By Sara Larson
Awake Leadership Team
Thank goodness it’s May.
April was long and hard on both my body and my soul. I am guessing that many of you feel the same way. However we have been impacted by the global coronavirus pandemic, I know all of us are carrying extra stress and anxiety at this moment in history.
It’s a hard time to think about a painful topic like sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. We can see that fewer people are reading this blog right now—perhaps because everyone is juggling the challenges of their own life at the moment, with little mental space left for this particular issue. Even among those of us who are deeply committed to the mission of Awake, it’s challenging to muster the emotional energy to keep moving forward, when our personal lives have been so radically upended.
On the national level, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was supposed to be having its General Assembly in June, but this meeting has understandably been canceled. While momentum for reform was already dissipating in this body, the cancelation of the June meeting dampens any hope of continued change on the national level. Our bishops are dealing with a whole new crisis now. By the time they gather again in November, the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church may no longer be on the agenda in any significant way. And what about the long-promised Vatican report on defrocked former cardinal Theodore McCarrick? Do most Catholics even remember that we’re still waiting for those answers?
I have to confess, despair has occasionally been creeping into my heart, telling me to throw in the towel and spend my time on happier pursuits.
However, in the past week I have had three conversations with abuse survivors, each more heart-wrenching than the last. Their stories serve as a constant reminder of how critically important this work is. No one who has truly listened to this ongoing pain could ever say “it’s time for us to move on.” There is still so much work to be done, so much transformation and healing yet to be accomplished.
It’s still Easter, season of new life and new hope. We are moving toward Pentecost, one of my favorite feasts of the church year, when we celebrate the power of God working through human beings in unexpected, world-changing ways.
A friend recently sent me these compelling words from Dorothy Day, a woman who certainly understood what it is to face giant problems with no simple solutions:
“One of the greatest evils of the day… is [the] sense of futility. People say, ‘What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the action of the present moment but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”
So, to all who have been following along with Awake, whether deeply engaged with this work or still just thinking about getting involved—I say to you, and to myself:
This is not the time to give up. This is the time to offer our loaves and fishes, however humble they might seem, and trust that God will multiply them.
I am resolved to keep walking this path, side by side with my dear friends from the Awake Leadership Team. We hope you will walk with us.
Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.
– Galatians 6:9
Sara Larson studied theology at Marquette University, worked in parish ministry for eight years, and is a member of Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Milwaukee. This piece is a revised version of a recent post on In Spirit and Truth, her personal blog about the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.