A Small Group Conversation for Hurting Catholics - Will You Join Me?
Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Update 4/17/19: Our first In Spirit and Truth small group is now underway, and the first two meetings have been so, so good. A small circle of Catholics gathered at a home in Milwaukee to build community, pray, reflect on Scripture, and share our thoughts, experiences, and feelings about the abuse crisis. It was a a powerful experience for me, and the comments of others in the circle reaffirmed to me that this is a great spiritual need among the people of God. I look forward to continued gatherings with these beautiful people of faith.
(Here are the words of one participant: "For years, I have been carrying around so much anger, sadness, confusion, and shame all while trying to practice my faith and grow in relationship with God. It has been a relief to gather with others who share some of these same emotions about the clergy sex abuse scandal. There’s no reason to suffer through this alone. This unique kind of fellowship points me toward a path to healing and gives me hope for renewal in the Church.")
If you or someone you know might benefit from participating in a group like this, I would be happy to include you in our next group, which will be meeting on Tuesday nights in May. Please get in touch now if you are interested in the May group or if you would like to be contacted about the next group that will launch in June.
The more I listen to the thoughts and feelings of fellow Catholics about the crisis in our Church, the more I realize the depth and breadth of pain being carried by God’s people right now. Of course this is true of abuse survivors and those who love them, but it’s true of so many other Catholics as well - people in the pews, and at the altar, who also feel incredibly hurt, angry, and betrayed.
I am committed to working for change in the Church in very practical and concrete ways, but I also care about attending to the deeply wounded people of God who are struggling in this storm.
I hope that my writing might be helpful in some ways, but pastoral care is not the main aim of this blog. Besides, I know that nothing can replace honest, face-to-face, open-hearted conversations with other people of faith. So, I am working to create some of those in-person conversations here in Milwaukee. My hope is to create a safe space for people of faith who have been shaken by the revelations of clergy abuse and cover up, especially those who are struggling in their relationship with the Church right now. We will gather with the same small group of people for three meetings of prayer and honest conversation. Our purpose will be to root ourselves in Jesus Christ, honestly express our thoughts and feelings, process them in the light of faith, and hopefully move towards a place of greater peace and healing.
Fortunately, I am not the only one who is seeing this need and trying to address it. I am looking through two small group resources that have come out in recent months: Healing Our Church, published by Renew International, and The Wounded Body of Christ, by Dr. Matthew W. Halbach. I have also read Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics, an excellent book by Father Thomas Berg, who has himself experienced deep betrayal by church leaders. My hope is to combine the best of all these resources, along with my own ideas, into a three-week experience, to make committing to a group easier for busy people.
I plan to run a pilot group soon and then, if all goes well, repeat the experience at different times with new groups of people, for as long as there is interest.
If you are interested in this kind of small group gathering, either now or in the future, could you please let me know? You can post a comment below, send me a message through the contact form, or reply on the Facebook page to express your interest. Feel free to share this invitation with others you think might be interested, and I will be in touch as plans develop.
(For those outside of Milwaukee - Perhaps this is something you might consider starting up in your own area? You can also check with your own parish or diocese to see if they are offering something. A few bishops have even implemented diocese-wide initiatives for exactly this purpose.)
In the meantime, to everyone who is feeling hurt, angry, confused, or betrayed - Please know that I am right there with you, and I offer just one piece of advice:
No matter what, cling to Jesus.
Cling to our Savior, who loves us and will never let us down.
If we stay close to Him, He will lead us through the storm.
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
- Mark 4:35 - 41