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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 that 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 they never signed the legal papers so that he could be adopted by another family.
Raised by the Church chronicles the extraordinary life of Ed Rohs, a bright, mischievous boy who was raised in five institutions of the Catholic orphanage system in postwar Brooklyn, New York, from infancy in 1946 until he was discharged as an adult in 1965.
Rohs was one of thousands of children taken in by Catholic institutions during the tumultuous post-WWII years: out-of-wedlock infants, children whose fathers had been killed in the war, and children of parents in crisis. Ed
gives a brief history of each institution before describing that world—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 the institutions after nineteen years, he has a difficult time adjusting. He slowly assimilates into “normal” life and determinedly rises above his origins, achieving an advanced degree and career success, working for years in child welfare and as volunteer strength coach for the Fordham University basketball team. He hides his upbringing out of shame and fear of others’ pity. But as he begins
to reflect on his own story and to talk 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. Through the story of one man, this book gives us a much needed historical perspective on an American society that understood and acknowledged the community’s need for a safe haven.
Edward Rohs coordinates mental healthservices for the New York City Field Office ofthe New York State Office of Mental Health. He is a former psychotherapist and social worker for abused and abandoned children and their families. Ed’s skill at interacting with people of all ages across cultures, combined with his irreverent sense of humor, has made him a much loved role model and mentor to generations of children and their families.
Judith Estrine is a writer. She lives in New York City.
"The story of this one man supplies needed historical perspective on an American society that understood and acknowledge the community's need for a safe haven."—American Catholic Studies Newsletter
". . .A real triumph-over adversity story."—New York Post
". . . fast-paced, frank and clear about the good, bad and ugly of institutional care."—CatholicCulture.org
"Rohs describes how institutionalized life defined him. . .[His] tale is also that of New York City in his growing up years. He describes life in shifting city neighborhoods, as street gangs terrorized the orphan boys in what is now highly gentrified Brooklyn, and the wonders of life on the beach in Rockaway, Queens."—National Catholic Reporter
“[Rohs] couples a moving first-person account of coping with a system that separated orphans by age and gender with a historical perspective on child care in the 19th and 20th centuries.”
—The New York Times
“Ed Rohs’s foster care story and his adult life afterward speak to the joys of
winning a fulfilling and respected life by embracing opportunity with all its
challenges and demands. He is a player-coach for all who dare to trek the path
to the American Dream, especially for youth-at-risk.”—Rev. Msgr. Robert M. Harris, St. Vincent’s Home for Boys
“Edward’s resiliency and the positive impact that a few caring adults can have
remain the key ingredients that even today are the difference between a child’s being overwhelmed by abuse or neglect or succeeding in life despite all odds.”—Gerard McCafferty, President/CEO, MercyFirst
“Ed’s touching and often humorous story offers a refreshingly positive look at
the many truly good people in New York City’s Catholic Church…. Ed is the
living result of these good intentions, and, with his chosen career path, he is
keeping the cycle of the good work going.”—Jim McCann, Founder of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM and Celebrations.com
“Edward Rohs’s life journey takes him through the gamut of emotions—
abandonment, confusion, loneliness, fear, discovery, appreciation, justice, and
love. To his credit, he was determined not to let the circumstances of his life
control his life, and he succeeded.”—Fr. Paul Landolfi S.M., St. John's Home for Boys
“I have known Edward Rohs for over 25 years and I have never met a more
compassionate man. Ed has helped hundreds of underprivileged people
survive and thrive despite all of the odds that they face. His story is compelling
and motivational and a must-read for anyone who has obstacles to overcome.
That means anyone with a heartbeat!”—Tom Penders, author of Dead Coach Walking
“A fascinating and riveting story of how a boy grew into manhood despite
family alienation and the perils of institutional life.”—William Seraile, Professor Emeritus, Lehman College, City University of New York; author of
Angels of Mercy: White Women and the History of New York’s Colored Orphan Asylum
Award-Winner in the 'Biography: General' category of The 2012 USA Best Book Awards, sponsored by USA Book News.
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