This priest died while police were investigating him

By a Broken Rites researcher in 1998

The Brisbane Courier Mail (15 October 1998) exposed the sexual abuse of orphan girls which occurred in the 1950s and '60s at Nazareth House, a Catholic home for the aged, in Wynnum North, Brisbane, conducted by the Sisters of Nazareth. The nuns kept teenage girls at the home as unpaid workers.

One of the sex offenders was Father John O'Regan, a priest of the "Oblates of Mary Immaculate" order, who was based at Iona College, Lindum. He and other priests gave "counselling" to girls at Nazareth House.

Several former Nazareth House women complained about Nazareth House to the Queensland Children's Commission in 1998, alleging sexual abuse by O'Regan and two other priests as well as physical and emotional cruelty by nuns.

Detectives from Queensland's anti-paedophile Taskforce Argos contacted church authorities in September 1998 seeking to make an appointment to interview O'Regan in October but O'Regan (aged 74) died on October 10 — just in time. The victims feel cheated by this convenient death, the Courier Mail said.

One victim, Alison, phoned Broken Rites in the mid-1990s and said: "At Nazareth House about 1960, aged about 13, I was sent alone to see Fr O'Regan to be told the facts of life. He mauled my body sexually. He later warned me not to tell anybody and said 'this is a secret between you and me'.

"Life was cruel at Nazareth House. We didn't have birthdays there; I didn't know my birthdate or even how old I was. At about 14, I could hardly read a clock.

"At about 14, I was sent to work as a domestic at an orphanage in Ballarat, Victoria; it was slave labour, with no pay. While in Ballarat, I learned that my mother had died. O'Regan drove my younger sister Lisa (then about 15) from Brisbane to Ballarat (at least a two-day drive). He wanted to leave her with me; he had obviously finished with her. But he drove her back to Sydney and got her a job in a Catholic hospital as a domestic. Lisa is damaged psychologically and she won't talk about O'Regan or Nazareth House.

"Because of the regimentation by the nuns, I didn't know how to manage my own life. At 17, I became pregnant; I gave up the baby for adoption. "Nazareth House ruined my education. I have no skills or qualifications. The Catholic system owes me an education. I think I should sue."

In 1998, Melbourne solicitor Peter Cash was representing 12 former Nazareth House women who were seeking compensation from the church for physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

O'Regan's religious order, the Oblate Fathers, are an Australia-wide organisation. As well as working in Brisbane, O'Regan also spent time in other Australian cities — for example, at Lesmurdie in Perth, Western Ausralia