This is a current example of how the Community of Jesus treats those who have left.
I had lived a pretty organized life while I was there, so when it came time to leave, it was not hard to pack my personal possessions into my storage space in the attic. My son was able to go pick them up later, and he stored them at his house until I had found a place to live. One thing I had not packed and had left behind was a cross-stitched picture of 3 Christmas Angels. It was a kit I had bought before I became a sister at the Convent, and I took it with me when I did become a sister. It took me years to finish it, between lack of interest and lack of time, but on occasion I would bring it out and work on it, and eventually finished it. It is a beautiful piece, I was happy with it and we used it every Christmas to help decorate the Extern Sisters’ House where I lived. It was stored with the other Christmas decorations at the the Extern House, which is why I did not remember it when I was packing up my things to leave.
Last Christmas, 2012, was the first time that I felt like decorating for the season. I am finally in my own apartment, and I am also gaining some peace and healing about Christian holidays. At that time I remembered this cross-stitch piece. I wrote the Community a letter asking if I could have it shipped to me, or I could pick it up. I received it last week, about 8 months after requesting it. Between my first letter and now the Community’s lawyer and I have exchanged many letters, and he tried to get me to sign a legal waiver saying I would never ever request anything again or say anything against them. I call that a “gag order”. All this fuss was made over a store-bought kit of a homemade piece of memorabilia that has value only to me and is rightfully mine. I have printed the whole series of letters, below, and it is a long read, but I think you will find it enlightening to see how they try to manipulate, and I also think it shows the amount of paranoia they are operating under.
Letters between me and Chris Kanaga, Attorney at Law for the Community of Jesus
#1, letter I wrote to Lillian because I did not know who to write to, and she is in charge of the Financial Bursar’s Office, so is in a position of authority
Dec 23, 2012
I have a request to make. There are three things that I have made, and therefore are mine, that I did not take with me when I left. I would now like to have them, and my son Dan would be able to pick them up for me.
One is a cross-stitch, framed picture of Christmas Angels that was stored with the Christmas decorations at the Extern House. I realize it is probably called something differently now, but I am sure you know the house I am talking about, where the Extern sisters lived, attached to the Convent.
The second is the quilt set that I made and that is being used in the Retreat dormitory. It is the one showing the beach scenes. It includes the quilt, pillow, rocking chair cushion and desk chair cushion. I do not want the foot stool cover or the white-stitched quilt.
The third is the quilted picture of the house in the woods. I believe it was hanging in the Retreat dormitory, the last I knew.
If these could all be put aside for Dan to pick up, and could you please let me know when he can come over to get them, I would appreciate it.
Thank you and I hope your Holidays are blessed.
#2, letter from Laraja and Kanaga, Attorneys at Law, written Jan. 21, 2013 and mailed Jan. 23, 2013 on their letterhead
Dear Ms. Buddington:
Re: Your Request of December 23, 2012
Lillian Miao referred your letter to me for response, since it regards a proposed distribution of church property. I understand that you are asking for certain items of personal property to be sent to you by The Community of Jesus, Inc. (the “Community”), because you had a hand in fabrication of the items. I understand that the materials which were used in the fabrication (as well as the tools, equipment and premises used), were owned by the Community.
I further understand that you participated in the fabrication while you were a vowed monastic sister of the Community. Like all similar Christian monastic organizations of which we are aware, sister (and brothers) upon voluntarily taking vows, voluntarily part with their goods and their right to “own”. This is a free choice made by the individual, and is a well-known characteristic of religious community life. Having taken their vows, the sisters (and brothers) are provided food, housing, medical attention, education and necessities of life by the Community. These are benefits which you undoubtedly shared. The Community does not require departing religious sisters (or brothers) to reimburse the costs of this support and maintenance, and likewise a departing sister does not have a claim to any property of the Community.
All of these principles are set forth in the Rule of Life of the Community to which you agreed, the vows of membership which you signed, the Constitution of the Sisterhood of the Community in which you participated, and the agreement which you signed upon your departure.
The Community is a church and has certain legal obligations with respect to disbursement of funds or assets. As a charity, neither funds nor property can be disbursed except in accordance with the religious purposes of the organization, its Articles, By-laws and direction of the Board of Directors. The distribution you propose would run directly counter to law, and to the religious beliefs, purposes and principles of the Community, and is simply not possible.
I hope that this letter finds you well, and wish you the best in 2013.
Christopher W. Kanaga
How are you Dick doing? Nice to hear from you, although I wish it had been a friendly note instead of this legal stand-offish nonsense.
However, I do understand where you are coming from about the quilt set and quilted hanging that are in the Guest house. I’ll set that aside for now.
I do not see any reason why I would be denied possession of the Christmas Angel cross-stitch picture. I bought that kit with my own money way before I became a sister at the Community of Jesus. I brought it with me into the sisterhood as part of my personal possessions, which we all were allowed to have, and did all the work on it in my “free time”. It was acknowledged all along as being part of my personal stuff. It has no value to the Community or to its “mission”. In the extreme stress that I was under when I left, I simply forgot about it, since it was not with my own personal stuff, and was stored with the Christmas decorations at the Extern house. If they want to quibble about the frame that it is in being part of the donated items that the Community gets, I would be happy to just have the cross-stitch back and not the frame.
I would appreciate a timely response about when my son Dan would be able to pick it up for me.
Thanks, and have a blessed day,
May 13, 2013
Dear Mr. Kanaga and Mr. Laraja,
I am writing with 2 items to discuss.
First, I would like to follow up from my last correspondence with you. I am disappointed that you have not replied to my last letter, dated January 26, 2013, in which I asked when I could expect to pick up my personal item. It seems rather unprofessional, to me, that you have chosen to greet my request with silence.
To reiterate our communication so far, in case my letters have gotten lost, I had requested to retrieve the quilt set and the quilt wall hanging which I had made (completely on my own), and the cross-stitch Christmas Angel picture. You had responded that these were considered Church property, and that you could not see your way to returning to me the fruit of my labor. Also I would like to point out that they were made with material that was donated to the Community of Jesus, not purchased by the Community of Jesus. I then responded that I could understand why you would think that way about the quilt set and wall hanging, as they were being used in the Retreat dormitory, but that the cross-stitch Christmas Angel picture had been purchased with my own money before I became a sister, and had been worked on in my own free time. In addition, I pointed out that all the sisters were allowed to have personal items such as this, and I did not see any reason why I could not have this particular personal item back. I have yet to hear back from you about this matter.
I would appreciate a response to my request to procure my Christmas Angel piece. I can arrange to have it picked up at a time convenient to us both.
Second, having worked in the Scribe’s Office, I know that personal files are kept on all Community members, even after they have left. I know that there is a file on me in that office. I believe it is my legal right to have a copy of these files. I request that you send me a copy of everything that is in my file.
I await your timely reply.
May 17, 2013
Re: Your Correspondence of May 13, 2013
I am enclosing a copy of my January 31st letter responding to your initial requests. I have located what I believe to be the cross-stitch angel you requested. I have also located a second cross-stitch picture (with three angels).
As I mentioned in my correspondence, I would appreciate some assurance from you that this is the final item, as I think we would all appreciate some closure, and not deal with things on an on going basis. In that regard, will you be willing to sign a mutual waiver that the delivery settles all claims?
We can arrange a time for pick up, after you get back to me.
Thank you for your consideration.
Very truly your,
Christopher W. Kanaga
Enclosed copy of Jan. 31 letter
January 31, 2013
Re: Your Request of December 23, 2012
Thank you for your letter of the 26th. I will look into the cross-stitch Christmas angel to which you refer, and see what I can find out. It would be helpful if I could be sure that this is the only remaining issue, so that we can deal with everything at once. I think it would be best for all concerned that way.
Thank you, and hope you are well.
Christopher W. Kanaga
Re: Your Correspondence of May 17, 2013
I am glad to receive the copy of your letter dated 1/31/2013, as I never received the original.
The cross-stitch with the 3 angels is the one that is mine. I spent many hours working on it, and know it well. The faces are done in petit point. Would you please m ail it to me, and if necessary, I will pay for the postage.
June 20, 2013
Dear Chris Kanaga,
I am writing again simply because I have not had a reply to my last letter to you, and want to make sure a letter did not get lost in the mail like last time.
Can you please mail my cross-stitch angels to me, or do I need to come pick it up?
#8, letter received June 21, 2013
June 17, 2013
I will pack up the Angel picture and mail it to you. There is no need for you to send me postage. Can you please let me know if there is anything else that you have left here, and if not, can you please sign and return the attached waiver? Meanwhile, I will have the Community sign a mutual waiver for your benefit. Thank you.
Christopher W Kanaga
Release and Waiver
I, Carrie Buddington, in exchange for the good and valuable consideration, including but not limited to the delivery of a handmade cross-stitched angel and contingent upon receipt of a mutual Release and Waiver received from The Community of Jesus, Inc., do release and forever discharge The Community of Jesus, Inc., its affiliates, its and their present and former members, officers, agents, and employees, and all people associated with them in (collectively referred to as the “Community”), from any and all charges, claims, complaints, liabilities, obligation, promises, agreements, controversies, damages, actions, suits, rights demands, costs, losses, damages and expenses (including attorneys’’ fees and costs actually incurred unless otherwise provided for herein) of any nature whatsoever, whether they are known to me or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, which I now have, own or hold, or have ever held or claimed to have, own or hold against the Community, arising out of any circumstance, action, omission, matter or state of fact up to the date of this Release and Waiver that I may now have as to any relief of any kind from the Community. This means that I may not sue the Community for any claim arising our of, or connected to, in any way, any fact or allegation or circumstance occurring from the beginning of time and up to the date of this Release and Waiver, based on any matter occurring from the beginning of time and up to the date of this Release and Waiver.
June 24, 2013
Dear Mr. Kanaga,
Please disregard the last letter I sent to you on Thursday, June 20, 2013. it crossed in the mail with your letter of June 17, 2013.
Thank you for sending my cross-stitch. I will look for it to arrive.
No, I will not sign the waiver.
When can I expect a copy of my personal files?
July 15, 2013
Dear Mr. Kanaga,
In your letter dated June 17, 2013 you stated “I will pack up the Angel picture and mail it to you. There is no need for you to send me postage.”
I have not received said Angel cross-stitch yet. Is there a reason for the delay?
July 22, 2013
Thank you for you note, but you are quoting only a portion of my letter. In my correspondence I have been asking if there is anything else that you claim to own. I have asked for some assurance that this is the only request, so that we can settle everything at once. When nothing came from you, I drafted and sent a mutual waiver for your signature.
So, the reason for the delay is that you have not responded to any of the above. I am happy to finalize this as soon as you are ready. Perhaps if you could call me, we could resolve it over the phone.
Christopher W. Kanaga
August 5, 2013
Wow. I find it truly incredible that you are asking me to exchange all future claims for one little home-made cross-stitch. To me this is indicative of a demanding, controlling and paranoid personality. It seems that you are so narrow in your view of life, and so “under authority” that you cannot see beyond the perceived threat you think I present. I have presented no threat to you.
You state in your letter of Jan. 21, 2013 that I had a “hand in the fabrication of the items.” I did not “have a hand in the fabrication”. The quilt set and the quilt hanging were 100% my labor. The materials used were donated to the Community of Jesus (Community) and did not cost them one cent. The tools and the space were part of the Convent, where I was living and giving all of my life for the support of the Community. The support I received through housing, clothing and food were minimal. We lived, dressed and ate sparingly in order to be as little a financial burden on the Community as possible. I assume that in having a sisterhood, the Community gladly took on the support of the sisters in exchange for all the free labor we provided, which was financially worth far more than the minimal support we received. The medical insurance must have been large for 60+ women, until we went on MassHealth, which does not cost anything. I received medical attention rarely, because we were told often that it was expensive, so I did not seek help unless it was absolutely necessary. I received no education at the expense of the Community, even though I asked to. As I stated in my letter of 1/26/13 I can understand the frame of mind that you are viewing this from, since I lived there for so long and used to have the same frame of mind, but that does not make it accurate or correct.
In my letter of 5/13/13 I requested a copy of my personal records which are kept in the Scribe’s Office. You have chosen to not reply to that request at all. I believe it is my legal right to have a copy of those files.
In your letter of 5/17/13 you asked for reassurance from me that the cross-stitch was the final item I want from the Community. I had already asked for my personal files in addition to the cross-stitch, so no, I will not sign that waiver. I was so shocked by the request, and felt it was so unreasonable, that you are correct, I did not respond to that request right away. I simply reiterated my request for my cross-stitch. It was not until my note of 6/24/13 that I responded and said I would not sign the waiver. I had no idea at that point that you were trying to use a simple cross-stitch that is my personal property and has personal value only to me as a bargaining chip for such a huge request as the waiver represents. I also asked again about my personal files, which you have continued to ignore.
A month went by, so I sent another note asking where my cross-stitch was. Your response of 7/22/13 was the first time I fully realized that you were saying I had to sign the waiver before you would return to me an item that is legally and rightfully mine. How far are you going to take this charade?
I will not call you, as I fear you will not truly listen to what I have to say, as these letters seem to indicate. I prefer to keep our correspondence to letters.
The waiver as I read it says I can never bring any future complaint against the Community. I have no idea what the future will bring, and if it ever comes to my attention that I could get redress for the harm done to me at the Community, I certainly will not sign away that possibility for a simple cross-stitch. And the idea that you think you could trade away my rights for a simple piece of homemade memorabilia is astounding to me.
I have tried in good faith to have a simple dialogue with you about one small piece of personal property, that you have agreed belongs to me. You in return have tried to pressure me into signing a legal waiver that goes far beyond trying to retrieve my personal property, one small item, and I will not do it. I believe that no sane person would.
If you are worried about my bringing a lawsuit against the Community, your withholding behavior is self defeating because it is more likely to provoke what you fear rather than protecting the Community.
#13, Email sent on Aug. 13, 2013
Mr. Chris Kanaga,
To reiterate, I will not sign the waiver that you asked me to sign.
I have every right to speak about my experiences to whomever I chose, including the media.
I have a legal right to a copy of my personal files, and I expect you to send them to me without further delay.
August 21, 2013
Thank you for responding. I was merely trying to find out what else you might be claiming, so that we could deal with it all at once, rather than piecemeal over an indefinite time into the future.
I think I understand now that you have no interest in that and would like to keep the doors open indefinitely. I am not sure how that leads to closure, but I’ll see what I can do. I have mailed the angel I located, and hope it is what you were requesting.
As to “personal files”, I was unable to locate any, other than your sisterhood vows and property waivers, which I understand you already have. Pursuant to those documents, you vowed as a sister to live a life of poverty in devotion to God, and therefore, nothing at the convent is “rightfully yours”, but as I said, I’ll see what I can do.
Christopher W. Kanaga
#15, I received a package which contained 2 angel pictures, the one of 3 angels which I had stated was mine, and also one of a single angel, which is not mine.
August 28, 2013
Mr. Chris Kanaga,
In my letter dated May 28, 2013, I stated that “The cross-stitch with the 3 angels is the one that is mine.” Therefore, the cross-stitch with the single angel is not mine, and I am returning it to you.
Re: my personal files. I have seen with my own eyes that there is more in my files than the papers I signed at my leaving. Back in the 70’s Cay and Judy had all of the Community members write a “testimony” of how the Community had blessed us and made our lives better. I know that is in my files, and there were other papers as well. I also know that the Community keeps an Access database with important dates, such as when I became a member and the dates of the religious vows I took. I know this is true because I worked on those files, updating and consolidating them when I worked in the Scribe’s Office. I wish a copy of all of that.
#17, letter received after the package with the cross-stitch angels and after my reply of Aug. 28.
August 26, 2013
I have found a second cross stitched angel picture, and am mailing both of them to you. However, I am doing this simply as a courtesy, without agreeing to your claims of ownership or waiving statutes of limitation or any other defences.
Christopher W. Kanaga