By Paul Ashton, Psy.D., D.Min.
Consultant to the VIRTUS® Programs
Breathe in me O Holy Spirit
that my thoughts may all be holy;
Act in me O Holy Spirit
that my works, too, may be holy;
Draw my heart O Holy Spirit
that I love but what is holy;
Strengthen me O Holy Spirit
to defend that is holy;
Guard me then O Holy Spirit
that I always may be holy.
Pentecost gives us an opportunity to celebrate fully the victory of Jesus’ death through His resurrection and the promise of eternal life for each of us through the spreading of His Word to the four corners of the world. God’s infinite love for us, made manifest through the Holy Spirit, breathes courage into our beings sustaining us when we need it most and propelling us always to speak the truth wherever we go.
The VIRTUS® Programs celebrated in the Pentecost spirit earlier this year by accepting an invitation by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to be the representative safe environment program participant for the international symposium, “Towards Healing and Renewal,” which focused on the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan and religious institute clergy and religious. This symposium was held at the Gregorian University this past February 6 through 9 and was attended by more than 200 episcopal conference and religious congregation superiors general from around the world. In attendance were Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Major Superiors of men and women religious; speakers included experts in the field of child sexual abuse—including medical professionals, psychologists, sociologists, theologians, and Vatican representatives.
Michael Bemi, President and CEO of The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. and Patricia Neal, Director of the VIRTUS® Programs, were asked to present on the subject of the “True Costs of the Crisis—Piercings to the Heart of the Church” for summit participants. VIRTUS consultants Drs. Paul Ashton, Brother Brendan Geary, FMS, Rosanna Giacometto, and Rev. Jerry McGlone, along with VIRTUS associate Jan Slattery, of the Archdiocese of Chicago, each presented workshops on behalf of the VIRTUS Program that included: “Prevention and Mitigation of Abuse of Vulnerable Adults” and “Internet Pornography,” which were presented in four languages—English, French, Italian, and Spanish. The VIRTUS family celebrates this Pentecost with the 116 dioceses throughout the United States that are empowered by using these programs.
As a team we were all awe-inspired by the testimony of victims/survivors/thrivers we encountered from around the world and how, in each corner of our planet, dedicated members of our Church are fully engaged in trying to assist and heal all those who have been hurt by members of our own communities. Our participation in the liturgies united our voices in prayer and song for the healing of all children and vulnerable adults. We participated in the Penitential Service of Healing and Forgiveness at the beautiful Jesuit Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and found it extremely powerful as we gathered as the Church universal to ask pardon of our sins.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, presided and preached these powerful words at the penitential service that cold February night:
“This gesture of purification involves the entire Church, and each one of us—Bishops, Religious Superiors, educators, all Christians—feels the pain of what has occurred. We ask that the Spirit of God, who heals and radically renews all things, come down upon us. As members of the Church, we must have the courage to ask humbly for God’s pardon, as well as for the forgiveness of His “little ones” who have been wounded; we must remain close to them on their road of suffering, seeking in every possible way to heal and bind up their wounds following the example of the Good Samaritan. The first step on this road is to listen to them carefully and to believe their painful stories.”
Cardinal Ouellet’s prayer calling down the Holy Spirit’s assistance united all of us throughout the Church to continue this journey of giving voice to those who have been abused and silenced. This is our earnest prayer for Pentecost, and while we in the United States have been addressing this issue for ten years others throughout the world have just begun. Some still need the power of the Holy Spirit to move them to action.
At the end of the conference, the Gregorian University launched an e-learning center, the Centre for the Protection of Children, which will offer online resources in five languages. The center is based in Munich and is designed to help Church leaders respond pastorally to the issue of sexual abuse in the Church and society as a whole. The center has been funded for an initial three-year period and received significant funding directly from Pope Benedict through the Papal Foundation.
This Pentecost we have much to celebrate; yet our Church still has far to go to see that every victim is healed. Come Holy Spirit, Come!