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Healing Our Church


The Pennsylvania grand-jury report in the summer of 2018 and the allegations against former Cardinal McCarrick reopened the wounds of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis and coverup. As I read the detail of the crimes committed against the most vulnerable, I experienced anger, disillusionment, and shame. I wanted to distance myself from it all.
 
As I began to listen to the anger and pain of everyday Catholics while facilitating parish listening sessions, buying groceries in the neighborhood, and attending family gatherings, I knew I had to do something. As I worked through my anger, the Holy Spirit slowly brought me to the truth that I needed to be part of reforming and rebuilding the Church—this Church that I love and that formed me in my faith. I needed to act for the sake of the majority of the faithful lay women and men, clergy, and religious who follow the way of Jesus—these faith-filled Catholics who celebrate the sacraments, pray daily, and are committed to charitable works and just acts. My co-workers at RENEW felt the same way. We needed to do our part to heal our Church.
 
I am inspired by a statement by theologian Karl Rahner: “I acknowledge that the Church has caused me much grief, but it is a heaviness I am not willing to put down. I will carry it until it is transformed into life, and the burden becomes light.”
 
We at RENEW recommit ourselves “to carry the Church until it is transformed into life.” With this in our hearts and minds, we developed Healing Our Church and its Spanish counterpart, Sanando Nuestra Iglesia, primarily for “people in the pews”—to face the truth, rebuild the Church, and find a way forward together as a family of faith.
 
Healing Our Church and Sanando Nuestra Iglesia are small-group processes that include prayer, stories of victim-survivors, reflections on Scripture and the sexual-abuse crisis, and faith sharing—all leading to action. The suggested action steps are small and doable and are directed mostly at the local level where effective global action often begins.
 
Developing these small-group resources has been a work of love and a myriad of people— RENEW staff members and advisors—worked unceasingly over the several months to get them ready for Lent 2019. I am grateful to all of them.
 
I am especially grateful to Bishop Alfred Schlert of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, for pushing us to get this done because he felt strongly, “My people need healing now.”
 
I am convinced the treatment needed to heal our wounded Church is truth, compassion, transparency, accountability, and prayer. And it will take all of us—empowered lay women and men, priests, deacons, religious, and bishops, working together—to heal and transform our Church.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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