Amid joyful celebrations, wounds are reopened

Roman Catholic Diocese of Duluth

Bishop Paul D. Sirba

The month of October was filled with light and shadows for me. The bright lights were events surrounding the celebration of the Year of Faith. We hosted Baraga Days for the first time. Our Diocesan Assembly was held at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and celebrated the lives of St. Kateri and the Ven. Frederic Baraga and conferences on the New Evangelization.

We prayed for our health care professionals at our annual White Mass and listened to a presentation by the legal counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Religious Liberty and the HHS mandate.

The Catholic school children, their principals and teachers from seven of our Catholic schools outside the city of Duluth, as well as home school families from around the diocese, made a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary to gain the Year of Faith indulgence and celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass together.

I celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Joseph’s in Chisholm, St. Michael’s in Duluth and St. Joseph’s in Grand Rapids. Our high school students opened their hearts and lives to the outpouring of God and the Holy Spirit, in this great Sacrament of Initiation.

As a member of the Committee on Home Missions for the USCCB, I was privileged to travel to one of the poorest dioceses in the country, Gallup, N.Mex., to disperse grants on behalf of the National Collection for Home Missions. Memories of reading Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop” came to life for me as we visited the descendants of the people and the places that she wrote about in her classic novel.

A dark past emerged

The shadows came in the painful realities surrounding past cases of clergy sexual abuse. I am so grateful for your prayers and for God’s mercy on our diocese. Any time a case comes to light the painful wounds are reopened.

I pray we reach out to the victims and their families, the faithful and the clergy to bring God’s healing and continue to make our diocese the safest place for children to be. The efforts of our diocese over the years in providing safe environment training have borne much fruit, contrary to the impressions and misstatements by our local press, but we still have much work to do.

Our clergy conference, which began on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Oct. 7, was dedicated to clergy health and well-being. Coming after our most recent disclosure, the sadness, hurt and anger of our priests and deacons was palpable. We shifted the focus of our meeting to discuss what was most important to our family, as painful as it was to discuss it, the effects of clergy sexual abuse and our response to it.

As ordained men we cannot fathom at times the breaking of a sacred trust by a few of our brothers and the hurt caused to victims and their families. Since the vast majority of your priests serve with the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to fall under the pall of this terrible sin is most discouraging. We also have a heart for our brothers who offend and hope and pray for them.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.