The path forward for the Church will be rough going. That’s okay. No one is alone when seeking Truth.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Radical change takes time to take root. While calling leadership to conversion, Catholics can inflame hearts with the Spirit nearer to home.
Take action, person to person.
Founders of The Healing Voices Magazine offer these suggestions for action that can have immediate impact in a parish or group, in homes with friends, or alone in the company of all the angels and the saints.
We list things already tried somewhere in some parish with success.
Adapt them to your parish, family or home.
Questions? Need a sounding board?
Reach out to us here if you’d like to ask anything.
Share what you have done or are doing (with photos) in the comments below, so others may learn from you.
Holding a Pinwheel Event helps focus, especially younger persons, on the positives for which they see adults fighting … not solely on the frightening aspects of child abuse. It shifts the focus onto prayerful support for their dignity.
These parish events can also help inform all Catholics of the current status of child protection in the Church, making it easier to formulate informed expectations around advancing even better safeguards.
Many pinwheel events happen in April, but there’s no reason to wait if it helps a parish now. We believe in the Pinwheel Events so profoundly, that Mike Hoffman created a KIT here.
Prayer services are less intimidating to some survivors and others who have been wounded by the Church. Inviting all to gather to pray, these services also provide cover and anonymity for the abused.
Depending on your community, prayer services may offer a good setting for inviting non-Catholic neighbors and/or a prayerful musically focused time. We encourage lamentations to acknowledge the reality and break any lingering denial, but remind people to keep the focus on hope relying on Scripture to help the more vulnerable attendees.
The following resources may be helpful.
The Healing Voices held a national online Prayer Service in 2017, and has kept its prayer service online here, offering also a reflection on the impact of the gathering here and on what it was like to be included in the service here.
The Director of Student Formation and Ministry at a college prep school writes about a prayer service in which his students participated here.
The Diocese of Bridgeport received special mention here.
Most of our articles about prayer services and events can be found in this list here.
Mass for Hope and Healing
Masses for Hope and Healing have tended to be celebrated on a diocesan level. In some dioceses they have become annual events, attended by all bishops and most priests. Survivors often are readers or participants. Events such as discussion groups or receptions precede or follow. In a few dioceses, survivors, who left their childhood dioceses long ago, return from all over the country to attend.
The Healing Voices has published many articles about these Masses. You may be able to develop such a Mass in your own parish or school, using a model Mike Hoffman describes here.
The Diocese of Brooklyn received special mention here.
Most of our articles about Masses can be found here.
Gathering for Adoration as a parish, ensuring survivors and families feel welcomed, can be very healing. The Eucharist is something most survivors tell us that they trust even when all trust for Church leaders and priests has been impossible.
Gathering for rosaries or sharing in novenas has a powerful impact and can be done in smaller circles – or even alone. We know they can release graces for priests, leaders and bishops. Some options beyond your parish family include:
Healing Voices did a roundup of online grottos and prayer lines here.
Light and share a candle at The Little Grotto, here.
If you’re looking for novenas, or email novena reminders, to share with a group or pray alone, Pray More Novenas is a helpful online site where you can learn about novenas and begin a novena you share with friends.
If you haven’t heard of a living rosary yet, this is something in your parish you might do to involve children or teens in a constructive manner to offset the fearful topic dominating the press these days: The Living Rosary.
The Founders encourage parishes or Catholic groups to discuss topics related to abuse, for example, to learn more about warning signs and how to help victims. There are many things to learn.
We ask parishes and individuals to do so without holding discussion groups for survivors or wounded family members to share their experiences. Far too often, this kind of event re-wounds the speaker and vicariously wounds listeners — and further deepens the wounds of abuse in our Church.
Where topics involve details or other potential triggers for pain, we urge you to have two or more professional therapists available to help anyone who may become upset. (Not only victims get upset.)
Many other related topics are really important and little-known, however.
Invite a series of speakers to present, for example, the facts of child abuse in general and/or signs of abuse and human trafficking.
Develop and communicate a plan at the parish level for what to do when a victim approaches you — or when you suspect abuse is happening.
Create a parish-level plan for handling families in crisis who are suffering abuse behind closed doors nearby.
Hold a parish retreat or renewal based on learning about essentially evil things in the context of grace and Light.
Please don’t go political. Abuse happens in every scenario, and people of good conscience on all sides of any issue deplore abuse and violence. Ask speakers to refrain from fueling the divide in the Church, unless, for example, you offer a facilitated panel discussion from all sides.
Healing Voices lists a number of programs and online resources for groups here.
Peace Circles are discussion groups with a more formal structure and a therapeutic goal which many survivors appreciate.
Peace Circles as practiced in the setting of abuse are best offered through a diocese as a means for giving survivors and even wounded family members a chance to air their pain and share in a prayerful peace.
Therapists and other trained persons, usually from the diocesan survivor ministry, are available. There is usually follow up to ensure attendees are alright, indeed an ongoing relationship, because Peace Circles can also be intense.
We recommend, to ensure that no one is re-wounded or vicariously wounded, Peace Circles are handled at a diocesan level with experts who have experience.
We have published articles about creating sacred spaces — in a survivor’s home to cultivate personal peace and also in parishes or dioceses as places for healing.
Here, a religious order and lay order collected humble donations and created a labyrinth opened to the public on the grounds of a monastery.
You don’t need to create a garden, but you could find a local beautiful setting for a sunrise or twilight prayer service, with music or other events.
Remember your local Catholic media.
The media covering diocesan events and crises is likely short-staffed and trying to juggle a lot of information. They may appreciate the graces available through an invitation to your parish event.
Also, they may learn a lot during events aimed at learning some fundamentals of child abuse or the process for reporting an incidence of abuse.
(As people steeped in the growth of sexual predators using media, we urge your parish to protect minors’ faces and identities with photos that show groups without direct facial shots and other things that omit identifying individuals.)
We understand we’ve been involved for a couple decades in what many fellow Catholics are taking in all at once.
We believe it’s worth your time to get informed about what is wrong by getting a better informed about what is going right. If you want to move bishops forward, it helps to know exactly where some things are.
Discussion groups, workshops, webinars: whatever it takes, it won’t take a lot of time to understand these things. If you work with resources provided by The Healing Voices Magazine, it is free and can be done at home on your own.
What is A Victim Assistance Coordinator?
In the Church an unusual ministry has been emerging in people who have been hired to be liaisons with survivors who bring reports forward to the Church for review as defined in the Charter of 2002. That ministry is found in the person on staff at a diocesan office who works as liaison with survivors.
In 2017, we published a compilation of survivors’ voices discussing the roles of Victim Assistance Coordinators (who in your diocese may be called Survivor Ministers or Victim Service Providers). Not all Victim Assistance Coordinators are created equally, and not all are equally empowered by their bishops. However, many are unknown saints.
What to understand what the Charter looks like when it is put in action by your fellow Catholics: Read our booklet here.
What is The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People?
We notice that many Catholics don’t know much about how the Charter (and the related Essential Norms) changed how the U.S. Catholic Church operates, even though their own parishes and schools have radically adjusted to the reforms.
A quick review is worthwhile, if only so that the changes you promote are not already accomplished and can build on the strength of some things done right.
For a good review article, see here.
For more information on child protection that works well in the U.S. Catholic Church, see this list.
Learn What Survivors Can Teach the Church about Faith
Have you thought about how much survivors have to offer the Church?
A two-part interview of Dr. Robert Orsi of Northwestern University: He has interviewed the largest sample of Catholic clergy-abuse survivors and offers insights into the powerful faith he found in survivors. Part I is here.
One of many articles about Catholic clergy-abuse survivors now in ministry is here.
Caring for Survivors of Clergy Abuse
Whatever you do, do not inadvertently re-wound a survivor of clergy abuse when you seek to be helpful. The same is true for family members who may be grieving this horrible abuse in their own families; don’t assume Catholic traditions can’t hurt as much as they once comforted.
For a brief and very popular webinar on basic issues you need to know when extending care as a friend or family member to a pained survivor or a wounded family member, listen to this Spirit Fire webinar (free).
Catholic traditions you hold dear can traumatize a fellow Catholic recovering from abuse, like we published in this article on Catholic saints who were abused: here.
Consider the difference between a survivor having found comfort through conversion to Catholicism vs. a survivor of clergy abuse returning to the Catholicism as the one true faith: read here.
Do’s and Don’ts in Survivor Ministry: For a quick take on the do’s and don’ts in listening to a survivor of abuse (or a family member of a survivor), here is the Spirit Fire one-page tip sheet.
Basic Concepts: If you are inclined to learning more about offering pastoral care for survivors of child abuse by clergy and all others with trusted authority, here is a free 27-minute Spirit Fire webinar (free) about offering pastoral care to survivors of clergy abuse, click here, and a full list of free articles and programs may be found at Spirit Fire’s publications page here.
The Healing Voices Magazine
This magazine was founded several years ago to bring together voices from all corners of our Church in an editor-mediated setting to be heard, honored, affirmed and included in a body of work that is accumulating much information about what is working and what is not working in the healing path beyond abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.
Tell Us More
Has your parish or diocese offered any services or activities you’d like fellow Catholics to consider? Post them here to share.
St Gertrude’s Church of Chicago, Illinois, will host a listening session for all parishioners on September 16, 2018.