to speak for a few days!

Like post holiday blues or post christmas anti climax, we have been once again connected to our brothers and sisters and then separated again.  Well, this time it has taken over a week before I was able to write an account of our wonderful trip to Rome. It is hard to explain to  anyone who has not experienced the effects of abuse by catholic clergy, how each one of these trips leaves us with a vast array of emotions, every time we meet each other it is a huge surge of excitement, but also we share the pain that each one of us has experienced in order to belong to this brave band of survivors.

Our close proximity top the narcissistic organisation which is the vatican leaves traces of anger and disgust, regardless of how long we have been carrying this burden. It takes a while to recover, and get some balance back. Our only comfort is in knowing that we all share this “downwards spiral” for a while after such an amazing  connection and then separation. But here we are and ready to tell everyone about our weekend of inspiration and joy, of the laughter and the tears.
The speeches and the music , the  determination and the dancing!

I think Ton and I had to pinch ourselves as we started the weekend by speaking in the Italian parliament, taking part in a seminar organised by the Radicali party. The theme was “Science Secularism and Religion” and we shared the platform with other eminent people who are as committed as we are to the furtherance of their cause.

Once again we stood on the Spanish Steps in the evening of Friday 28th, to meet with others who had made the journey.
We were joined for the weekend by our wonderful friends Marco Tranchino, organiser of the Secular Europe campaign and Ed Presswood, a London doctor who is part of the secular medical forum. As always Maurizio Turco of the radicali party was there with his support, Silvia Amodio to take more beautiful picture for her “Out of the Shadows” photographic monument, the wonderful Paola  Leerschool D’Ambrogio who  once again, had organised so much of our day, and Louise who spoke very movingly about being the daughter of an abuse Survivor. Davide and Daniella who tapped away on the computer so our words could be read by everyone as we spoke, Salvatore who had traveled from Tenerife. They were many new people who turned up and, of course, our deaf and speech impaired brothers and sisters from the Verona Provolo group.

Tears and laughter, as we charted our progress over the last year since we first met. We showed the videos of all the various occasions and talked of the future.

The talk came around to “next year” do we still take our celebration back to Rome? Do we really want to continue focusing on Rome? The vatican really couldn’t care less if we are there, and we certainly don’t want to see any of them! Are we not elevating the Vatican’s status by continuing to take our meeting back there? Do we really want to witness the obscene wealth of this regime, while families are begging outside? Would it not be better if we made Verona a shared event? The centre for our activities in Europe? Easier for the Provolo survivors to not have to travel, there are so many of them, and the journey so long. As we talked it became clearer that we just want all to be together, and we want the World’s press to acknowledge our meeting, and where better to do that than Verona where our Provolo group suffered their horrendous abuses, we remembered how poignant the meeting was in July, how the tourists in the Piazza near the amphitheatre started to wave and then clap and then blow kisses! We instinctively realised that Verona is the place that we should be.

So we made our decision. The next Survivors Voice gathering will be in Verona in July 2012.

In Vatican Square we read out the messages sent to us by people all over the World who couldn’t be there in person, but wanted their story told, and we posted  messages  in every vatican post box along with our Survivors Voice leaflets! We placed our leaflets all over Rome that day.

Our day ended with our party in the Castel St Angelo! We had hoped to have a meeting in the evening, but were refused police permission and had to start in the afternoon. What a bonus that was! We were dancing in the Piazza, in the daylight with everyone who was gathering around that historic sight joining in our celebration. One rather beautiful couple performed an amazingly raunchy Lambada in the Piazza!  Some of us even moon walked, others danced with posters in every different language, which made all the tourists come over and talk to us, regardless of where they came from.

Our brave and incredible friends from Verona


The police, who had begun the day with a cold “official” attitude, warmed visibly and eventually seemed part of our gathering.
Of course there was vatican interference! We would hardly expect anything else! I think they perhaps went over the top with the helicopter! And maybe the people standing on top of the roof were a little superfluous! The helicopter wired down to the police to ask one of our members to get rid of his banner because they thought saying “RATZINGER OUT” was offensive , which caused us a huge amount of amusement, they really were scraping the barrel to find something, anything to complain about! Which shows their true colours.

What an amazing moment!


The highlight of the evening was when we lit a hundred chinese lanterns into the beautiful Roman  sky as the music sang out “lifted lifted lifted” and we absolutely were–LIFTED! Lifted from misery caused by the criminals in the vatican, lifted from our isolation and our pain, lifted beyond all expectations, and lifted high enough to soar above our abusers! Lifted and empowered, at last on the right path, because at last we have each other! We cried and waved as our Verona friends coach left Castel St.Angelo, but we know it will not be long before we are together again.

Our last job was to  thank the police for their help, and they told us they thought that it had been “beautiful” and booked a table for us at their favourite restaurant where we were treated like visiting royalty! We now have that very necessary injection of fuel to carry on the fight for justice.

Not even Radio Vaticano could resist the sight…



  1. Looking Good Guys 🙂

  2. Looking forward to the meeting!!
    Compliments Sue en Ton.

  3. Sandra Stilling-Seehausen

    I wish you all well. My heart grieves for all of you. I continue to work hard to hold the church hierarchy accountable for their grievous acts against you. I pray daily for your recovery. Bless all of you…
    Sandy in the USA

  4. hello from Dublin Ireland. please keep in mind and solidarity women who re survivors of the Magdalene Laundries Ireland. Thursday 6 October 2011. Irish television RTE. Prime Time, had a documentary programme, about vacination trials which were carried out, on children, withouth the consent of our mothers. in state and church industrial schools

    • Kathleen O'Malley. "Childhood Interrupted"

      Hi Con.
      My name is Kathleen O’Malley, author of “Childhood Interrupted” .
      I know I was used in their Trials as I have Documents to confirm such . The Religious were opportunists if there was money to be made they did so. My Mother was never asked for her permission from the start we were committed to a Prison from a young age. When in Court Judge McCarthy asked where the Mother was? the N.S.P.C.C. Inspector Annie Wogan replied that she was unfit and that we were Destitute. She had removed us from our beds and taken us to Dublin Castle. By the time my Mother got to the Court house we were being piled into a black car and driven away. the sisters of Mercy were our Prison Wardens and slave Drivers “CHILD ABUSERS” the same order as the Magdalene Girls.
      Our voice is what we have so lets use it.
      Kathleen O’Malley. “Childhood Interrupted”.

  5. Hi, my name is patrick i was imprisioned from age 6 to 15 in the catholic run gulags. i would like to come to rome and support you, i am a mamber of a survivor org over here in ireland.
    ive never been to rome and would ask that someone meets me and bring me there to the events, i would like to attend and give my views too,
    many thanks

    • Hi Patrick,
      It will not be possible for us to guide you to the various events, but if you come on friday night to the “Spanish Steps” (Piazza di Spagna – every taxi driver knows this address) we can see how to make arrangements for saturday morning and for the evening event.
      To answer your next question: of course your family members are very welcome indeed to join you and us! Sue and I are looking forward to meeting you in Rome.
      With warm regards,
      Ton Leerschool

  6. can we bring family members?

  7. here is contact link for programme 6 October
    http://www.rte.ie/newsav/2011/1106/primetime.html. email primetime@rte.ie

  8. Bravo. Keep up the blessed noise of survival!!!

  9. Oh how I wish i could be there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I miss you all!

  10. I wish well on the 29th oct.
    You are an incredibly strong and inspiring group and the church has a lot to learn from you, in fact if you were running it would be a Sacred institution.
    Keep up the great work.

  11. I will be with you all in Spirit.
    Give ’em hell guys.
    Thanks for the courage and the witness.
    Don’t be afraid. Her/His Eye is on the sparrow.

  12. Hallo Allemaal,

    Hoe is het geweest in Rome? Ik lees wel binnenkort.

    Ton Pooters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *