An Irish woman who was given up for adoption to American parents has started a gofundme campaign as she hopes to start a new life in her country of birth.
Colleen Anderson was born in 1965 in the mother and baby home Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea.
Her mother was just 14-years-old and became pregnant as a result of rape. She was sent to the US by Sr Hildegarde McNulty when she was three and was adopted by a couple in Illinois.
Her adoptive mother was the niece of Sr Hildegarde but wasn’t able to give Colleen a happy life.
She suffered from schizophrenia and Colleen had to endure an abusive childhood.
When Colleen was in her 30s she became interested in her Irish heritage and tried to trace her birth mother with the help of children’s charity Barnados.
When she started to trace her Irish roots she found that she had several long lost relatives back home.
She said: “My mom was very timid and she was so withdrawn. I also met her husband and my aunt, and I learned I had four half-siblings but they didn’t know about me.
“She had such a sense of shame. She said the worst thing wasn’t the rape, the worst thing was how the nuns had treated her.”
Sadly, Colleen’s mother passed away. Soon after her death, her husband told their children about Colleen and that they had a half-sister.
Now Colleen is hoping to move to Ireland and connect to the blood relatives that she never knew she had.
She said: “I never really felt like I belonged in the US. It has always been on my mind.
“It’s one thing when someone is an adult and decides to move here, but I was taken, I didn’t have a choice.
“I suffered a lot of abuse. I know my mom was mentally ill and I forgave her. My adoptive sister, whom I buried three months ago, was also schizophrenic.
“Since she died I have no family here.”
However, she has some obstacles ahead of her. While she has always been an Irish citizen, living in the US on a green card, she doesn’t have an Irish passport.
There are numerous other expenses that lie ahead in order to fulfil her dream and relocate to her home country.
She has launched a crowdfunding drive in a bid to help make her dream a reality.
Colleen said: “It was always on my bucket list to go home and I want to do it while I’m still young, at 53.
“I also have plans to meet with the Commission of Investigation when I get there and I’m hoping that can provide some assistance to help me get set up.
I’ve worked all my life and I’ll continue to work. I’m not looking for handouts, I just want support and direction to help me to make it happen.”
Colleen added that she doesn’t feel any anger towards Sr Hildegarde (who was featured in the movie Philomena as she gave Philomena Lee’s son up for adoption) for the way she was treated as a child.
She said: “I’m not an angry person by nature. I would say I’m more sad than anything else.
“It’s hard enough for children to grow up in a normal environment so to be taken away is terrible.
“I hope now I’ll get the chance to meet my family and establish a relationship with them.”
For more information or to make a donation please visit Colleen’s gofundme page.
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Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling