Abandoned in Suffering – One in Renewal: Bishop Johnston’s Five Commitments | 2020 Update

As the summer season comes to a close, a new school year is beginning and we are all learning to live, work and practice our faith in the midst of a global pandemic. The five commitments made by Bishop Johnston in 2016 are entering a new phase as well, as the journey of healing becomes further integrated into the important day to day focus of diocesan activities.

“We are proud of the work of the Task Force and specially assigned committees who have prioritized the necessary transparency and accountability to continue the healing process,” said Bishop James V. Johnston. “The initial commitments made nearly four years ago have evolved into a sustained, ongoing focus and commitment to support the healing of the survivors of clergy sexual abuse as well as their families and extended communities.”

Read more for current updates on each of the five commitments:

TASK FORCE

The Task Force has wrapped up its work to review all diocesan policy and protocols related to the Office of Child and Youth Protection, with the completion and approval by Bishop Johnston of the Safe Environment Program Policy and Procedures. The policy has been delivered to the Safe Environment Coordinators at each of the diocese’s 88 parishes.

PRIEST AND DEACON TRAINING

Following a groundbreaking full day training session on ministering to survivors of sexual abuse for all priests and deacons in April 2018 (read more), additional sessions have been held for each class of newly ordained priests and deacons. This is now an ongoing piece of the faith formation and ministry training across the diocese for priests and deacons.

SPIRITUAL GUIDE PROGRAM

The Spiritual Guide Program continues in its pilot phase, with two individuals participating to date. The program was established to focus on providing victims with essential spiritual support, since the harm that was inflicted often jeopardized or severed that critical support. The program has been well received and participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to pursue additional support. The program will continue to develop and expand over the next 12-18 months.

ANNUAL DAY OF PRAYER

The Annual Day of Prayer was established in 2017 to honor survivors of childhood sexual abuse, pray for healing and prevention, and to offer atonement. The fourth Annual Day of Prayer took place on April 27, 2020 as planned, though it transitioned into a virtual event due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and stay at home orders. The Mass was viewed live by more than 600 individuals, with an additional 400 viewers over the subsequent two days. Plans have already begun for the 2021 Annual Day of Prayer which will continue to be livestreamed to allow more survivors, families, and prayer warriors to attend.

REMEMBRANCE COMMITTEE

The Remembrance Committee was tasked with exploring a manner in which the diocese could build a memorial to honor sexual abuse victims and survivors harmed by someone in the Church. The goal of this memorial is to serve as a place of prayer for all; a lasting reminder of the sins of the past; and a gesture of healing, outreach, and reconciliation. While originally expected to be a physical memorial, a new idea emerged from the committee’s work. A living program for survivors, their families and all impacted by clergy sexual abuse that would honor them with the support they need to navigate the healing journey. A Journey to Bethany. The Journey to Bethany program will be launching this fall, following updates to key stakeholders and survey respondents. Watch for more details to be released over the next few months.

Visit the Office of Child and Youth Protection to learn more.

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