Archdiocese to host sexual abuse education sessions for lay staff, clergy

| January 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is hosting two education days on the topic of sexual abuse.

The sessions — Feb. 19 for clergy and Feb. 20 for parish lay staff members — will be led by a presenter from VIRTUS, a nationally recognized safe environment training program for adults that is used by the archdiocese.

The gatherings will focus on issues and questions related to the effects of sexual abuse and how to address the topic in parish settings and personal relationships.

“Parishes are asking for more information: How can we talk about this issue with our people? How can we respond practically?” said Susan Mulheron, the archdiocese’s chancellor for canonical affairs who is helping to organize the gatherings.

Parish leaders have been asking these questions especially during the last several months in the midst of the local media’s coverage about past instances of clergy sexual abuse, she said.

The sessions will be conducted within a scriptural framework and include a refresher on the VIRTUS training undergone by all archdiocesan clergy, Church and Catholic school employees, and volunteers who have contact with minors.

Among the topics are personal boundaries, how to recognize the ways perpetrators “groom” victims, warning signs of sexual abuse and prevention steps.

Sessions also will address how to report suspected abuse to proper authorities, and how to reach out and care for abuse victims, which continues to be one of Archbishop John Nienstedt’s priorities, Mulheron said.

“This is one of the ways we can take a positive step toward fulfilling that goal,” she said. “There’s a lot of fear and lack of knowledge out there about victims.

“We have to be sensitive to victims,” she said. “We have to look for victims. We have to embrace victims. And, we have to reach out to victims and care for them.”

The clergy session will feature an additional presentation with a psychologist addressing how the issue of sexual abuse affects them as priests and the importance of taking care of themselves physically, psychologically and spiritually.

Father Donald DeGrood, vicar for clergy for the archdiocese, noted that the psychologist’s presentation will offer tools to handle the various thoughts and feelings they might be dealing with in light of alleged and substantiated sexual misconduct in the archdiocese.

“He will offer some keen insight into how priests can work through these current challenges in a healthy and holy way, whether we are assisting victims, brother priests, our parishes or ourselves,” Father DeGrood said.

The education session for clergy will be at St. John Neumann in Eagan, while the one for parish lay staff is set for St. Peter in Mendota. Each parish in the archdiocese has been invited to send one representative.

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