by Moira Cullings
EMPORIA — “Words alone are powerless to heal the wounds caused by sexual abuse,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at the second archdiocesan–sponsored healing service held at Sacred Heart Church here June 12.
Abuse by a priest or representative of the church creates what the archbishop called a “double wound.”
“It is a spiritual wound resulting not only by having been hurt by someone whom you had the right to trust, but from someone who represented to you the church, and, in some measure, even symbolized the presence of God.”
The service — the second of three for those who have been affected by any sort of abuse or harm and those gathered to show support for them — was celebrated by the archbishop. He was joined by Sacred Heart pastor Father Brandon Farrar and master of ceremonies Msgr. Gary Applegate.
Assisting in organizing and preparing for the event were the archdiocesan safe environment program, the office of child and youth protection and the Sacred Heart pastoral staff.
Archbishop Naumann apologized to all who have been harmed in some way and stated his hope that they will be able to forgive their predators and move on with their lives.
“I hope it gives some measure of comfort to the victims of abuse that, because of your courage in coming forward and challenging the church to confront the issue of sexual abuse, our church is a much safer place today,” he said.
Both priests and parishioners welcomed his message.
“I’m grateful to see the archbishop in a formal way reaching out to all those who have been hurt and offering a visible presence on behalf of the church,” said Father Farrar.
He said he hoped that the event brought about a feeling of solidarity for the archdiocesan community.
“I think this was an opportunity for [Archbishop Naumann] to identify with those who have been abused or who have felt the pain of being betrayed by a bishop or a priest or a parent or a teacher, who have felt compromised because they are Catholic, through no fault of their own,” he said.
The parish community was also eager to show support for the wounded within the archdiocese.
“I thought everybody needed the prayer,” said parishioner Helen Pickert simply.
Her husband Jim agreed, saying it was an obligation for the Emporia community to be a presence for victims of abuse.
The Pickerts, like many in attendance, have the same hope that Archbishop Naumann has for those hurting from abuse.
“Those who have been victimized do not deserve to be bound up by anger the rest of their lives,” said the archbishop.
“I pray that their hearts can be liberated so that they can experience the peace, the joy and the hope that the Lord desires for them,” he added. “And I pray that they experience in a new and powerful way the love of God, who is particularly close to those who are victims of injustice.”
After the homily, attendees were invited to light a candle in front of the altar as a symbol of their prayer intentions.
“I found [the service] very moving,” said Jim Pickert. “I found it revealing. I enjoyed Archbishop Naumann’s message thoroughly.”
“And, most of all, I found it reassuring that [the abuse] wasn’t going to continue on his watch,” he continued. “And that makes me feel good that we have a strong archbishop that’s willing to take this issue and correct the problems.”
The third and final healing service in this jubilee Year of Mercy will be held on Nov. 7 at Christ the King Parish in Topeka.