Special Service Encourages Healing
By Kellie Houx
April 7, 2016
The Missionaries of the Precious Blood and the Deanery XIV, which includes five Northland churches, will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 21, at St. James Catholic Church, 309 S. Stewart Road, for a service to promote healing for those affected by sexual abuse from church leaders.
The five churches are Church of the Annunciation in Kearney, St. Andrew the Apostle in Gladstone, St. Ann in Excelsior Springs, St. Gabriel the Archangel in Kansas City North and St. James.
Father Joseph Nassal, the provisional director of the Kansas City Provence of Missionaries of the Precious Blood, will co-officiate the evening service with Father Mike Roach, lead pastor at St. James. Along with the two local men, the Rev. James Van Johnston Jr., the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, will preach and be on hand to listen.
Roach said the Catholic Church has been affected by sexual abuse from priests. In the early 2000s, the issue hit a new level in Boston with the revelation of the widespread nature of the abuse due to the number of Catholic churches in that metropolitan area.
The crisis hit another stage when Boston-area newspapers reported on the abuse. The movie “Spotlight,” which won the 2016 Best Picture at the Academy Awards, returned the problems to the forefront, Roach said.
“Our diocese has been offering healing services for victims of sexual abuse,” he said. “We are being honest with situations, and these services have been well received. It's a real time of healing for victims and their families.”
Roach said Scripture is used to help the hurt and the wronged. He shared a preliminary program which includes the opening song, “A Place at the Table.” The fifth verse of the song includes the line: “ … to live without fear, and simply to be, to work, to speak out, to witness and worship …”
The service also will include a reading from Exodus and Romans. The congregation will be given stones that represent something in life that needs to be discarded.
There will be additional actions taken, Roach said.
“This is a brave move from everyone,” he said. “We have needed these sorts of services for a long time. The current bishop wants to be part of the conversation and the apology. These services allow everyone to publicly apologize for mistreatment and misuse of power. It's tough to address, but we have to work to make sure this doesn't happen again.”
Roach and the other priests take monthly courses on how to behave and minister appropriately. He said the church is making significant inroads in proper training and psychological evaluations to make sure that those who want to be priests are healthy.
“The Catholic Church is taking tremendous responsibility to help,” he said. “Bishop Johnston is coming because he wants to demonstrate the leadership is dealing with these challenges. The misuse of power can't be tolerated. Jesus never took advantage. Rather he listened, and I hope that, as a priest, I have compassion in my ability to listen. I acknowledge that I hear their pain. I also understand they are angry. That is healthy too.”
He said there have been no protests at these services.
Nassal has served in parish, justice and peace ministry and in formation, vocation and leadership for his congregation. He has also been part of a diocesan committee created to address the problems.
“We aim to help the victims of sexual abuse,” he said. “We create these opportunities to express our sorrow. It's our request for forgiveness and to provide a supportive and prayerful environment. These services allow us all to acknowledge what happened and start healing the wounds.”
Nassal and Roach want to invite others who have wounds that have been caused by other types of bullying and abuse. Roach said others have been affected by bullying within a church setting.
He calls Nassal a “real man of healing.”
“We can ask for God's healing,” Nassal said. “We had a healing service in Warrensburg with the bishop, and it can be emotional. There will be counselors available, including someone from the child protection office. I have met with victims, and it takes great courage for the victims. We are providing an opportunity for healing through the grace of God. We all pray that God continues to heal all of us.”
Liberty Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at 389-6630 or firstname.lastname@example.org