We deeply regret any maltreatment and hurt to children at Sisters of Nazareth, says Sister Brenda McCall
For several weeks Sister Brenda McCall quietly listened to stories of the horrific abuse of young children placed in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth.
Yesterday she described the evidence of alleged victims to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry as shocking and harrowing.
As she left the witness box after her second day of evidence to the inquiry, Sister Brenda, a member of the Sisters of Nazareth Congregational Group, apologised to those who were abused while in their care.
The inquiry, which is currently examining events at two Derry children's homes, has heard allegations of how children were subject to physical attacks, as well as sexual and emotional abuse while in the care of the nuns.
"I would like to say, having sat up the back these last few weeks, it has been a very harrowing and challenging time for us. To listen to the evidence given was very harrowing indeed," she said.
Sister Brenda added: "We are a human group and we had people who were champions to the cause and we had people who were a bit weaker and all I can say is we had some wonderful, heroic, inspirational sisters and I am proud to carry on the work of the congregation to work for the marginalised and weak.
"I would like to reiterate our apology ... We deeply, deeply regret and most sincerely apologise for any maltreatment and hurt they received in our care."
When asked about the corporal punishment of children in their care Sister Brenda, who had no personal involvement in any of the alleged abuse, said the sisters knew that corporal punishment of any kind was not accepted by the Sisters of Nazareth congregation.
She agreed that "unfortunately" some sisters assaulted children in their care and that some of the younger children were also assaulted by some older boys and lay staff employed by the congregation.
On many occasions the children would have been left without adequate supervision while the nuns prayed, ate together and had communal recreation time in the evenings, the inquiry was told.
Sister Brenda agreed that the standard of care "may not have reached an acceptable level".
"I think having listened to the evidence given here which was very shocking and harrowing, we must accept that certain times by certain sisters things were just not right," she added.