by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — An abuse survivor didn’t know what to expect at the archdiocesan healing service held at Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee this past April.
But what she found pleased her.
“It was a good experience, primarily because of the fellowship afterward,” she said.
This fellowship is vital, said Jan Saylor, reports investigator for the archdiocesan office of child and youth protection.
“It makes sense, because many times the victims feel alone,” said Saylor, who attended the service.
The second of the three scheduled archdiocesan healing services for anyone who has been affected by any sort of abuse or harm, and also for their family and friends, will be held at 7 p.m. on July 12 at Sacred Heart Parish, 101 Cottonwood, Emporia. The presider will be Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
But it is not only those directly impacted in some way that are encouraged to attend. Rather, the entire Catholic community of Emporia is invited to be a support and witness, and to join in the prayer for healing.
Archbishop Naumann spoke very strongly at the April service and is expected to do so again during the July 12 service.
“I was very moved and helped by the archbishop’s words,” said an abuse survivor. “I am very grateful for the archbishop’s response and words. Many of us are still dealing with our own issues of shame, but each time I encounter him and others who have helped, it truly gives me a closer feeling to Our Lord.”
It’s important that the church reaches out to anyone who has been affected by sexual or other kinds of abuse, especially abuse perpetrated by someone representing the church.
“A healing service is an easy way for someone who wants to be veiled in anonymity to come to a very nonthreatening service that could be the catalyst for their healing process,” said Saylor.
“But it is not just important for the victim, ” said Michael Podrebarac, Emporia native and consultant in the office of liturgy and sacramental life.
“Because such persons have suffered greatly and unjustly,” he said, “the church has a sacred duty to respond with gifts of hope and healing, not only when clergy and others have been perpetrators of abuse, but when anyone has abused or harmed another.”
“It is a way for Archbishop Naumann to publicly show his commitment to protecting children and vulnerable adults,” she continued. “It shows unity and commitment by the entire Catholic community. . . . It is especially important for the victims, who may still be hurting and feel blamed or unheard. Many [survivors] have not stepped foot in a church since their abuse occurred.”
But is there healing?
“I didn’t experience anything at this service that was dramatic or healing, but I expect as I attend more [services] that will come with time,” said an abuse survivor.
“I think true healing is a process,” said Saylor. “The victim must get past the anger, shame and hurt to move toward peace through forgiveness, both for themselves and the perpetrator.”
“Letting go of the anger, trusting again, can be long and arduous,” she continued. “Apologizing, letting the [survivor] know it was not their fault can be a beginning for the victim to find healing.”
The third and final healing service will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 at Christ the King Parish, 5973 S.W. 25th, Topeka.
“I think that most people would get the most out of [the healing services] if they do not come alone,” said an abuse survivor. “In Veronica’s Veil it talks a lot about the value of feeling accepted and welcomed by members of the faith community in general, and not just the clergy. I will bring a friend to the next one and hope to have family along when it is done in Topeka.”
For information or questions, contact Maura Dodson, of the archdiocesan safe environment office, at (913) 647-0367 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.