by Moira Cullings
BASEHOR — The wounds of survivors of sexual abuse by a member of the Catholic Church are unfathomable.
But the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas wants those who are hurting to know they are not alone.
“Because their memories will retain their experiences, the church, in the purification of her memory, wants to accompany people who have been harmed by her ministers,” said Michael Podrebarac, archdiocesan consultant for liturgy and sacramental life.
The archdiocese will host the annual Day of Prayer in Atonement for Those Harmed by Sexual Abuse on April 26.
A Mass for Reconciliation will be celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at 7 p.m. at Holy Angels Church in Basehor followed by a reception.
“The Mass is open to the public, and we encourage all to attend to show their support for the church’s need to atone for the harms that have deeply impacted members of our faith community,” said Amy Stork.
“This is a critical ministry in the church — one that has ripple effects to all Catholics and beyond,” added Stork, who is a victim care advocate for the archdiocesan office for protection and care.
The Day of Prayer in Atonement is an annual observance that takes place in the archdiocese on April 26 unless it falls on a Sunday, in which case it is transferred to the following Monday.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph also observes the day.
“In the wake of the sexual abuse crisis, the bishops of the United States have encouraged each diocese to establish a day in which we remember the tragedy of clerical sexual abuse and all sexual abuse,” said Podrebarac.
That type of abuse, he said, is “the most elevated form of hurt that we can imagine because there is nothing more profoundly painful than being hurt in our human dignity.”
The archbishop has decreed that all Masses in the archdiocese on the Day of Prayer in Atonement, except funeral or ritual Masses, employ the Mass for Reconciliation.
At Holy Angels, participants will have the opportunity to light a votive candle for themselves or someone they know who has suffered abuse.
One survivor expressed her appreciation for the opportunity.
“I am very grateful to the archbishop for this specific day set aside to help heal the harm and wounds from abuse,” she said.
“I hope to carry home a deeper sense of peace and healing through the graces opened up for me by this great act of atonement through the prayers of the church community,” she continued, “and by the graces from the sacrifice of the holy Mass.”
Archbishop Naumann is encouraged by the progress the archdiocese has made when it comes to safe environment efforts and response to new allegations of abuse.
“However, we cannot forget the victims who were harmed by clergy or other representatives of the church,” he said. “It is important that we pray for victims and their continued healing, as well as the church remaining vigilant in our prevention efforts.
“We must ask for God’s mercy for leaders in the church who did not always respond to accusers with compassion and care.”
He also wants survivors to know that they are not forgotten.
“I hope that victims receive comfort in knowing that they have helped the church grow in our awareness of our responsibility to prevent abuse in the future,” he said, “and to better protect our children.”
Stork emphasized that the office for protection and care is deeply committed to those who come forward.
“Victims often experience disbelief from whom they choose to disclose [their abuse] to — that may be their family, their pastor or church leadership,” she said.
“They have lived with shame and secrets for a long time,” she added. “All Catholics make up our church family, and when one of our family members or community members is harmed, we all have an obligation to do what we can to make things right.”
Stork said the office for protection and care continues to learn from those it accompanies, and its response efforts continue to evolve.
She walks with survivors who come forward at their own pace and can be reached at (913) 298-9244 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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