The Way of the Cross with Survivors: A Lenten Opportunity to Pray with Those Who Are Hurting  

By Anselma Dolcich-Ashley
Guest Writer

Last week Awake Milwaukee observed the Way of the Cross, a prayer service following the footsteps of Jesus to Calvary, accompanied by victim-survivors of sexual abuse and their friends and families. At each station, a survivor offered a reflection to help those praying to connect the sufferings of Jesus with the suffering of those who have experienced sexual abuse in the Church.

The personal sharing of the contributors was moving and heartfelt as the reflections spoke to Jesus’ passion and death through their own eyes and experiences. At some stations, survivors read their own reflections; at others, a member of the Awake team read on behalf of the survivor. A series of nature photos provided visual images to aid in the reflections.

“We are deeply grateful to each person who chose to share their story by writing these reflections,” said Laura Hancock, member of the Awake Prayer Team, who also offered a closing prayer asking God, “that all those who are still hurting may know your presence.”

Awake first offered its annual Way of the Cross in 2021, providing an opportunity for the Church to enter in prayer into Jesus’ suffering and solidarity with victim-survivors of abuse. We offer below a sample of the 2023 Way of the Cross, followed by a recording of this virtual event to use for personal prayer. If you prefer to read along, the written text can be found here.

Walking the Way of the Cross with Survivors: The Sixth Station – Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Reflection by Carol: Abused as a child, and growing up with parents who were unaware or could not face the reality of my abuse, I learned to hide my shame, to hide my face from the world around me. I rarely made eye contact and diverted from painful places and memories. On my journey of healing, God has placed “Veronicas” in my life who haven’t turned away from the ugliness of my story, who have been willing to look at my face, offer a spiritual cloth, and listen with kindness, interest and empathy… the comfort needed to help me continue to carry the cross of surrender.

Prayer: For all victims, survivors, thrivers, and copers, let us pray –  Jesus, hear us. 

Response: Jesus, be with us.

Anselma Dolcich-Ashley is a theologian and independent scholar from South Bend, Indiana. She has studied the meaning of moral norms as applied in the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. She appreciates working with Awake to accompany others, to encounter the human face of the abuse crisis, and to participate in a compassionate Catholic community.

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