By Erin O’Donnell
Editor, Awake Blog
This week we’re happy to mark the first anniversary of the Awake Blog. Since our very first post in January 2020, we’ve published 49 posts exploring different elements of the twin crises of sexual abuse and leadership failures in the Catholic Church.
The goal of the blog has been to provide Catholics in Milwaukee a way to learn more about the twin crises. An essential part of that is learning from victim-survivors, and we’re truly honored by the survivors who have trusted us to tell their stories over the last year. Readers are responding; people from all over the world have visited Awakemilwaukee.org more than 15,000 times over the last 12 months, a fact that feels hopeful to all of us at Awake. In the midst of a challenging pandemic year, people still took time to learn more about the crises, to read about survivors’ journeys, and to contemplate ideas for healing our Church.
We’re already working hard on new and important stories to share with you in 2021. So we invite you to keep reading.
We also have a favor to ask: if you encounter a post that you find eye-opening, that makes you angry, or that otherwise moves you, please consider sharing it with fellow Catholics through social media or email. As we’ve explained before, we at Awake believe strongly that we are ALL integral members of the Body of Christ. Any suffering in that Body affects all of us, and we’re all responsible for responding and working for healing. Sharing blog posts can be a simple first step in this effort. May 2021 bring us closer to making the Church safe for all.
Awake’s Top 8 Posts of 2020
In an effort to understand how the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has responded to the abuse crisis, we sent a list of questions on 35 topics to Archbishop Jerome Listecki’s team, and met with members of that team several times in 2020 to collect the answers. This is our original list of questions.
In this May post we interview mental health experts about grooming, the process some predators use to prepare their victims for abuse.
When the Vatican finally released its report on former cardinal Theodore McCarrick in November, the Awake Milwaukee team worked quickly to digest the 461-page report. In this post we also speak with local survivors to hear their thoughts on the findings.
5. Abuse of Adults in the Church: What You Need to Know
In our work with victim-survivors, Awake has learned that sexual abuse of adults is one of the painful realities of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. In this post, Awake executive director Sara Larson shares a reflection about walking with adult survivors. We also hear from Anne, a victim-survivor who was abused as an adult in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Jerri von den Bosch of the Awake Leadership Team writes a moving letter to her mother, a survivor of clergy abuse.
After her abuse by popular Catholic composer David Haas, music minister Margaret Hillman describes the traumatic pain of singing his music at Mass, years later.
Milwaukee psychotherapist Patricia Gallagher Marchant shares her story of assault by a parish priest when she was seven. One of her requests of Catholics in the pews is that they get angry about the harm done to victims. “It’s normal and healthy to be angry about an injustice,” she said.
In July we began writing a series of posts about allegations of sexual abuse against David Haas, Catholic composer of popular contemporary hymns such as “We Are Called,” and “Blest Are They.” As the number of allegations grew, suggesting a pattern of manipulative, predatory behavior by Haas, music ministers began to debate the use of his music.
Erin O’Donnell is a freelance journalist and member of Saints Peter and Paul Parish. She lives on Milwaukee’s Eastside with her husband and two sons.