SEEDS OF HOPE

Announcing a New Column – Inviting Your Stories of Hope 

By Mike Hoffman

It’s been a while since you heard from us at The Healing Voices. There’s a reason for that.

The reason why is also the reason why we are launching this new column – Seeds of Hope.

I am Mike Hoffman. I am a survivor of clergy abuse as a child. And, I remain a practicing Catholic.

It was hard to me to understand why I fell silent after revelations in media over the past year have rocked our Church. It’s not that I doubt these things are possible. Based on my experience, I have no doubt about the dark aspects of failures in the world and in our Church.

My struggle was reconciling the news with all the progress I see. I do see much good, much progress. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t spend most of my free time as I do now—contributing to positive changes in our Church and in our world.

My personal commitment is to child protection and helping groups develop prayerful experiences (like Mass or a prayer service) along with a Pinwheels for Prevention community event to raise awareness and to educate people how to keep children safe now.

A great deal of my work involves my home Archdiocese and elsewhere. At home, I chair a committee that organizes the archdiocesan Mass for Hope and Healing, and I participated in a committee to develop the Healing Garden where we now gather for prayer annually. But I also serve as President of the Board of Prevent Child Abuse – Illinois. Along with fellow clergy-abuse survivors, I founded and help edit this online magazine, and I’m on the board of Spirit Fire, a Christian restorative justice initiative.

I wouldn’t be doing these and other things if I did not believe there is hope.

Yet, the revelations of scandals within the Universal Church left me uneasy, even overwhelmed. Despite my hope, I was grappling with the darkness. It’s been hard to place my finger on exactly why. It’s not as if, on any one day, I am not aware of the wounds of abuse.

My heart remains broken. It always will be so. The news didn’t break it more. That isn’t possible. I struggle because it really isn’t possible to reconcile the darkness I experienced and the hope I have, but they can co-exist in one person. They co-exist in me.

They are part of a personal struggle – and a personal success story. I will never give up my healing journey, which I take in small steps. Small steps do accumulate. They take you places. They can bring light into darkness. I see it as an ongoing healing in bits, or in “small bites at the apple.”

My success story is personal. And daily. Each day I make some little effort to cope with and manage my sadness and pain from the abuse. It might be walking in the woods, saying a prayer, attending a peace circle, writing for this magazine, attending Mass, accepting the Eucharist, spending time with my family, or walking our dog Winston. It could be anything. Whatever it is, the effort is daily.

As I take my “little bites at the apple,” with God’s grace, I am consciously turning away from the darkness, without denying it is there. There’s a cumulative effect to this choice, too.The effect is hope.

Out of the despair and darkness in a wound I cannot ignore, each bite of the apple is about turning toward the light and seeking signs of hope. These are small steps that lead me to do more and to do what is good. To plant seeds of hope through my actions without being held back by the darkness.

This invitation to you to share about successful prayer services, Masses, programs and workshops, books or retreats – this invitation is for you to turn toward light and share light, to be light. In 800 words or less.

It doesn’t matter if your efforts were only partly successful? What did you learn that can helps others build on your work? Every effort is a success in that someone attempted to rebuff the darkness with hope.

Together, what you are doing provides, cumulatively, over time, a model for others of what healing and reconciliation look like — and what hope looks like.

We welcome finished articles and emails with rough draft text we can edit.

Survivors, Family Members, Parish or Diocesan Staff, Lay and Religious Ministries, Clergy

What have you done or attended or seen?

What would you like to see?

Submit here or go to our contact page.

(Check out the Mission of The Healing Voices to be sure you’re on board with our focus on healing and reconciliation.)

 

Seeds of Hope 

Model of Healing and Reconciliation 

Creative Options for People and Parishes

300 to 800 Words 

We will return to you a hard-copy PDF with our masthead to copy and share. 

 

Healing is messy.  

There is NO playbook.  

Heartfelt healing is possible.  

Let the first step be to try.


The Healing Voices Mission Statement

We are a dedicated group of survivors abused by clergy. Our mission is to reconcile our faith with the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harm done to us.

We wish to reach out to all who have suffered from any tragic event that has left your hearts broken and your faith shaken, just like ours. Together, we can raise our voices, tell our stories and provide healing information to help make our Church and society a better place for all.

We invite you to join us on our collective healing journey.


 

3 thoughts on “SEEDS OF HOPE

    1. Hi. True. For many, many survivors of abuse, it’s psychologically crucial to move away from the institution that enabled abuse. Catholics step out of faith settings that trigger them. Some athletes left the Olympics. Some harassed at work leave the employer or the entire profession. The most important thing is to get to a place of safety where stability, health, well-being can all be restored to the best degree possible.

      Another truth is that some victims of abuse think recoiling from the church where they are triggered is the same as stepping back from God, or even losing God. This only adds to the shame that abuse imposes on us. So, one thing I encourage is for you to set aside considerations of participating in a church event, but just … how is your comfort with connecting with God, who loves you so much, and cares very deeply about harm done to each of us.

      Some survivors of clergy abuse do wish to find a way to feel comfortable in the faith of their childhood despite the wounds it inflicted – but they seek a safe pathway. Other survivors never have left the church but remain in hiding, at a distance … And others still return to have a discussion with us or with others to make peace with what happened in a Catholic setting so they may move elsewhere and worship elsewhere. There is no right way to survive abuse other than in a mindful awareness of what each of us can manage – and how each of us are responsible for our own health and well-being.

      Thanks for the comment. Hope you stay in touch and check out materials on The Healing Voices.

      Like

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