By Sara Larson
Executive Director, Awake Milwaukee
It has now been almost two years since we officially launched Awake Milwaukee in August 2019 with a simple website and our Open Letter to Survivors (which you can still sign here!). Our ministry has grown from a tiny local start-up to a growing, thriving ministry with a national and even international reach. There have certainly been some bumps on this journey, but we have a strong sense that the Holy Spirit has been leading and guiding us every step of the way.
What Has ChangeD?
Since April 2020, Awake has been working from a carefully discerned mission statement that you may have seen on our website and other materials: Our mission is to awaken our community to the full reality of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and work for transformation and healing throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
As our ministry has grown, Awake remains committed to the goals of awakening, transforming, and healing. However, our Leadership Team and Board of Directors recently approved a small tweak to the mission statement to better reflect the reality of our work:
Our mission is to awaken our community to the full reality of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and work for transformation and healing in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and beyond.
Why the change?
While Awake remains rooted in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we also recognize that our work is having an impact well beyond our local community. (We’re one Body of Christ, after all.) The virtual setting of our Courageous Conversations speaker series has made it possible to include speakers and participants from across the United States (and the world), and the Awake blog reaches a large global audience. (Last week’s post was viewed by readers throughout the United States, as well as from Australia, Canada, Kenya, Ireland, South Africa, and Poland!) Most importantly, Awake has been hearing from more and more abuse survivors who have found us online and reached out to connect.
God continues to open doors for this grassroots ministry to make a broader impact, and as one Leadership Team member commented recently, we want our mission statement to serve as “a focus, not a fence.”
Practically Speaking, What Does This Mean?
If you’re located in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (AOM), please know that Awake remains committed to a particular focus on our local Church, and we’ll continue to devote much of our attention to serving this community and building our connections in Milwaukee. Just this week, we hosted two Community Gatherings specifically for our friends in the AOM, and we are hosting an in-person prayer service in the Milwaukee area on Thursday, August 12. In the coming year, we hope to offer more resources and direct support to parishes, clergy, lay ministers, and parishioners in the Archdiocese.
If you’re connecting with Awake from somewhere else, we want you to know that you matter to us too. We have decided to continue our Courageous Conversations speaker series in a virtual format so that everyone can participate, no matter where they live. (Dates for our 2021-2022 series will be announced soon.) We will also make an effort to record or livestream any in-person events, so that others can tune in from home. Most importantly, our new offerings for survivors and their loved ones (watch for details!) will be open to all, regardless of geography.
We encourage all Awake supporters to subscribe to our newsletter (sign up or update your subscription here) and follow our social media pages (find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube) to stay in the loop about what’s next as we fulfill this mission. We’ll also launch a new volunteer engagement effort in the next few weeks, which will highlight opportunities for both local support and long-distance, virtual assistance. Whoever you are, wherever you are, we would love to have your help!
As we move into our third year of ministry, I am so grateful for each person who is engaged with Awake, and I look forward to more exciting things ahead—in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and beyond!
Sara Larson, executive director of Awake Milwaukee, studied theology at Marquette University, worked in parish ministry for eight years, and is a member of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Milwaukee. Sara also writes about the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church on her personal blog, In Spirit and Truth.