Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What is in Ascension Catholic Church's Parish Bulletins

Below is a quote from an article, The Roots of Pastoral Response by Paul Fericano, published in the Santa Barbara Independent from February 5, 2014.  This quote tells about one of the important things we accomplished at Ascension Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon -- for seven years we have published in the parish weekly bulletin sources of support for survivors that included the names and contact information for two independent organizations with clergy abuse survivors as founders -- SafeNet and Compassionate Gathering.  (Please note that the co-founder of Compassionate Gathering is Elizabeth Goeke, who is a clinical counselor and former nun.  She left her order after being assaulted by a priest.  Elizabeth suffered a detached retina and had some grandchildren who needed full time care so she is now retired.)

 Only one (Ascension Parish in Portland) has printed a weekly notice continuously (for both the OPO and SafeNet) since 2007. (During this period, and as a result of this one parish’s pastoral response, SafeNet has received nearly two dozen inquiries from survivors and family members living in the Pacific Northwest.)

I don't have Paul's permission to link the article so I can't link it but I can tell you where to find it:  http://www.independent.com/news/2014/feb/05/roots-pastoral-response/?on

You can cut and paste in your browser or go to the website of The Santa Barbara Independent and look up Paul Fericano and the article.

What we have been doing at Ascension since the Fall of 2005, not merely since 2007, is what needs to take place at every Catholic Church.

Paul Fericano helped us get started on the work although I can't really say anything more about him as I don't have his permission, but I don't feel OK if I don't give credit where credit is due.  Paul deserves lots of credit as my work would have been impossible without his help.  I could not have done what I did without his help or the help of others -- namely Fr. Armando Lopez.  Still Fr. Armando Lopez would not have done what he did in terms of ordering announcements in the parish bulletin that included the names and contact information of two clergy abuse survivors -- Paul and Elizabeth Goeke --  every week for 7 years without me and other parishioners (Jim, Helen, Mary Lou and Fran) requesting that he do so.  Fr. Armando also placed the name of an abusive predecessor -- Gus Krumm -- and invited survivors to come forward and advertised my Compassionate Gatherings to bring together survivors with other Catholics for listening, healing and reconciliation.  Once again he did this at my request as well as Helen's and Jim's and with the tacit support of Mary Lou and Fran.  No, we did not bring together abusers and victims together, just survivors and other Catholics.  I have been involved with citizen diplomacy since the 1980s and thought that the best way to help Catholics understand the issue of clergy abuse was to have them hear the stories of survivors in person.  It is much harder to dismiss a person to their face than it is to dismiss a newspaper article.  And it works to produce lots of understanding and healing.

Unfortunately I was not able to get enough support or media attention to get the kind of support I needed to spread our accomplishments elsewhere.  I think some of the leaders of the survivor movement did not want to see us succeed as our approach was so different from theirs.  Nor did the Church want to see us succeed as their basic approach remains the same.  Do as little as you can manage to do so that people don't talk too much and so there won't be too many lawsuits.

Or in other words, they think the best way to handle scandal is to keep it quiet.

What I learned along the way is that people are often scared and hurt by words of anger and pain and often respond in hurtful ways.  You can't unleash Catholics on survivors and expect healing, you have to train Catholics to listen with compassion or else you will get more rejection and wounding.

The Catholic Church has lots of very compassionate people who could be put to work supporting survivors with a little listening training.  Ironically listening with compassion is the basis of conflict resolution and is a very healing relationship skill for survivors, who often struggle with relationships.

So I have felt like the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

Let us be open and honest.  Let us be compassionate to each other.  Let us be inclusive and come together.  Let us explore what apology looks like.  Let us all work on apology together.

But few listened and my organization remained small.

They say good things come in small packages, but I guess that the media thinks that bigness confers legitimacy.

Only one person in the media felt that the small organization might have the answer and gave me repeat coverage -- Dave Mazza of Voices From the Edge on KBOO 90.7 FM in Portland.  But Dave retired.  I still get some media coverage for what I do in rural areas in Oregon but is has gone from sparse to nonexistent in Portland.

So I feel frustrated.  Paul knew I did good work for years but never named me and never contacted me and never responded to the two e-mails I sent him since late 2007.

Unfortunately, the good I accomplished may disappear.  The Santa Barbara Franciscans announced this last weekend that they are withdrawing from Ascension Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon, where they served for almost 100 years.

The Provincial Minister did not come to make the announcement.  He sent an assistant.  Two people came up to me after Mass to talk about clergy abuse after the announcement of the Franciscans withdrawal from the parish was made.  No one from the parish has approached me to talk about clergy abuse since 2010.

One of the last times someone spoke to me about clergy abuse was in 2009, when Fr. Armando supported an event I organized for parishioners to listen to the story of a clergy abuse survivor,  a parishioner called me up to tell me that I was mentally unstable for caring so much about clergy abuse and that I needed to be examined by a psychiatrist.

But this last weekend was different.  People were expressing some pain they had not mentioned for years.

One woman said to me, "Weren't you there at all those forums on clergy abuse?"

The other said, "What a shock.  There we were hearing about child abuse in the room where I went to second grade."

Ascension was once home to a Catholic elementary school which closed some 40 years ago.

I used to be a psychiatric nurse.  One thing that puzzled me about how the Catholic Church handled the clergy issue.  I know that if you don't talk about a painful issue, it festers and gets worse.

People got mad at me for talking so much about clergy abuse, but we probably didn't talk about it enough.

I suspect the women who spoke to me about clergy abuse this last weekend had something else on their minds -- something I've been thinking as well as some of my long time friends and supporters.

Is the real reason that the Franciscans are leaving the parish because they hope to avoid scandal by leaving the parish where one of their most recently actively abusive priests served?

Will the support for our work come to an end when the Archdiocese takes over the parish?  I am worried that it will.

Fr. Armando named Gus Krumm, the abusive former pastor of Ascension in the parish bulletin several times as well as my Compassionate Gatherings to bring together survivors and other Catholics.  When Fr. Armando was away on retreat in Assisi, Italy, in the fall of 2008, the Archdiocese put a stop to these announcements although posting of the contact numbers continued.

Fr. Armando even pleaded our case before the Archbishop in late 2008, but to no avail.

I tried writing articles on what we did and sending them to The Santa Barbara Independent in 2008.  One article was about Steve Fearing, who was abused by a Santa Barbara Franciscan who served in Oregon in the early 1970s.  Steve shared his story at one of my Compassionate Gatherings at Ascension during Lent in 2008, and Fr. Armando was among the listeners.  Fr. Armando apologized to Steve, who felt that Fr. Armando's apology was sincere.  

The two men hugged and Steve said, "This is the first time I have called anyone Father other than my own father in a very long time."

Elizabeth who had come forward as a young nun to tell about a violent assault she suffered at the hands of a priest only to be told to leave the Catholic Church, started crying.

I asked her why.

"We are on holy ground here," she said, echoing the words of Desmond Tutu, who chaired the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

At one of the forums on clergy abuse led by Church personnel that preceded my Compassionate Gatherings, one of the leaders of the Franciscan Order told me he had met Desmond Tutu.

I forgot to ask him why he did not support a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on clergy abuse in the Catholic Church.

It is the answer.  I know how to do it.

Will you please stop and listen long enough to consider that the small organization might have the answer.  Good things do come in small packages but you never know if you never try something out.

Please contact me, Virginia Jones, at compassion500@gmail.com.  

My work in the Church may well cease due to the lack of support.  Below I have scanned and attached some things that have appeared in the bulletin of Ascension Catholic Church over the years.

If you like this and think it is good, then it is your responsibility to help out.  There are not enough copies of me to go on alone.  Truthfully there is only one me.  If you want change, then support the change that has happened instead of complaining that there is no change.

Oh, The Santa Barbara Independent did not publish my article on the Compassionate Gathering during which we all listened to Steve Fearing and Fr. Armando apologized to him,  and I imagine they don't remember me at all or have any idea that I am source of so much good that happened at Ascension that appears in their own pages.  Fr. Armando was transferred elsewhere in 2009, but I remained at Ascension.  My work continued modestly with modest support from Fr. Ben.

Given the lack of support and notice that I have received, I am tired of fighting the good fight and giving care to people who rarely notice and rarely give back and rarely say thanks for the good I have done

Oh well, but you never know what might have been or what might still be if you never listen to small voices and never try new things.

Please contact me, Virginia Jones, at 503-866-6163.

Fr. Armando bravely listed our listening group in the parish bulletin in 2007 along with the name of the former pastor, Gus Krumm, who was accused of and confessed to clergy sex abuse.  See the item under Listening Group below

In 2009, Fr. Armando once again listed Gus Krumm's name in the parish bulletin when some of his survivors came forward to sue him.  Fr. Armando also made sure that Paul's group and mine were advertised in the parish bulletin.  However, our group asked him to do this.  See the Special Announcement in the parish bulletin from 2009.

Ascension Parish bulletin announcement from 2009 listing Paul's SafeNet contact and Elizabeth Goeke and me.  Please note that I am beginning the process of changing the name of my organization from Compassionate Gathering to Healing is a Sacred Journey.  See the announcement under Important Crisis Numbers below left hand corner of the bulletin

2014 Parish Bulletin announcements that still contain contact information for Paul (SafeNet) and Elizabeth.  See Important Crisis Numbers in the lower left of the bulletin.

2009 OPB radio story on the Sackcloth Penance Patch, an initiative supported by Compassionate Gathering to encourage apology to survivors and a sense of responsibility for clergy abuse by Catholics.

This was the parish bulletin insert on 2010 for the Sackcloth Penance Patch.  I wrote it based on what Ann Czuba had written for the Madeleine parish bulletin in 2008.  However, Fr. Ben Ok'd it and placed it in the bulletin.  I had this at a table at a Call to Action conference in 2012.  At that conference I also announced a program with Elizabeth Goeke sharing her story of surviving clergy abuse.  Only Fr. Ben and Mary Lou came.  Why didn't anyone from Call to Action come?  

Please contact me, Virginia Jones, at compassion500@gmail.com

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