The overwhelming response from our Parish groups to join hands in prayer this coming Friday, September 14, for a Day of Reflection and Penance is a source of encouragement for us all. About a week ago, I had decided to gather the parish in prayer on the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, to pray for the Church especially those who are reeling from sexual abuse from the clergy.
I had a rude awakening about this thorn in the flesh of the Church when I first came to the United States in August of 2002, just two months after the drafting of the Dallas Charter of the USCCB, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It was the time when the news on this controversy was blown wide open. Coming from a course in seminary formation in Italy and I had heard stories from my American classmates about their experiences about being shunned by people while wearing their Roman collars. At times they could not even smile at children without frightened parents clutching their kids close out of fear.
Their experiences were so foreign to me that I did not take them to heart until I landed in JFK in New York. On my way to Manhattan, riding in a yellow cab, the driver introduced himself as Catholic from a Latin American country. He did so because I was wearing a clerical shirt. After a few pleasantries, he started to berate me in relation to the sexual abuse cases committed by priests. This was one of the most unpleasant cab rides in my life. It was my first time in the United States and I was out of my element. I just sat there, quietly taking it all in. Then, after reaching my destination, the driver gently reminded me of his 15% tip.
As a priest who had ministered to young people for over 34 years, the news of these sexual abuse cases had rocked me to the core. It had caused a lot of anger and bewilderment on how many lives were scarred because of these breaches of trust. It seems unfair for the entire clergy to be cast in a bad light because of a miniscule number of offenders but such treatment is a small cross to bear in the light of the wounds it had caused in the heart of the Church.
What can we do as a Parish community in the midst these new revelations on past cases that were thrown into the public sphere?
First, is that we should not shy away from it. We have referred to it in our homilies, social media postings and general conversations. The devil loves shadows and so, “let there be light!” This had encouraged parishioners to talk about similar wounds in a faith filled way.
Secondly, we shall renew our commitment to protect our children. I am glad to be in an era wherein we have systems in place to safeguard our children. Virtus training, fingerprinting and intentional procedures had prevented any new cases since 2002. I would like to commend our parishioners who had dedicated themselves to this particular ministry. Let us not tire of this facet of our Church life.
Lastly, let us pray together. I am inviting all of you to join us this Friday. Drop by the Church and join our various communities in praying alongside the relic of the True Cross. We shall have a day of intense prayer from the beginning of the day till the 6:30 PM mass. On that weekend, we shall heed the call of the Archdiocese to pray for this particular concern of the Church in all our masses.
God bless you all.