St. John’s Orphan Asylum for Boys: Pennsylvania

How many boys can YOU identify?

St. Vincents Tacony, St. John’s Orphan Asylum for Boys, West Philadelphia, St. Joseph’s House for Homeless and Industrious Boys, North Philadelphia, AKA The Hut, St Francis Vocational School Eddington, (St. Francis-St. Joseph Home)  alums plan anniversary party.  We also invite any women survivors from homes or orphanges for girls, like from St. Joseph’s Gonzaga Home – Gemantown, St. Margaret’s, and the Catholic Home for Destitute Girls 29th and Allegheny Ave.  Alumni of St. Francis-St. Joseph Homes for Children will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of what were then separate institutions on Sept. 8, 2013, main campus, Route 13 and Street Road, Bensalem.

St. Francis was founded in 1888 by Elizabeth, (St.) Katharine and Louise Drexel as St. Francis Industrial School, a vocational training facility for adolescent boys who aged out of the former St. John’s Orphan Asylum.

St. Joseph’s House for Industrious Boys was founded approximately the same time by Father Eugene V. McElhone with a similar mission, but initially accepting homeless adolescent boys straight from the streets of Philadelphia.

The two institutions have operated as a single institution on the Bensalem campus and in community-based group homes since 1998. At this point St. Francis-St. Joseph is virtually the last man standing of what once was a huge archdiocesan network of residential homes for non-delinquent children at risk.
The St. Francis-St. Joseph alumni invite former residents of all the former homes to the celebration.

The Holy Ghost Fathers, CSSp, now called Spiritians  

St. Joseph’s House for Homeless & Industrial Boys, 16th Street & Allegheny Ave.
North Philadelphia, Penna.

My name is John J Bangert. I now live on Cape Cod,  Massachusetts. I was raised in the early 1950’s at the archdiocese institutions where I was severely abused and harmed. I am in touch with over 150 survivors in my database and we would like the opportunity to address Archdiocese Lay Review Committee.

We were in the care of the Archdioceses of Philadelphia Catholic Social Services from the early 1953 – 1966,  when my twin brother and I were removed from our poor home, after our father was sent to prison, and older sisters were sent to the The Catholic Home for Destitute Girls and we were sent to St. John’s Orphan Asylum  for Boys, and later moved in the system to St. Joseph’s House for Homeless and Industrious Boys. We were identified by our assigned laundry numbers-my laundry number was # 135, and Joe’s was # 116.   If we were ever addressed it was always by our last name only. -Bangert, go get the Bangerts twins, never Johnny or Joe. One name I remembered was sister saying “Hey You, you character of the worse description”.
 The nuns would ring hand bells to call us in like sheep.

We are in our 50’s/60’s, a half century removed from those sad days of daily child abuse. Now that our children are raised and we have time to reflect on our past child abuse, we are looking for acknowledgement and perhaps apologies form the Sisters of St Joseph (SSJ’s,) and the Holy Ghost Fathers (CSSp), now called Spiritians, as well as the present Cardinal of the archdioceses as well.

Our abuse is not just sexual, but emotional, psychological, educational, physical, at the hands of nuns, prefects, lay teachers and priests- intrusted by both the courts and the Archdiocese care givers and to be our legal guardians, some were kind, many were not, we just want an ear to our painful stories and for some of our life long silent, questions of WHY and HOW to be answered.

In September 1953, Sr. Alice Patricia, SSJ, beat me with a yard stick in the my 1st Grade class room, for not knowing how to tie my shoes. She also forced me, actually pushed tomatoes down my throat in the little boys dining room, because the kitchen nun, Sr. St. Carthage, SSJ, insisted on me to finish cleaning my plate. I hate tomatoes and kept pushing them around with my folk. Sr. Alice Patricia became enraged because I was conflicted not to be lined up when she our teacher did not following her orders  upon the non-verbal clicking of wooden clickers, while also being under the watchful eye of Sr. St. Carthage’s  patrol. Sr. Alice grabbed me violently and pushed the tomatoes down my throat and when I gagged she held me, until I vomited my food, and she then made me clean up the floor and forced me to eat was just cleaned off the floor, regurgitated tomatoes. I can still smell her Jean Nate fragrance to this day and it reminds me of the horror during my youthful reign of terror.

In 1957, my 5th grade teacher Sr. Helen Constance, SSJ,  beat me in the class room, and in the dormitory.  The dormitory nuns from Section L, 1st grade, St. Finebarr, and Section K, and St. Mary of Consolation, SSJ  both beat me with sticks, belts, cat nine tails  and shillalahs.  All for wetting my bed or not strengthening my bedspread or blanket out, or being late for lineup.

In September 1960 at age 11,  I was raped by an older boy CJ  at St. Joseph’s House, when our dormitories were not properly supervised. I was savagely  beaten and  daily battered and  eventually sexually assaulted for two years by my lay teacher Mr. Charles Warkola, in the 7th grade.

When I spoke up and ran into the Dean of Students, Mr. John Doney,  I was not believed and was “left back” with  failed grades, 69 was failing, 70 was promotion!  I was offered a chance to seek tutoring with Mr. Warkola in his room, during summer school. I decided that perhaps the home or archdiocesan schools would promote me because knew of my reported abuse as did my parents when I saw them, and my mother noticed sever bruising around my ears, and after my eye glasses were smashed after one brutal encounter in study hall. In September, I was left back in my second year in 7th grade to be abused for another whole school year with this monster.  My other classmates, including my identical twin brother were promoted to the 8th Grade, but I was the only child left behind.
Mr. Walkola would hit me upon the head with his college ring, and slap me across the face for not knowing my place during oral recitation. Mr.Warkola would also make us strip down my  pants and underwear past my knees… “Assume the Position”!,  he would command with his strong loud voice,  as was his fear-filled mantra,  I stood stand in front of the class and he whip me with squechee taken from his desk drawer.
He would whip me so hard, I would have welts or blisters that filled with water and looked like fried eggs. I was not able to sit down and he would force me to seat side ways or give me more corporate punishment. Mr. Charles Warkola would also exam the inside of our pants pockets looking for contraband like cigarettes, candy or chewing gum.
Can you guess what I did to sooth myself ?  I would open the Baltimore Catechism book and prayed the ejaculations to the God, The Saints and the Blessed Mother to forgive me and my abusers,  as Jesus did in the Bible stories which I daily hear in sermons from daily Mass.  Offering up to the sacred heart of Jesus, and the Sacred Heart of Mary when I would tell the priest in my weekly confessions because some how it must have been my fought.

No action was ever taken by the home, or social services. I am was not alone in this situation. As one of my homeys, also abused by the then director of Vocations for the Holy Ghost Fathers, stated  …”my tour of Vietnam was cake walk, when compared to the child abuse and subsequent PTSD from the days of both St. John’s Orphanage and St. Joseph’s House for Homeless and Industrious Boys”.  He will soon also be disclosing and presenting himself soon a well.

Recently our growing Homey group on Facebook decided to organize an individual response to the film Oranges and Sunshine  (available from Netflix,)  which has ripped opened the deep wounds hidden  and not yet heard nor healed in most of us. We were placed in these Catholic Institutions by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania  for our own moral development and put into the hands of God’s caretakers.
My blog is
John J Bangert

(waiting for well over 50 years to come forward with every fiber in my body warning me to stay away from the “monsters in my head.”


  1. I was in st johns orphanage in early to mid to hear from others from this time period ,i still remember names that early in me life prob since 2nd grade to 6th

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am Mary Dispenza — Leader of a support group for those abused by nuns. I have been called by NPR Pennsylvania and surrounding area to help with program on survivors of nun abuse. Would any survivor want to participate. Please message Mary Dispenza on facebook. Thank you so much for helping to shed light in a very dark place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Zero Lift-Off and commented:
    What a beautiful commemorative biographical story of real good that was done to help many real good kids who went on to be good men! I always remembered the true story of Jim Thorpe All-American which stood out to me in a profound way not only because Hollywood in its heydays memorialized him in a film but because I thought how Jim was a real deal genuine American; a really great athlete and good heart of a man that stood for something bigger than life!
    God bless him and all Native American’s!
    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III


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