Survivor of clergy abuse to coordinate archdiocese’s outreach efforts

| August 2, 2019 | 0 Comments

Paula Kaempffer hopes to help people heal from clergy sexual abuse in her new role as Outreach Coordinator for Restorative Justice and Abuse Prevention for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Opportunities for healing in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis — for victims/survivors, their families and parishioners — are growing in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Healing circles of sharing and prayer, small group meetings in libraries, coffee houses and churches, public presentations and private meetings with Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Tim O’Malley, director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, are among expanding efforts to help victims/survivors and others since December’s resolution of the archdiocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

To help coordinate, publicize and organize those efforts, and to search for new avenues of healing, the archdiocese has created a new position — Outreach Coordinator for Restorative Justice and Abuse Prevention.

Paula Kaempffer began work June 10. She has served in Catholic Church ministry for more than 40 years, including the last 12 as director of learning at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. She and her husband, Tom, live north of the Twin Cities. Their daughter, Martha, lives in Seattle.

Kaempffer said opportunities to discuss the impact of clergy abuse are important for victims/survivors and others across the archdiocese as people seek ways to grow from anger and other difficult emotions into healing.

“I think most parishes have not had an opportunity to talk about this issue,” she said.

Kaempffer’s office also is offering a listening ear and resources to help people who might face a variety of challenges, such as dealing with the emotions of a property crime or homicide, said Janell Rasmussen, deputy director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, the archdiocesan office that oversees its child protection efforts.

“Her outreach will be much broader than sexual abuse,” Rasmussen said.

A native of New York City and a survivor of clergy sexual abuse she suffered as an adult working in the Church, Kaempffer said she knows firsthand about the kind of healing that can take place.

“It takes a lot of personal work,” she said. “It takes a lot of inner strength to recapture the power that has been taken away from you (by an abuser). I have done a lot of that work through personal therapy and come out the other side. I’m grateful for that.”

Faith in God was an integral part of her healing, she said.

“I was blessed in that I never blamed God for it,” Kaempffer said of the abuse she suffered. “God didn’t do this to me. People made bad choices. But I do get when people blame God.”

“We have to be careful of the language we use,” Kaempffer suggested. “We often say, ‘the Church did that to me.’ The Church didn’t do that. The clergy, or the hierarchy, did that to you. The Church is the people of God. And the people of God did not do that to you.”

Kaempffer said she contacted O’Malley shortly after he was hired by the archdiocese in 2014. She had been through her own healing process, and she told O’Malley she wanted to help the archdiocese in whatever way she could. They began consulting on a regular basis, and when O’Malley and Rasmussen asked her to take the new position, she accepted.

Kaempffer’s experience with healing includes attending and learning from restorative justice efforts in the archdiocese led in part by Janine Geske, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice and retired law professor. Geske helped bring the concept of restorative justice to the archdiocese about three years ago.

Kaempffer attended sessions with Geske that included healing circles of prayer and sharing at the Basilica in September and at St. Odilia in Shoreview in February. A number of other parishes in the archdiocese are offering similar healing sessions.

“I’m quite inspired by the concept and how it works,” Kaempffer said. “The idea behind restorative justice is to recognize the harm and to heal that harm. There are different ways of doing that depending on what people need.”

Kaempffer said she plans to develop and publicize in a variety of ways this fall a list of healing events, presentations on restorative justice, listening sessions and other opportunities in the archdiocese with dates, places and people to contact. Among other avenues, the list will be available on the archdiocese’s website at

Listening carefully to discern people’s needs and suggesting programs that might help them will be critically important aspects of her job, Kaempffer said.

“I think my first place is to listen,” she said. “Deeply listen to them. And ask them, ‘What would you like to have happen? What would you like to see happen in this situation?’”

“We need to let them take the lead,” she said of victims/survivors. “They may not know what they need. But they will know it when they see it.”

Getting people to understand and express their needs can take time, Kaempffer said, and she is willing to meet with people wherever they are comfortable. She can be reached at 651-291-4429, and in her office at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center in St. Paul.

In addition, Kaempffer said, there are a variety of resources, including referrals for professional counseling and pastoral assistance, that may be beneficial to some survivors. She is willing to help in whatever way she can, she said.

Kaempffer said she misses her colleagues at the Basilica, where she helped lead the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Bible study and other adult faith formation activites.

“I love the people there,” she said. “It’s been an honor to be part of it.”

O’Malley said he is pleased to have Kaempffer join the archdiocese’s efforts at healing.

“Paula has the experience, skill set, perspective and confidence to assist a wide variety of people,” he said.


Tim O’Malley and Janell Rasmussen, director and deputy director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, are working with victims/survivors, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Paula Kaempffer and others to promote efforts at healing in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

Those efforts already have included:

  • Restorative Justice Discussion Feb. 10 at Church of Christ the King in Minneapolis with Archbishop Hebda and O’Malley.
  • Restorative Justice and Healing events with retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and law professor Janine Geske and others:

Feb. 20 and May 6 at St. Mary of the Lake in White Bear Lake

Feb. 21 at St. Odilia in Shoreview

Feb. 22 at the Murphy Institute at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis

Feb. 23 at St. Thomas More in St. Paul.

  • Peace, Healing and Justice event March 18 at Church of the Risen Savior in Burnsville with a prayer service by Archbishop Hebda, an update on safe environment efforts by O’Malley and a listening session.
  • A Morning for Justice, Peace and Healing at Knights of Columbus hall at St. Wenceslaus in New Prague May 7, with surrounding parishes invited. Archbishop Hebda and O’Malley gave opening remarks, Geske led the session.
  • Restorative Justice event with Geske May 7 at Lumen Christi in St. Paul.
  • Peace Circles on fourth Monday of each month.

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