Raised by the Church

Published by Fordham University Press
The true story of a childhood spent in multiple religious institutions in postwar Brooklyn—and what it was like to enter the larger world as an adult.

In 1946, Edward Rohs was left by his unwed parents at the Angel Guardian Home to be raised by the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters hoped his parents would one day return for him. In time they married and had other children, but Ed’s parents never came back for him—and never signed the legal papers so he could be adopted by another family.

Raised by the Church chronicles the life of a bright, mischievous boy raised in five institutions of the Catholic orphanage system in postwar Brooklyn, New York, from infancy until he was discharged in 1965. He was one of thousands taken in by Catholic institutions during the tumultuous post-WWII years: out-of-wedlock infants, children of fathers killed in the war, and children of parents in crisis. Ed describes the Sisters and Brothers who raised him, the food, his companions, and the Catholic community that provided social and emotional support.

When Ed finally leaves, he has difficulty adjusting—but slowly assimilates into “normal” life, achieving an advanced degree and career success. He hides his upbringing out of shame and fear of others’ pity. But as he reflects on his youth and talks to the people who raised him, Ed begins to see a larger story intertwined with his own.

With original research based on interviews with clergymen and nuns, archival data from the New York Archdiocese, and government records, Raised by the Church tells the social history of an era when hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers passed through the orphanage system, and “reminds us that every generation is challenged to find ways to take care of children whose parents cannot do so” (Catholic News Service).

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