by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kathleen Chastain never expected the journey of her career would lead her to where she is now.
But when she began working with survivors of sexual abuse harmed within the Catholic Church, Chastain was moved and inspired.
“I feel I was called on a mission to use my gifts in a way that would benefit both survivors and the church,” she said.
“It’s extremely rewarding,” she added.
Chastain, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Presentation Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, started as consultant to the archdiocesan office for protection and care on March 1.
Jennifer Valenti, director of the office, said Chastain was hired to strengthen abuse prevention and response ministries within the archdiocese.
“Kathleen brings a wealth of leadership and management skills from her background in the private business sector,” she said.
“Her professional expertise will enhance our relationships with the dedicated staff and volunteers on the front line at our parishes and schools,” she added.
Building upon those relationships is important, said Valenti, because parishes and schools play a critical role in protecting children and vulnerable adults from abuse.
So far, the transition to the archdiocese has been smooth for Chastain, especially since she had worked with Valenti before.
“We have very different backgrounds,” said Chastain, “yet we have the same passion for our faith and how it’s applied to the scandal that has occurred over the last decades in our church institution with the abuse situation.”
Valenti is grateful her team continues to grow its efforts to prevent abuse and to care for survivors within the archdiocese.
“Although it is difficult to talk about, we know that sexual abuse has impacted so many,” she said.
“With Kathleen’s help,” she added, “we hope to continue to honor our promise to protect our vulnerable and renew our pledge to heal those who have suffered harm.”
Another essential part of Chastain’s job is helping the office apply restorative practices to every aspect of its work with survivors of abuse within the church, which Valenti said is critical to the office’s mission. Most recently, Chastain worked as a victim advocate for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Prior to Valenti’s appointment as the director of the office for protection and care, the two partnered to address allegations of sexual abuse for the Missouri diocese.
“Restorative practices,” said Valenti, “follow Catholic social justice teaching as a way to amend for harm.
“It is a different way to approach abuse that offers a genuine opportunity for healing and atonement.”
The office walks with survivors at their own pace, putting them at the center of the conversation, said Chastain.
“It’s a process of identifying the harms that have occurred, who the stakeholders are and what it is that can be done to amend the harm that will lead to the dignity of the person to be restored,” she said.
This process is “simple and complex all at the same time,” said Chastain, but one thing is abundantly clear: The approach is a survivor-centered one.
“If the survivor walks away feeling any sense of peace or wholeness and dignity has been restored, then I would consider that a success,” she said.
For Chastain, this type of work has both challenged and strengthened her faith, but more than anything, it’s been a gratifying part of her life.
“For me, this ministry has made me more determined to instill what I believe we are all called to,” she said, “and that is to follow Christ’s path.
“It can be complicated if you want it to be, but the restorative principles that we’re guided by in our ministry are not complicated.
“They’re what Christ taught us to do. If you keep your mind on that, it’s really pretty rewarding.”
For more information on the office for protection and care, visit the website at: archkck.org/protection-and-care/office.