By MARY ANN CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published July 22, 2004
Mary Susan Stubbs believes that counseling is her calling, and her enthusiasm for helping people and her varied job experiences have been an invaluable preparation for her new position with the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Archbishop John F. Donoghue recently named Stubbs, a parishioner at St. Benedict Church, Duluth, as the new director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection for the archdiocese. As director, Stubbs will revise the training tools and program for clergy, volunteers, employees, parents, children and youth; enhance the victim assistance program; and through proactive outreach, encourage victims of sexual abuse by clergy, Religious and church employees to come forward.
Stubbs said, “I see this position as an opportunity that God has presented me to help him heal grave wrongs that have been acted upon his children and to assist the church in efforts to keep these wrongs from happening in the future.”
She noted that this job is an “added blessing” because she grew up in the archdiocese. “The people that make up this diocese are very important to me—they all are a part of my church family. I am honored to be in a position that allows me to serve them directly in creating a safe environment in which to learn and live their faith.”
Archbishop Donoghue said, “I am pleased to have Sue Stubbs on board as the new director for the Office of Child and Youth Protection . . . I have asked her to be a voice for victims/survivors.”
The archbishop said that Stubbs “comes to us with extensive expertise in counseling adolescents, adults and youth who have experienced sexual abuse.”
“Her primary responsibilities will include pastoral outreach to victims/survivors, building relationships with victims/survivors, and educating priests, deacons and employees and volunteers, who have regular access to children, on providing and maintaining safe environments.”
Archbishop Donoghue plans to meet with Stubbs on a regular basis to help with this important work.
The Office of Child and Youth Protection, formerly Project Aware, was originally established by the late Archbishop James P. Lyke, OFM, in 1992. The archdiocese has had a sexual abuse policy in place since 1990, which was revised in 1992.
In 2002, following the clergy sex abuse crisis that came to light with prominent cases in the Archdiocese of Boston, the U.S. bishops adopted the national “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” The sexual abuse policy for the Atlanta archdiocese was revised in 2003 after the charter was promulgated.
Stubbs’ first order of business is to assist with the revamping of the training used for clergy, church employees and volunteers with the archdiocese, as well as preparing for the next audit of the archdiocese’s sex abuse policies and records, which the U.S. bishops recently decided will occur in each diocese of the country before the end of 2004. She will focus on outreach, encouraging those who have been abused to come forward for help.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Stubbs is one of seven children in a large extended family. She is single and relishes the joys of her 24 nieces and nephews. A recipient of archdiocesan Catholic education, she graduated from Our Lady of the Assumption School, Atlanta, and St. Pius X High School in 1984.
After high school, she majored in psychology at North Georgia State College in Dahlonega, where she later served as Residence Life Coordinator for the girls’ dorms. In 1993, she earned a master’s degree in counseling from Georgia State University.
Stubbs always wanted to work with youth. She interned with The Bridge Family Center, a residential treatment center for youth, counseling residents and outpatients on issues such as “sexual and physical abuse, addiction, grief and loss, self-esteem and conflict resolution.” Through her work as an intern and, later, an employee at The Bridge Family Center, she realized that this type of work was what she felt called to do.
However, as the center was partially state funded, Stubbs was not encouraged to use her religious faith as part of her counseling. And in the course of her work there, her “philosophies changed.” During that period in her life, she said, her faith life grew, along with her conviction that she needed to include God in her work with troubled individuals struggling with the long-term effects of abuse. She said, “Faith in God was the one thing that could be given to them that no one could take away from them.”
Stubbs moved on to work at a number of jobs, including a short stint as youth minister at Transfiguration Church in Marietta. Counseling, she said, was a “natural part” of the job. Other jobs included working with a Christian financial planner and as a human resources specialist with a software company.
In every job, Stubbs noted, “I learned a lot.” And all of those job skills—counseling, ministry, writing, organization, professional communication, human resources—have prepared her for her work with the archdiocese.
In addition, Stubbs has been active at parishes she’s attended. President of the Newman Club in college, she has most recently offered her time and talents at St. Benedict’s, where she was an RCIA sponsor in 2003 and works on the RCIA core team this year. She’s active with the young adult ministry there, as well as serving as an adoration guardian once a week.
Stubbs said that she is pleased to use her strong faith and her varied skills to work for the people of the archdiocese. She plans to “form a protection program that, by its structure, will make and maintain a safe environment for all.”
With her focus on those in need, she said, “My response and the response of the Office of Child and Youth Protection to anyone who reports abuse will be immediate, sincere, and focused on healing for the victim, their biological family and their parish family.”
To contact the Office of Child and Youth Protection, call (404) 885-7459.