Brother James Carragher, 52, admitted 12 charges of sexual and indecent assault on nine boys at the St William's Roman Catholic Community Home at Market Weighton, Humberside, between 1973 and 1980.
Hull Crown Court was told that, as principal of the school, Carragher gained the trust of the boys, all under 16, only to put them through a series of assaults. One of the boys tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists and swallowing a razor blade because of Carragher's attentions.
Judge John Bullimore told Carragher, a member of the religious order of De La Salle, that he would serve at least half to two-thirds of his sentence before being released on licence.
He had, he said, brought disgrace on himself and on his order and shocked the people who had respected and trusted him.
The court was told how Carragher would invite boys to late-night swimming sessions and molest them; he would also tell them to come to his quarters at the home and would even visit their bedrooms.
Rodney Ferm, for the prosecution, said: 'It happened so regularly that the boys thought it was all right but some became depressed and one slashed his wrists as a direct result of the accused's conduct.'
Mr Ferm told the court that Carragher joined the home in 1969 as a teacher and rose through the ranks to become its principal.
When boys tried to tell the authorities that they were being indecently assaulted, nobody believed them.
He added: 'All through that time there was no police involvement. Many boys didn't bother to complain and those that did found their complaints found no credence.'
One boy - sent to St William's by the local authority after being sexually abused in another home when he was six years old - found himself subjected to further ordeals, this time by Carragher.
After trying to run away, the victim tried to take his own life in 1990 by slashing his wrists and swallowing a razor blade, Mr Ferm added. He eventually spent some time in De La Pole mental hospital near Hull.
Carragher's offending stopped in 1980 and he left the home in 1990 to do voluntary work with the poor and ill in Liverpool and Oxford and worked for a charity in Africa.
When he was finally arrested last year, after a police inquiry, he confessed to his sex offences, the court was told. The prosecution offered no evidence on several alleged offences to which Carragher pleaded not guilty.
Ian Harris, for the defence, said that Carragher admitted his crimes were 'scandalous and disgraceful'.
'In the Seventies he felt unable to confess to what he was doing. But in the Eighties he was able to address his behaviour. He has lost, by his pleas, any public esteem that he had. He has gained the public disgrace of probably everybody listening or reading this case.'
Sentencing Carragher, the judge said: 'I have to deal with you on the basis that, for a decade, you were in the company of vulnerable young boys. You had a position of power and influence. What you have done must result in a long sentence.'Reuse content