Here is some of the information I have gleaned from several different sources regarding Brother Gregory Van Buuren and the Brothers of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows years in Mabou, Cape Breton:
(1) People in Mabou are reeling with the news that Brother Gregory was a child molester and that his victim was castrated;
(2) In Mabou, the Brothers of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows were referred to simply as ”the Brothers”;
(3) I hear from some contacts that there was never a bad word about the Brothers, but from others that there were always rumours about Brother Gregory. There was talk of some controversy over at Mary’s Hill when the Brothers had students boarding there, but the nature of the controversy is unknown. I also heard of one boy who was upset that Brother Gregory walked in on him while he, the boy, was showering. As mentioned elsewhere before, I have heard talk of rumours circulating about Brother Gregory. There is no doubt that it was fact that he was not allowed entry into Mary’s Hill Home. As one contact told me: “These women [who worked in the home] were not stupid”
(4) According to one contact Brother Gregory left suddenly on the heels of stories about him chasing after a young lad;
(5) Most people with whom I have spoken have described Brother Gregory as “creepy” or something akin to creepy. Some also describe some, but not all, of the other brothers as “creepy” ;
(6) There was a small gymnasium in the building on Mary’s Hill;
(7) I have been told that the Brothers purchased the land in Mabuo for next to nothing. It is thought that in those years (the 50s and 60s) there were many Dutch coming to settle in the Mabou region to get people farming. It is believed that the arrival of the Brothers in Mabou possibly coincided with this and that they may have been there to assist in the process.
It is said that when the Brothers arrived in Mabou they had nothing. They more or less begged from the locals to get the farm up and running. People gave them animals – a cow here, a calf there;
(8) There were a lot of brothers coming and going. Here are the names of some brothers whom people remember during their years in Mabou:
Brother Gregory looked after the Shrine and the gift-shop
Brother Camilles, who left the brothers to buy the farm back in 1985. He ran the farming operation. It is consistently described as a magnificent farm. Brother Camilles was described as quiet man and a hard worker. I was told that he never returned to Holland. He still lives in Mabou;
Brother Paul. Was described consistently as ‘as good man.” He was a carpenter who seems to have been well respected by all – he taught “manual training” at the school. After the Brother left Mabou he went to Indonesia. He was killed some years ago in a plane crash.
It is thought by some that he was in charge of the Brothers in Canada. There is a Paul Stenk listed in the Catholic Church Directories as Regional Superior: this is probably Brother Paul;
Brother Longinus taught shop at the school. I have been told that he basically kept to himself. People used to call him “LongJesus”
Brother Joe Lasowski was a Canadian who joined the Brothers. He had a lisp. Those who remember him speak well of him. He later left the Brothers to become a brother with the Oblates in Canada;
Brother Richard lived on the farm. For a spell he ran an egg farm which comprised 7,000 chickens. The egg farm was totally Brother Richard’s baby’/ In addition ot eh egg farm, Brother Richard did the cooking, housework and looked after the greenhouses . His mother used to visit from time to time from Holland. After Brother Richard’s death Brother Camilles hired a cook to come in a do the cooking;
Brother Anthony taught shop in the Mabou school. He has been described as a big rough sort of fellow. He disappeared suddenly;
Brother Octavian is believed to have been a native of Sydney Nova Scotia. He later left the Brothers to become a priest in Canada. He was killed in a car accident;
Brother Raymond taught at the school and for a while swerved as Principal. He left the Brothers to marry one of the nun’s from the nearby convent. (A number of the nuns taught at the school. Young girls who came to Mabou to attend the school boarded with the nuns) He is now dead.
Brother Gilbert came later. He worked at the school in Mabou, possibly teaching;
There was another brother who, like Brother Raymond, left the Brothers to marry and is now deceased. ( I can’t find the name but do have it jotted down somewhere)
There was another brother who used to make quite a ritual production of arriving and getting himself seated in church for Mass. He often wore a bright red scarf.
(9) Brothers from Holland used to arrive to spend summers in Mabou to learn English. They would work at the farm or at the home. There were a lot of brothers coming and going;
(10) None of the Brothers were priests. They attended Mass at St. Mary’s in Mabou. Many, if not all of the Brothers sang in the Church choir. Some at times served as choirmaster. Sometimes the local priest said Mass for the Brothers at the home or at the farm.
There were a number of priests who served at St. Mary’s in Mabou while the brothers were there, including Fathers John A. Gillis, Reginald Currie and V.R. Boutilier;
(11) There were two sites operated by the Brothers in Mabou, one, the farm which was down by the harbour, and the other the Mary’s Hill site where the building stood which at one time housed boarders and then became Mary’s Hill Home, the latter the home for the mentally challenged)
The two properties were about three miles apart;
(12) Father Camilles was considered the head man at the farm. The farm comprised a huge herd of dairy cattle, two greenhouses, and the chickens which were tended solely Brother Richard,
Brother Joseph worked on the farm from time to time. Brother Richard was there all the time, and Brother Longinus went back and forth between the farm and the hill.
It is believed that all money from the farm went up to Mary’s Hill.
There was a large home on the farm;
(13) There was never, as has been said elsewhere, a technical school or vocational school run by the brothers in Mabou. The brothers did take in young boys as boarders – these boys came from all over the Island to attend school in Mabou.
The Mabou Consolidated High School had an excellent reputation and was considered the best school of its kind in Nova Scotia. In addition to its academics the school offered excellent general courses and courses in “ manual training” – courses in wood work and such things.
There were from 400 to 600 students at the school, many of whom came from other communities across Cape Breton and were boarded in the community. The girls who attended the school boarded with the nuns at St. Joseph’s Convent (Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal)
A number of the boys were boarded with the brothers and others were boarded with families in the community;
(14) The boys who boarded with the Brothers at Mary’s Hill lived in the long section of the L-shaped building. With the exception of the Brothers who lived on the farm, Brother Gregory and the other brothers lived in the front portion of the Mary’s Hill building. When the brothers stopped talking in boarders it was the section which had once housed the boarders which became the home for the mentally handicapped;
In addition to the boys who boarded at Mary’s Hill, there were boys boarding at the farm. Three to six boys at a time boarded at the farm. Most of the boys who boarded at the farm were native boys;
(15) At least one person questioned the accuracy of claims that moving the small church from Indian Point to Mary’s Hill was solely the inspiration and doing of Brother Gregory. It is believed that St. Mary’s parish played a large role in this venture;
(16) There came a time when there were rumours that the Brothers were all leaving Mabou. No one knew why they were leaving, but there was a story on the go that the order was forcing the brothers who were still in Canada to go to Holland;
(17) There was a man who worked at Mary’s Hill Home who became the second person in Canada to have a sex change operation. After the operation this person married a man, and later still committed suicide.
I was told that when this person had a few drinks he would tell everyone that they’d be surprised at all the people he had had affairs with in Mabou, but he would never divulge the names.
(18) I have been told that when the farm was purchased by Brother Camilles in 1985 the milk quota alone was worth $1 million (the milk quota is the license to sell the milk). There are questions on the part of some as to how Brother Camilles came up with the monies to purchase the farm.
(19) I get the impression that there were hurt feelings when the farm was sold in 1985.
I have more calls to make – will add to this as I get more information. If anyone can assist please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please note that the response of the Talbot House Board of Directors has been posted:
16 April 2012: Response of the Board of Directors of the Talbot House
Enough for now,