Parishes, schools throughout diocese unite in prayer for abuse victims

Arm in arm, encircling Nativity of Mary Church, principal Mary Parrish, students, Bishop Johnston and Father Bob Stone, pastor, and faculty members pray in silence for abuse victims and diocesan healing. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — The first Diocesan Day for Healing was held April 26, declared by Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., one of five healing commitments made last year during the Service of Lament. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

It was an opportunity for the Diocese to share prayer for victims and survivors of child sex abuse, particularly those abused by someone in the Church, their families and the entire Catholic community.

Parishes and schools across the diocese participated in a variety of activities including all-school Masses, Benedictions, Rosaries and Adoration.

Bishop Johnston joined St. Elizabeth students in saying the Rosary before Mass that morning. He was the principal celebrant at Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception that afternoon and joined Nativity of Mary students in a prayer service at the end of the school day.

In his homily during the Mass, Bishop Johnston said, “… the words that have echoed in my heart these days have been those that we heard on Good Friday, from Psalm 22: ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?’ … words … recorded by both St. Matthew and St. Mark as coming from the lips of Jesus as he hung, dying in agony on the cross.”

“As a child, I was troubled by these words … How could Jesus utter these words to his Father? It did not make sense. It is the cry of desperation.

“I’m not the only one who has wondered about these words … Theologians have attempted down through the centuries to understand the meaning of Jesus quoting this psalm … when he is stripped, humiliated, abandoned, bleeding, crucified, dying.

“… My sense is that Jesus at that moment was giving voice to all those who, down through the ages, would be the innocent victims of evil. All those who would fall into the hands of others who would abuse and rob and hurt for some advantage or pleasure, or simply out of malice. In that moment, Jesus gave voice to the prayer of those who would be stripped and humiliated and harmed … for those … unable to pray because of their wounds … for those … unable to pray because even their faith would be damaged.

Bishop Johnston joins the students of St. Elizabeth School for a student-led Rosary before the 8:30 a.m. Mass April 26, the first annual Diocesan Day of Prayer for Healing for victims of abuse. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

“As we gather … across the diocese today … Let us pray for those who have been wounded, for those who, perhaps, find it difficult or impossible to pray. Let us give voice to prayer for them, in the way Jesus did and does. Jesus so identified with them and their wounds that he took them on himself and gave voice to their anguish: ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?’

“So, let us pray for those who have been abused, especially those who were sexually abused as children, as well as their families and others close to them; let us pray for the abusers; let us pray for the innocent people … harmed by the collateral damage of abuse; and let us pray for the most innocent and vulnerable among us.

“These are not the only words from Good Friday that we should recall. There are also the words from the Prophet Isaiah: ‘By his wounds you were healed.’ Is 53:5

“It sounds like a strange paradox, to find healing in someone else’s wounds. Of course, … Isaiah is referring to … Jesus, the suffering servant. Jesus’ wounds are God’s wounds given at the hands of those he created. His wounds heal.

“…there is a healing that only Jesus can bring … there are wounds … so deep and so profound, which touch the soul, that only the Divine Physician can heal them.

“I would suggest that he heals others’ wounds by his wounds. Just as he prayed on the cross for those who would unjustly suffer, so he heals through the wounds he received on the cross. … Jesus’ wounds stand simultaneously for the sins of the world that he absorbed and the infinite love of God that overcame that evil.

“For … anyone who has been the victim of evil, Jesus enters the poison of that wound and takes it to himself so that you do not stand alone, and he shares with you his benevolent, compassionate love, so that you stand as a survivor with him. Your wounds become his, and his become yours.

“We don’t often think of Jesus as a victim-survivor do we? But, that is what we celebrated last week with Easter. He was the innocent lamb, led to the slaughter for our sins … but ‘survived’ and … was ‘victor.’

“Jesus’ desire is that all those who are victims not only survive, but are victors with him. His love heals wounds and makes them in the light of God’s victory, a type of trophy that says evil does not win. God’s love wins. And it wins in us.

“May we … pray with the perseverance and faith of the widow mentioned in the Gospel (Luke 18:1-8) for all those who are wounded, and …never doubt that Jesus can heal all wounds, and make any victim, not only a survivor, but a victor.

“Lord, forgive us. Lord, heal us. Lord, save us. Amen.”

Students conducted the prayer service at Nativity of Mary Church in Independence. Each class had written a prayer for the occasion to be read by a representative. The prayers included:

Kindergarten: “For all hurt children.”

First Grade: “Do not fear the storm for the wind is God’s breath, the thunder … his voice and the lightning … the symbol of his heavenly power. … Do not fear life and troubles for God is with you always.”

Second Grade: “Lord Jesus, you … taught us that every … person has been made in the image and likeness of God – please help us to never mistreat another person in any way.”

Third Grade: “Touch our souls with your compassion for others. Touch our hearts with your courage and infinite love for all. In you are only good things.”

Fifth Grade: “God, we pray for victims of abuse … for healing … for deep comfort. We pray that you will restore what has been stolen and broken. For those who have suffered, come to them tenderly and with overwhelming and powerful love. We join Jesus and borrow his words, ‘Be freed from your suffering.’ God, heal the victims of abuse, in Jesus’ name.”

Other prayers asked the shepherd of peace to join to his suffering the pain of all who have been hurt; help from St. Maria Goretti, who prayed for her abuser; for God to be the refuge and guardian for all who suffer from abuse and violence; to strengthen abuse victims and free them from oppression so they may walk in peace, enjoying a life full of God’s blessings, and that God’s love gives victims courage to speak out, driving out fear and anxiety.

As the prayers ended, the students, Father Robert Stone, pastor, Bishop Johnston, and teachers walked silently to encircle the church’s interior perimeter, and linked arms, still silent, almost like hugging the church, showing solidarity with victims of abuse of any kind.
The service ended with all leaving the church, still silent.

The Diocesan Day of Prayer for Healing will occur annually in April.

For the full text of Bishop Johnston’s homily, see www.kcsjcatholic.org.

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Thursday
October 19, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph