'I felt they would not believe me over a priest'


KENYA: St Teresa’s Boys Secondary School, Nairobi

ALEX DE Figueiredo is a retired teacher living in Vancouver. He was a day pupil at the Spiritan/Holy Ghost St Teresas secondary school in Nairobi, Kenya, from 1955 to 1961. He has been in Canada since 1969.

His family were from the Indian state of Goa and staunchly Catholic. His father was the first Asian to get a job in Kenya’s public service. Beforehand only whites held such posts. “He broke the barrier,” Alex told The Irish Times.

Of his experiences at St Teresa’s he recalled: “I was sexually abused by Fr Patrick Hannan [school headmaster and parish priest] from the age of 11 to 16 [January 1956-1961].”

It began when he was called in by Hannan for an exam during those first Christmas holidays. He had been sick and had missed school and Hannan told Alex’s father he wanted to see what progress the boy was making. When the priest reached orgasm on that occasion, “I was shocked. I didn’t know what it was.”

Thereafter the priest would call him out of classes and take him on camping trips and picnics when he would be separated from the other boys so the abuse could take place. The others would be told “go and play” or such like.

Once he went to Hannan in confession. The priest said, “I can’t hear your confession. We would have to stop what we do and I cannot do that.” Alex went to another priest to hear his confession, who was also his Latin teacher, and was given “a severe penance”.

“From that day on he [the Latin teacher] made my life miserable. Every day he had me stand up first and quizzed me on Latin until I made a mistake when he would make me stand for the rest of the period,” Alex recalled.

“I hated school and every day I woke up with an excuse not wanting to go but my mum would gently coax me to go,” he said. “I was afraid to tell my parents because I felt that they would not believe me over a priest.”

He would discover he was wrong in this.

Tony D’Souza lives in London. He was a classmate of Alex’s at St Teresa’s in Nairobi. He was “oblivious to all that had been going on” where Alex and others were concerned, he told The Irish Times. He discovered it at a class reunion 10 years ago. It was “a complete shock”.

But he felt “guilt, that while I was having a good time classmates were being abused”. He knows of five such classmates and believes Hannan went for the more intelligent boys. “Luckily I wasn’t one of those,” he said.

When the above details were put to the Spiritan/Holy Ghost Fathers, a spokesman responded that “whilst we cannot comment on the specifics of the allegations, we can say, with profound regret, that the form of abuse described is consistent with complaints that we have received about the priests mentioned”, including Hannan, who is now deceased.