We invite all Catholics to join the Awake community in working for greater safety, accountability, and compassion in our Church. Our current action focuses on bringing increased awareness of trauma to church leaders and encouraging each parish to offer a simple gesture of outreach to victim-survivors of sexual abuse.
If you have not yet participated in our first action – writing letters to request the suspension of music by David Haas from public liturgies – you can find information about that initiative here.
Part One: Raise Awareness
Send the recording of the Courageous Conversations event Understanding the Impacts of Trauma and Building Trauma-Sensitive Parishes to leaders at your church – particularly your pastor and the chairperson of your parish pastoral council. (If you don’t know who your council chairperson is, you can often find their name and contact information in the parish bulletin or website – or just check with the parish office.) Ask these church leaders if they would listen to the presentation, then follow up a week later to talk to them about actions your parish could take.
Email is often easiest, but if you are willing (or know that your priest doesn’t love communicating by email), a phone call or personal conversation could be even better.
Not sure what to say? It’s fine to keep it simple, with something like this:
Thank you for _____________ (always say something affirming to start!). I recently watched a presentation that I thought might interest you. It was part of Awake Milwaukee’s Courageous Conversations series, and it was titled Understanding the Impacts of Trauma and Building Trauma-Sensitive Parishes. It really got me thinking about how our parish could reach out to survivors of trauma, especially sexual abuse.
I know you have a lot on your plate, but this is really important to me. Would you please watch the presentation and let me know your thoughts on what we could do here at ________ (parish name) to be more trauma-sensitive?
Part Two: encourage outreach
In his Courageous Conversations presentation, Dr. Stephen Saunders spoke about the importance of reaching out to victims and survivors with simple gestures communicating awareness and compassion. Awake recommends that each parish consider one or more of these actions:
1) Include a prayer during the General Intercessions on a monthly basis. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- For all survivors of sexual abuse, that the Lord will be close to them and bring them justice and healing.
- For our parish, that we may be a place of safety and support for all abuse survivors, sharing the healing love of Jesus Christ with those who have been harmed.
- In thanksgiving for the brave survivors who have shared their stories and helped move our Church towards greater safety and accountability. May the Lord bless and protect them in their journey toward healing.
- For all Catholics who are impacted by revelations about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, that God will move us to respond with faith, compassion, and courage.
2) Address survivors of sexual abuse in a homily:
- Given the prevalence of sexual violence and abuse in our society, you can be sure there are survivors in your pews.
- Speak directly to those people with words of compassion and understanding, acknowledging their presence and communicating your love, support, and willingness to listen.
3) Include a message to survivors in your parish bulletin:
- We recommend including this announcement at regular intervals throughout the year, on at least a monthly basis.
- This is one possible message: “As a parish, we recognize that there are many people in our pews who have experienced sexual abuse, whether in the Catholic Church or in other contexts. If you are an abuse survivor, we want you to know that we believe you and we support you. Please feel free to reach out to (pastor name) or (parish staff member name) at any time if you would like to talk. You can also receive support through the National Sexual Abuse Hotline, 800-656-4673, which operates 24 hours a day. In Milwaukee, you can contact one of the Aurora Healing Centers at 414-219-5555. If your abuse took place in a Catholic context, you can contact the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Victim Assistance Coordinator Stephanie Delmore at 414-769-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the independent organization Awake Milwaukee through www.awakemilwaukee.org.