FLAGSTAFF — In her poem “Healing,” Diane Vreuls writes, “They say the suffering unto health hurts less than suffering unto death. Those suffering don’t say this.”
In an effort to ease the suffering of victims of abuse, especially those abused by the clergy, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrated Mass at San Francisco de Asís Parish in Flagstaff March 14, offering words of hope and healing.
It’s among a special set of liturgies hosted each year by the diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection for survivors of abuse and their families. At the Mass, which came ahead of April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, the bishop reflected on the words of the first reading of the Mass: “Come, let us return to the Lord, … it is He who will heal us … he will bind our wounds” (Hosea 6:1).
Office of Child and Youth Protection
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted encourages anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse by any employee of the Roman Catholic Church to please come forward by contacting the Office of Child and Youth Protection.
Anne Vargas-Leveriza, director
Phone: (602) 354-2396
Fax: (602) 354-2469
Hotline: (602) 463-8140
We are here because the love of Jesus prompts us, moves us, impels us,” Bishop Olmsted said. “We want whoever has been abused to know that Jesus loves them and that we love them and that they are not alone.”
Ray, a survivor of clergy abuse, knows all too well that feeling of loneliness. When he finally told his parents, they didn’t believe him.
“They thought no priest would do such things,” he said. But through it all, Ray never lost his faith in the Church or in God.
Bishop Olmsted cited a letter from Pope Francis addressing this very issue. “The Holy Father said, ‘that everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.’” He said the gospel of the day with the parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector from Luke 18 tells us what attitude we need for our prayers to be heard.
“The Pharisee is arrogant… He tells God how good he is, what good things he does… The tax collector doesn’t even feel worthy to raise his eyes to heaven. He says, ‘O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ This is how to begin every prayer.”
Ray and his wife, Paula, now run Healing With Hope, one of the support groups in the Diocese of Phoenix for survivors of clergy abuse. The group’s mission is to provide “a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere where confidentiality is held to the highest regard,” and welcomes anyone older than 18 who has suffered sexual abuse by a clergy member from any religion. Family members are also welcome to attend.
“We discuss different topics, how we are doing, what our current struggles are, and feelings and emotions that just are,” said Ray. “We accept one another right where we are on our journeys.
“We would like to see people return to the Church who left because of the abuse,” Paula added. “But even if they aren’t ready for that, we are here to open windows and let the sun shine in.”
At a reception following the Mass, Bishop Olmsted concluded, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to assure these people that God loves them.”
Healing With Hope is a support group for victims and family members of clergy sex abuse. For more information, contact Raymondhealingwithhope1@yahoo.com.
Grief to Grace is a retreat for victims and family members of clergy sex abuse. For more information, contact Phoenix@grieftograce.org.
— Mary Dahl, The Catholic Sun.