On Sunday, March 19, the Archdiocese of Regina held its first annual prayer vigil to mark the Archdiocesan initiative to acknowledge the sorrow and pain endured by victims of clergy sexual abuse. The service, held at St. Cecilia parish in Regina, was hosted by Archbishop Don Bolen and attended by about 75 people. After warmly welcoming people at the door, Archbishop Bolen began the service with this introduction:
“This prayer vigil represents an Archdiocesan initiative to begin to acknowledge the sorrow and pain victims of clergy sexual abuse have endured at the hands of all facets of the Catholic Church including the bishops, priests and laypeople. This is an opportunity to pause and take time to acknowledge how we as a church must change and begin to become a welcoming community for victims of clergy sexual abuse. We need to support victims, learn from them and develop resources for healing. We come together this evening in prayer, to sit in silence and to listen, to hear Scripture, to sing, to make petition, to seek light in the darkness of sexual abuse in the Church and to express our faith and hope that things can be different. This will be an annual event in the Archdiocese that will eventually be held in each deanery every year in order to ask God to lead us toward becoming a different kind of church, a profoundly welcoming church, a church that acknowledges its failings and expresses its desire to be converted. “
The number of victims of clergy sexual abuse within the diocese will never be truly known. Many victims, both young and old, never come forward for many different reasons. Sometimes those who did come forward were not heard or acknowledged. And, most certainly, justice was not served. Victims were at times told that not only did their suffering not matter, but that they were not welcome in the church. This is their legacy, the legacy of the victim.
The consequences of sexual abuse to the victim and his or her family are long lasting. The affects are passed from one generation to the next and the wounds are not healed because the victim has not been heard. The trauma of sexual violence can impact victims for a lifetime, affecting them physically, emotionally and financially. The costs to society are equally staggering.
Thus the journey towards healing in this diocese has begun. This service marked a new beginning for all within the church to seek to learn, to listen and to journey towards becoming a different kind of church, a profoundly welcoming church.
Archbishop Bolen concluded the service with the following prayer:
“O Lord, you know the suffering of your people gathered here. Where we are wounded, look down upon us in your great mercy. Where we have wounded others, teach us how to be instruments of the healing that you desire. Wounds often lead to others being excluded, pushed aside. You invite each of us to be with you in body and soul, including through the Eucharist, but you show us that many have been cast aside and no longer feel welcome at your table because of our misdeeds, their voices lost in the darkness. Show us your mercy so that your table may be restored to all, so that all might know that you, Lord Jesus, dwell in them. O God, wherever we are, help us to find a home in you”.
Coffee and cookies followed the liturgy, which gave many a chance to chat and share stories, sometimes for the first time. One victim said, “It has been years that I have waited to hear true compassion from the church. Now we have to wait to see if a profound change will really happen.”
Many talked about how deeply moved they were with the service and how it is about time the church began to reach out to those who have been hurt. Yes, the time has come.
In January of this year, Archbishop Bolen named Pamela Walsh and Sr. ReAnne Letourneau as co-chairs for a special liturgy committee and tasked them to create a committee. In short order, Fr. Rick Krofchek, Cindy Walker, Marcel Michaud and Joan Mrazek, and Marian Grady joined the co-chairs and began to work on the service. The committee was very pleased with the number of attendants for this first annual liturgy.
The service at St. Cecilia’s began with the lighting of candles, symbolizing the hope of bringing light into the darkness of wounds needing healing within our church. They are a symbol of hope for reconciliation and restoration. “Where do we go from here?” the question was posed during coffee. Under the direction of Archbishop Don Bolen, this is to become a yearly Lenten or Advent event, with the intent of having it expanded to each deanery for 2018. This is, indeed, a reason to be a people of hope within a church that is moving forward to become an instrument of healing.