Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Evening Prayer services of lamentation, atonement for sexual abuse continue in parishes
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the Feb. 7, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
As part of the non-monetary aspects of the diocese’s Chapter 11 settlement, Bishop Skylstad has been engaged in leading a series of Evening Prayer services of lamentation and atonement in parishes of the diocese.
The most common comment he’s heard so far: participants “wish more people had come,” he said.
The services are held at any parish in the diocese where a priest credibly accused of sexual abuse served. It does not necessarily mean that abuse is known to have taken place in the parish.
The bishop will be conducting services in 30 of the 81 parishes of the diocese. The first was at St. Augustine Parish, Spokane on Nov. 8; the series concludes next month, at St. Ann, Spokane.
Father Steve Dublinski, the diocese’s co-Vicar General and chairman of the diocese’s Liturgy Commission, created the service, based on Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.
The service includes three psalms. The first is prayed for the intention of the victims of sexual abuse; the second, for those priests who have sexually abused children; the third, for the healing and reconciliation of the Catholic community of faith, said the bishop.
The services, he said, help place the community’s faith journey in a prayerful context.
“It’s not the end” of the healing process, he said. “It’s not everything we do. But it’s an initial step. This is just one of the many steps toward healing and reconciliation in the diocese.”
A large copy of this icon of Jesus blessing the children is displayed during the bishop’s Evening Prayer services. The image also is distributed as a holy card in the parishes. (Image © www.monasteryicons.com)
A key component of the services is an icon (left) which travels with the bishop from parish to parish. The icon, of Jesus blessing the children, is displayed in the front of the church during the service. Holy cards are left in the parishes. The cards feature the icon, with a prayer for victims of sexual abuse on the back of the card.
When the services have been completed, the icon will be installed and displayed in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane.
The service includes a homily by the bishop, addressing the service’s theme, from Mark 10, in which Jesus tells the disciples, “let the little children come to me,” and then blesses the children.
The bishop also names the abuser(s) who served in the parish, and encourages any victims to report their abuse to law enforcement, and to contact the diocese’s Victims Assistance Coordinator, or a sexual abuse support group, if they have not done so already. He apologizes to the victims and their families and asks their forgiveness, on his own behalf, on behalf of his predecessors, and on behalf of the diocesan family.
The evening concludes with a simple reception afterward. The receptions have been very helpful, too, he said, providing an opportunity for people to come together to discuss the issue.
While attendance has not matched an average Sunday Mass, “almost universally, people have found the services helpful and positive,” said the bishop. Some even describe the services as “beautiful.”
Most of those attending are parishioners. The Catholic family of Eastern Washington has been under “considerable stress” the last few years, said Bishop Skylstad, and not a few people have gone through “a transformation in their own hearts and minds in processing this painful experience.” While some have told him they no longer want to be part of the Church, far more people have indicated “an even deeper commitment to the faith community and rebuilding the future,” he said.
Perhaps, too, Evening Prayer might become a regular part of the prayer life of the parish communities. “I would hope more and more of our parish communities could celebrate morning and evening prayer as well, especially during the penitential season of Lent, and the preparation season of Advent.”
The service “helps people process the devastation, the disappointment, the sadness,” said Bishop Skylstad. “People have such high expectations of what the Church should be. They have a right to have that expectation. But we also need to remember that Church has always been human and sinful.”