Annual Day of Prayer: Atonement, Hope, Healing for Victims of Abuse

“There are some things that only God in his love can handle, some things that only God in his love can help through being at work through us, with us and in us.” Bishop Johnston delivers his homily for the second annual Day of Prayer on April 26, during the 12:15 Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer and Megan Marley

“Atonement is about making things right, setting things right. Healing is about making things whole, binding up wounds, trying to make them right as well,” began Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. in his homily for the second Annual Day of Prayer on April 26. He said the readings for the Day remind us to pray for these “in the context of love.”

At the 2016 Service of Lament, Bishop Johnston promised to establish an annual Day of Prayer. The day is not only to acknowledge and atone for the local church regarding the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, but also to intentionally pray for the healing of victims and survivors and for protection of all persons from abuse.

This year, the second annual Day of Prayer included prayer at parishes and diocesan elementary- and high-schools, Eucharistic adoration at the Catholic Center and a special 12:15 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception celebrated by Bishop Johnston.

Nearly 70 persons were in attendance at the Cathedral, including the Sarton Singers of St. Pius X High School who sung for the Mass, and a group of 8th graders from Borromeo Academy.

In his homily, Bishop Johnston explained the readings’ message in context of praying for and helping those harmed by abuse.

“A particular verse in that first reading is that ‘whoever does not love, remains in death’. It really could be phrased another way, that love is the pathway to life,” he said. “All of our efforts, all of our plans, all really amount to a lie unless we are connected intimately with the Lord and with our visible brother.”

Bishop Johnston then recounted what happened at a Confirmation Mass the evening before. During his homily that night, a mother’s panicked voice alerted him and the congregation that something was wrong with her baby. As medical professionals in the parish rushed to aid, he invited the people to pray for God’s help.

“Sometimes all we can do is to turn to God, and in the end that is really the main thing we should do all the time,” he said of the incident. “There are some things that only God in his love can handle, some things that only God in his love can help through being at work through us, with us and in us.”

Mother and child left the church with those helping them, and word later came that the baby was going to be ok.

Bishop Johnston explained that the story mirrors what the Day of Prayer reminds us to do throughout the year.

“We’re trying to become more aware, as the days and weeks and years go by, of the fears and the cries in our midst that we sometimes don’t hear—to hear the fear, the cry, the desperation of those who have been harmed that are living in our midst that we may not be aware of, and to stop and to pray and help those who have been harmed, who are in trouble, who are asking for help. But primarily, to seek God and his help, to seek God as our advocate to come to our aid.”

He urged the congregation to continue this mission of love, quoting Spe Salvi: ‘No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone’.

“May our love for one another be a source of healing and blessing, especially for our brothers and sisters who have been wounded by sexual abuse. And may our love for one another serve to make our homes, our churches, and our communities safe and wholesome, especially for our children,” he concluded.

Twenty-seven schools around the Diocese held Mass, Eucharistic adoration, prayer services and/or student-led Rosaries as part of the annual Diocesan Day of Prayer, including St. Patrick’s School in Kansas City. Students there led a Rosary at the parish in the afternoon. Principal Kaci Monaghan said students from grades three through eighth volunteered, and all were selected to participate.

Bishop Johnston chose to attend the Rosary, and sat in a pew surrounded by students. The students led the assembly in the Five Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, with prayers for parish and school intentions following each decade recitation.

At the conclusion of the Rosary, the bishop approached the altar and addressed the students, teachers, parents and parishioners in attendance, thanking them for the lovely prayer service. Three kindergartners, Ellie Prichard, Lainey Guettermann and Nylinh Quach, presented Bishop Johnston with a small gift bag. The smile on his face grew wondering as he pulled out a Rosary.

Monaghan gave its history. The rosary had belonged to the late Father Robert Stewart, who had served as pastor of St. Patrick’s for slightly more than a year at the time of his sudden death in Dec. 2017. Monaghan said the rosary had been given to the parish and school by Father Stewart’s family after they cleaned out his house. “Because Father Robert and I had started a Rosary project with the students this year,” she said, “Deacon Mike Lewis and I decided that giving the bishop Fr. Robert’s rosary as a gift from our school was a beautiful idea.  I know it meant so much to the kids to give the Bishop something that belonged to Father Robert.”

Obviously touched by the gift, the bishop told the kids and adults that he would carry the Rosary with him on the trip he was taking to Lourdes, France, with the Knights and Dames of Malta and the Malades (the sick) on their annual pilgrimage to the Basilica and miraculous spring of Our Lady of Lourdes. The trip was to last May 1-9.

For more information on the work of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, visit kcsjcatholic.org/office/child-youth-protection.

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Sunday
October 21, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph