As study became harder as the course went on, I couldn’t find time to go out or talk with Sister anymore. I wasn’t concerned then as I thought Sister needed time for the new refugee girls; I wasn’t very sensitive to Sister Night’s maternal need of feeling needed and loved, so Sister began verbally and psychologically bullying me. When I stood up for myself, she told me to move out. I begged a priest who frequented the house to find me accommodation and thus I left the communal house to live at the residence of a Catholic order.
The residence comprised of 3 two-bedroom self-contained units. A 60-something Caucasian nun and I shared one unit. The two 50-something Caucasian priests and two priests in training, one Asian and one Caucasian in their late 20s shared the other two.
While Father Balloon was talkative, cheerful and overweight, Father Rod was quiet, serious, and skinny. The two Fathers and the two theological students mostly spending time watching TVs or reading newspapers in the communal living room. I never set foot inside the communal facilities and I didn’t eat with the rest as there was a kitchen as well as fridge in our unit.
It was a public holiday so the shops were closed; on that day I ran out of milk. The priests told me that I was welcome to get anything I need from the communal kitchen, so I went for the first time to get milk. The compound was empty as the nun and the two male students had gone away. After fetching the milk, I didn’t leave, but instead lingered to watch the news because the TV was still on. Suddenly creeping from behind, Father Rod bear-hugged me with his one arm as well as swing me back and forth while saying: “You are not going away, hiMe?” This was not the reserved Father Rod I knew, his eyes beamed over me like spotlights, he cracked a lascivious grin and his hand grabbed my breast. Suddenly I was transported back to when I was a 13-year-old, as violated as when my breast was groped by a vagabond on the street of Saigon. I was speechless then and now. My mind wanted to say: “Father, how dare you touched my breast!” but words couldn’t be made to sounds. The address “Father” to someone of respect contradicted the part “touching breast” that followed. I wanted to but I wasn’t trained in my culture on how to confront an authority figure in such situation. What would happen if he denied that he molested me and that his hand was just as serious as his face used to be? Would he kick me out, furious that I accused him? So I remained silent, pushing down the disgusting feelings about the priest into my subconscious and avoided Father Rod as much as I could.
Twenty years later, with the Pope visit, I was made aware of the Towards Healing process ran by the Catholic Church that started twelve years before. I reported his assault to his Order and the now seventy-something, retired Father Rod had no recollection of the event. The leader of the order appreciated that I didn’t raise the complaint lightly and even though there were no independent witnesses, he offered me an apology in writing. At last, I could pat myself on the back for being courageous to protest!
A priest with the solemn, lonesome hands
In the plot with fearsome, loathsome strands.