Discussion Groups

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Jesus (Matthew 18:20)

Awake began with conversations. We’ve been talking in living rooms, churches, parks, and coffee shops, and we’ve found strength and encouragement in connecting with one another in an authentic way. 

In addition to many, many casual conversations, eight organized discussion groups have also taken place in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee over the last few months. These groups have brought together diverse voices for honest discussion, all in the context of prayer, faith, and community.

Now, we want to invite more of our fellow Catholics to the dialogue, bringing the issue of clergy sexual abuse out of the shadows and into the light.

Awake Discussion Groups are designed to foster open conversation among people of faith who are concerned about the crisis in our Church. While we want to move beyond words into concrete action, we also believe that, for many of us, the first step is to begin the conversation. We hope you will join us.

If you are interested in participating in a group, please view our Discussion Group Registration Form for current group options.


The Basics

Overview

  • Each Awake Discussion Group meets three times for about 90 minutes each.
  • Group members commit to participating in all three gatherings so that they can experience the entire process together.
  • Groups are kept to a small size (around eight people) for comfortable discussion, and a member of the Awake Team facilitates the conversation.
  • Group location is determined by the participants of each group. Previous groups have met in homes, parishes, and other community spaces in various areas of the Archdiocese.
  • If you are interested in hosting a group at your location, please get in touch!

Meeting One: Lamentation

Focuses on welcoming group members, building trust, and allowing people to openly share their thoughts and feelings related to the abuse crisis.

Meeting Two: The Body of Christ

Offers an opportunity for participants to reflect on the entire Church, including survivors of clergy abuse, as members of the wounded Body of Christ.

Meeting Three: Hope

Challenges group members to explore what it means to have Christian hope in the midst of a broken Church and to discern how God might be calling each of us to take action in this spirit of hope.

YOU MIGHT VALUE PARTICIPATING IN AN AWAKE DISCUSSION GROUP IF:

  • You are a Catholic who is struggling to process your own thoughts and feelings in response to the scandal of abuse and cover up in our Church.
  • You have been avoiding thinking about the tragedy of abuse in our Church and need a supportive environment to start to face that reality.
  • You want to have a conversation that puts this crisis into a context of prayer and hope.
  • You haven’t found a place where you can express your feelings of hurt, anger, sadness, or despair with other people of faith.
  • You have not had a strong emotional reaction to this crisis but want to engage in conversation to learn more and to understand what others are thinking and feeling.
  • You are a priest, religious brother or sister, deacon, or lay minister in the Church who would like to process your own feelings and reactions to the crisis or would value an opportunity to listen and learn from Catholics like those you serve.
  • You appreciate listening to diverse perspectives from a variety of fellow Catholics.
  • You need an opportunity to discern how God might be calling you to respond at this moment in the life of the Church.

If you are interested in participating in an Awake Discussion Group, please click here to view current group options and sign up. If you have questions, you can always contact us at awakemke@gmail.com.


A Note for Abuse Survivors

You are warmly welcome to participate in these discussion groups. We value your experience and perspective and will do everything we can to make you feel comfortable and included. Several survivors have participated in previous groups and have had positive experiences. However, we should note that these groups are not therapy and are not facilitated by mental health professionals, so please keep your own mental and emotional health in mind when choosing whether to participate. 

Also, please be aware that these groups take a specifically Catholic approach – beginning and ending with prayer, reading Scripture, calling on the intercession of saints, etc. If you are comfortable engaging with these elements of Catholicism in a supportive environment, an Awake Discussion Group might be a good fit for you. However, if these Catholic practices are triggering or off-putting for you, we would love to listen to and engage with you in a different way.

Please just reach out to us at awakemke@gmail.com to get connected for conversation.


Feedback from Past Group Participants

“Last night was wonderful on so many levels. I’m grateful for our shared interest in good conversation, prayer, and ongoing support.”

“I entered into this group not knowing what to think and was surprised by the amount of healing I experienced over three sessions.”

“I feel like I had a pretty immature grasp of the issue when I first met with the group… Talking about the issue with the same group of people over time gave me a much more fleshed out understanding of the problems and how the issue is affecting different people. It was a very positive experience.”

“This group provided a safe and comfortable place to unpack the array of emotions surrounding the clergy abuse and cover up crisis. This issue is difficult to talk about but difficult to ignore. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to, learn from, and pray with fellow Catholics.”

“For years, I have been carrying around so much anger, sadness, confusion, and shame all while trying to practice my faith and grow in relationship with God. It has been a relief to gather with others who share some of these same emotions about the clergy sex abuse scandal. There’s no reason to suffer through this alone. This unique kind of fellowship points me toward a path to healing and gives me hope for renewal in the Church.”