Priests Pray for Hope

By Jennifer Picard
Republican [Palmer MA]
March 18, 2004

PALMER - Roman Catholics gathered to celebrate a Mass of "Hope and Healing" at St. Thomas the Apostle Church last night, where priests urged congregants, amidst the clergy abuse crisis, to keep their faith in the church through prayer.

"What are we to do? How are we to get through our shock, horror, anger, disbelief, mistrust?... How can we heal, and help heal those who have been wounded?" said the Rev. John K. Sheaffer, of St. Francis Church of Belchertown, during his homily.

"The answer is, we have to pray," he said. "We need to pray for the healing of those who have been victimized ... we need to pray for those who have been alienated from the church."

"And we must pray for the abusers. For many, this last one is the toughest," Sheaffer admitted. "But notice I didn't say forgive and forget ... we forgive, but we remember, so these tragedies will not happen again."

The service was organized by the Hampden East Deanery of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, a diocesan sub-group catering to nine parishes in Belchertown, Palmer, Monson, Brimfield and Ware.

The Rev. Jeddie Brooks, pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Monson and dean of the Hampden East Deanery, was the lead celebrant. Sheaffer and St. Thomas' pastor, the Rev. Eugene J. Plasse, were also celebrants.

"We've got to be open to forgiveness, and sometimes it's very difficult when people who are close to us" are alleged to have molested children, Plasse said after the service, when congregants gathered for coffee at the parish center.

"That becomes very heartwrenching, and our first reaction is anger. ... But we have to extend forgiveness and ask God's blessing, that our faith may grow," he said.

Terri D. Wyman of Wales normally attends St. Christopher's Church in Wales, but came to the special Mass in search of strength in numbers.

"I hurt for the church. We all need to be there for each other," Wyman said. "The people are really the church, and we need to take care of each other."

"Being a Catholic right now is hard," she admitted. "To find our former bishop has been accused has been difficult... we need to move on as a people. We're human; they're human."

Springfield Bishop Thomas L. Dupre, 70, resigned Feb. 11 amid allegations that he sexually abused two boys more than 20 years ago while he was a parish priest. Dupre was named bishop in 1995. The two men filed suit against Dupre in Hampden Superior Court March 11.

Dupre has checked himself into a Maryland facility that treats troubled clergy. He has not addressed the abuse allegations on advice of his lawyer.


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