By Miguel Prats
The Maria Goretti Network (MGN) is a self-help support network for all victims of abuse. Our model is based on the Twelve Steps but our meetings are very different from AA and NA. MGN understands that survivors need to experience the healing power of Jesus Christ. We claim the victory Christ promises us.
At the local level peer support is provided through regular meetings and prayer. We are survivors helping other survivors take their journey towards recovery. Local chapters can choose exactly who attends. For example, some chapters are only survivors, some are open to survivors and those who care about a survivor. Most chapters allow both men and women, but we have a Spanish-language chapter that is women only. Chapter meetings help attendees in their healing journey. Meetings do not direct any particular path. Giving and asking for advice is not allowed. None of us are experts and none of us know what is best for another. It is up to each individual to decide what they need to do to heal.
MGN provides a safe place for people to tell their story and be believed. MGN sets up a space that becomes holy through God’s Grace. Meetings become a sacred place where the Holy Spirit can and does work. We know because we have seen miracles take place. We start with prayer and end with prayer. The sacraments of confession, communion and anointing of the sick are extremely important components of our recovery. Clergy who truly understand the soul-murder that is abuse can be very helpful.
Some things that differentiate us from 12 step groups. When we check in we can say if we’re huggers or not. Personal boundaries are always respected. After check in, the men and women separate. This makes it safe to vent about members of the opposite sex who may have harmed us without fear of offending someone. We then come back together for sharing and discussion of forgiveness. Through the examples of St. Maria Goretti, her murderer Alessandro Serenelli, St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Maximillian Kolbe we learn it isn’t impossible to forgive the worst of sins. They provide us a model we can imitate.
The Maria Goretti Network is not a Church sponsored organization. It is an independent 501(iii)(c) charitable organization. While MGN operates with permission of the local church it is never controlled by the local church. Group leaders are survivors, not Church personnel. Meetings generally run ninety minutes and are held once a month. All survivors including non-Catholics are welcome.
Miguel Prats is the President and Co-founder of the Maria Goretti Network. Discerning a dire need for a Catholic-based survivor community after having served as SNAP (Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests) Regional Director in Texas & LA for some years, Miguel was moved by the story of St. Maria Goretti, St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Maximillian Kolbe. For more information, see the Maria Goretti Network website www.mgoretti.org or Facebook page, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.