by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Helping those who suffered abuse by a member of the Catholic Church find healing is a complicated obligation.
But it’s something Amy Stork believes she was meant to do.
Stork was hired as the new victim care advocate for the archdiocesan office for protection and care on Jan. 24.
Stork feels that her background and degree in psychology, coupled with being a parent, has helped to prepare her for this role. She and her family are active parishioners at Sacred Heart Parish in Shawnee.
Jenifer Valenti, director of the office for protection and care, said Stork “has a strong desire to help the church atone for the harms caused to abuse victims/survivors.
“She is a caring, empathetic listener who is truly interested in a survivor’s journey.”
Stork spends much of her time meeting with survivors of abuse, listening to their individual needs and finding ways to meet those needs. Something that is always offered to those coming forward is counseling.
“It’s so humbling to know somebody’s trusting you [with their experiences],” said Stork. “To earn their trust after the betrayal they have experienced and just be with them, wherever they are at — to be a constant — [is gratifying].
“It’s critical we prove we’re not going to abandon them. We’ll do what we can to atone for the harms [caused] and acknowledge our responsibility.”
Stork helps the office implement restorative practices, which Valenti said are a “critical tool we use to empower survivors of abuse.”
“Restorative principles seek to understand harm and recognize that out of harm arises obligation,” she explained. “In practice, restorative processes are survivor-centered and seek to restore a person’s dignity and respect.”
The restorative part largely involves setting up a dialogue between the survivor and a representative of the archdiocese.
“It’s bringing the parties together and addressing harms,” said Stork. “It’s critical that the victim/survivor leads the process of identifying what they need from us in order for us to atone for the harms.”
Stork said that “the goal is to do what we can to restore their dignity and acknowledge their hurt.”
“Particularly in historical cases, people weren’t believed,” she said. “Oftentimes, they weren’t believed by their pastors or church leadership.
“Sometimes, they weren’t believed by their families. Many times, they were abandoned by their entire faith communities.”
Stork hopes to be at the center of the archdiocesan team that aims to rectify the damage those situations caused.
Valenti stressed how essential it is to have a victim care advocate in the archdiocese.
“It is important for someone who is alleging harm at the hands of a cleric to have an advocate throughout the process who will work exclusively on protecting their rights and caring for their well-being,” she said.
Stork doesn’t take the significance of her work lightly.
She’s aware of the numbers in our global church community who have left the church because of the sexual abuse scandal.
“This is Christ’s church,” she said. “He built it, and we all have a shared responsibility to ensure it is in his image.”
Stork is also encouraged by the emphasis Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann has placed on this ministry in recent years formalizing the office for protection and care.
Stork recognizes that coming forward is always a difficult and courageous decision. Her priority is to be available for those who are willing and able to make that difficult call.
“There’s no timeline and no judgment,” she said. “I hope that encourages more people to come forward.”
For more information on the archdiocesan office for protection and care, visit the website at: archkck.org/protection-and-care/office.