By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 2, 2007
Catholics and people of faith can express sympathy with victims of abuse, their families and the hurting community at a prayer service of consolation on Monday, Aug. 13. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory will lead the evening service, which begins at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, located at 2699 Peachtree Road, NE.
“We just want to reach out to anyone who has been abused,” said Sue Stubbs, the director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection. “It’s just a way to support and console,” she said.
The program will include a “Litany of Healing” and a blessing by the archbishop to individuals to help aid their recovery.
The prayer service was designed to be as welcoming as possible for those both Catholic and non-Catholic. Some who suffered at the hands of church workers have difficulty attending a Mass, so the goal is to offer the alternative, a prayer service, which victims may see as a non-threatening environment.
The prayer service is intended to include prayers for the recovery of all victims of abuse, from domestic violence and bullying to sexual assault by church personnel.
One mother of a church worker sex abuse victim, who is not named for confidentiality reasons, believes the service is a positive move, but other steps should follow.
“I think it has a lot of potential,” said the woman, who is a resident of Cobb County and plans to attend the service. “I’d love to see that as the beginning of a deeper healing,” she added.
She believes the archdiocese should organize an open meeting and prayer service between clergy and victims.
The Aug. 13 service is part of a renewed effort by the Office of Child and Youth Protection to offer supportive programs for abuse victims in parishes and to develop regional resources for counselors and mental health professionals.
Stubbs said the goal is to make these programs more accessible to abuse victims and survivors where they live across North Georgia and not just centralized in Atlanta.
And local programs allow each parish community to work toward healing people where they live and worship, she said.
Another program to be offered to parishes is “Cry to Heaven,” a prayer opportunity specifically designed to be supportive of victims.
Also, the archdiocese is looking at organizing a trauma-training program, available to all mental health professionals, which can be adapted for any type of trauma, from a plane crash to violence in schools.
According to Stubbs, since the first audit in 2003 assessing the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (as put forth by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), the archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection has assisted over 30 individuals (here and from other dioceses) who have contacted this archdiocese for healing assistance. The Atlanta Archdiocese has been found in compliance with the charter every year it has been audited since the onset of the USCCB audit process.
In addition, through the Safe Environment Program “You Matter,” the Archdiocese of Atlanta, with the cooperation of the staff and volunteers of the parishes and schools, has trained and checked the backgrounds of more than 2,300 employees, 655 educators, 245 priests, 170 deacons, 52 seminarians and 5,000 adult volunteers. The Office of Child and Youth Protection has also provided safe environment training for approximately 40,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.