by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Margaret knows all about the pain, darkness and alienation caused by childhood sexual abuse by a cleric — because it happened to her.
But Margaret (not her real name) also knows that the church offers healing and peace that survivors like herself can get nowhere else.
“I think a survivor will find greater healing through the sacraments in the church — the church that has sinners and has wounded a soul,” she said. “It’s that same church that offers the sacraments for healing in the best way.”
This coming month, Margaret and others will find hope and healing at a day of reflection called “Healing from the Scandal of Abuse by Clergy, Religious and Others in Authority within the Church.”
The archdiocesan-sponsored day will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 21 at Savior Pastoral Center, 12615 Parallel Pkwy., Kansas City, Kansas.
This event is open to all Catholics, including religious Sisters and Brothers, deacons, priests, lay ministers and any Catholic dealing with spiritual wounds from abuse or those wishing to offer their support.
Leading the event will be Teresa Hartnett, herself an abuse survivor. She is a Catholic writer, speaker and founder of Spirit Fire ministry (Spirit Fire.Live), which promotes restorative justice for those wounded by abuse.
She is also the co-founder of Healing Voices magazine. She is the author of “Healing Sanctuary” and co-author of “Veronica’s Veil” under the pen name Teresa Pitt Green.
Archdiocesan chancellor Father John Riley was very impressed by Hartnett’s book and what she offers survivors.
“Several years ago, I was informed of Teresa’s book, ‘Veronica’s Veil,’” said Father Riley. “I ordered several copies and read the book immediately.
“It struck me as a very personal and approachable test that would be very helpful in assisting survivors of sexual abuse in the process of healing.”
“I’ve probably given more than 25 copies of this book to survivors,” he continued. “When I learned that Teresa was available to offer a retreat in the archdiocese, I knew that she would be an excellent resource for survivors, and that her approach to healing would be of great benefit for survivors.”
Hartnett’s path to integrating this trauma into her identity included leaving the church “a dozen times” and undergoing therapy.
“To make a long story short,” she said, “beyond the pathology of abuse and all the ways the world would rightly understand it, only my faith could explain the evil I experienced.”
“That, coupled with this constant longing for the Eucharist,” she continued, “led me on a staggering life’s journey.”
Despite the progress she’s made, Hartnett found that it’s a wound that doesn’t ever go away. Nevertheless, she is more at peace.
“I’m blessed that people are ready to hear about what we’re doing. And the gifts of my life and my talents — and even my suffering — can be brought to bear to serve others,” said Hartnett.
The day will consist of four sessions that include opportunities for prayer, music and conversation. A safe room will be available for those who wish to use it. At least one trained counselor will be available.
“My hope is that people will leave the experience with a profound sense of peace and hope, and [they] will feel more open to the love of God no matter what wound they walk in with,” said Hartnett.
The event is free, but registration is required. To register, click here.
You can also register by calling Maura Dodson at (913) 647-0367.