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First healing service held at Good Shepherd Church, Shawnee

Deacon John Weist adjusts the candles at the healing service April 12 at Good Shepherd Parish, Shawnee. The healing service, which was for those who have been affected by any sort of harm or abuse, was the first of its kind in the archdiocese. Two more are scheduled. Leaven photo by Joe Bollig

Deacon John Weist adjusts the candles at the healing service April 12 at Good Shepherd Parish, Shawnee. The healing service, which was for those who have been affected by any sort of harm or abuse, was the first of its kind in the archdiocese. Two more are scheduled. Leaven photo by Joe Bollig

by Joe Bollig

SHAWNEE — One by one, more than 100 men, women and even a few children came forward to light a candle and set it in a sand-filled container placed before the altar at Good Shepherd Parish here.

There was a lesson in the candles.

One candle alone had a feeble light. But when placed with other candles, the light was formidable.

The candle lighting, which symbolized the prayer intentions of those who placed them, was part of an archdiocesan- sponsored healing service for those who have been affected by any sort of harm or abuse.

Two more healing services are scheduled: on July 12, at Sacred Heart Parish in Emporia and on Nov. 7, at Christ the King Parish in Topeka.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann presided at the healing service, joined by Good Shepherd pastor Father Jim Ludwikoski and master of ceremonies Msgr. Gary Applegate.

Assistance in organizing and preparing for the event were the archdiocesan safe environment program, the archdiocesan office for liturgy and sacramental life, and the Good Shepherd pastoral staff.

“It was such a blessing to be a part of the first healing service in our archdiocese focusing on victims abused by the clergy,” said one survivor of abuse. “Archbishop Naumann’s homily really touched me.”

“He apologized on behalf of the church for their lack of action as well as for abuse by priests,” she continued. “I believe it was very heartfelt. It was healing to pray for those who were abused, but even more so, praying for the abusers. The candle-lighting part of the service was beautiful. I’m very glad I took the time to attend.”

As chief shepherd, Archbishop Naumann has a “particular solicitude” for those who have been abused, said archdiocesan consultant for liturgy Michael Podrebarac.

“These services are not just for show, nor are they a window dressing for the crisis which has plagued our family of faith for many years now,” said Podrebarac. “Archbishop Naumann has earnestly decried this plague of sin and wishes for us to come together before the only one who can truly give us hope and healing — the Lord our God.”

“Those who have been victims, their loved ones and all who support them should know that they are indeed loved by God,” he continued, “that the affront to the human dignity is a sin against the Lord’s justice, and that the church in northeast Kansas, despite whatever has happened otherwise or elsewhere, is serious about the restoration of human dignity.”

The healing service was structured very much like a Liturgy of the Word — with a litany, prayers and homily. And it was the archbishop’s homily — focusing on abuse in the church — that was among the most powerful elements of the service.

Archbishop Naumann pulled no punches. In the name of the church, he offered apology, accepted responsibility and expressed shame.

He also pledged a commitment to allocate archdiocesan resources and establish policies to ensure as much as possible the safety of everyone and “to respond quickly and decisively when there is a credible allegation of abuse or misconduct.”

“My commitment is that any allegation of abuse will be taken seriously, and we’ll do everything possible to ascertain the truth,” said Archbishop Naumann. “Our commitment is to the truth. Where abuse has occurred, we’ll cooperate fully with law enforcement and we’ll make certain that perpetrators first and foremost are prevented from being able to abuse again.”

“In the rare case where a false allegation has been made because of honest confusion by an accuser or for whatever other reason,” he continued, “[we’ll] protect the reputations and good name of our priests and deacons, and all our leaders within the church.”

All those involved in an allegation will be treated with respect, justice and compassion by pursuing the truth wherever it leads, he said.

Archbishop Naumann also talked about the power of forgiveness by telling the story of Rwanda massacre survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza. Forgiveness, she discovered, is a form of liberation that brings peace.

“Forgiving is different than forgetting,” said Archbishop Naumann. “Forgiving is not denying the horrible evil done by perpetrators. Forgiving is a grace not to continue to be victimized by another. It is a liberation from being consumed by anger that can keep one from being able to experience the beauty and joy of the present moment.”

“Please do not misunderstand,” he continued. “I do not in any way minimize that anger is a healthy and normal reaction to abuse. I’m not suggesting that victims should push down and deny these legitimate, necessary feelings.

“However, I am praying that in time — a time appropriate for each — these feelings of anger will not dominate one’s heart forever.”

There was a reception following the conclusion of the healing service and an opportunity to meet with Catholic counselors. One of those was Mary Vorsten, a licensed clinical professional counselor in private practice in Roeland Park. She’s a member of Visitation Parish in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I think it’s very positive and powerful that the church is offering this opportunity for a community healing service,” said Vorsten. “I think for the victims and survivors to hear the archbishop speak as he did, acknowledging their pain, is very helpful and important for them.”

Counselors, reporting

  • For a list of Catholic counselors, go to the archdiocesan website at:
  • For information about how to report suspected abuse by church or school personnel, go to the archdiocesan website at:
  • To contact the archdiocesan report investigator Jan Saylor, call (913) 647-3051.
  • The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Child Abuse Hotline is (800) 922-5330.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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