• Sara Larson

What's Next for In Spirit and Truth? (Your Feedback Needed!)

Dear Friends,

I have been spending a lot of time in the last few months reflecting on the purpose of In Spirit and Truth. Starting this blog was my first step when I left my job in parish ministry in January 2019 and began this new path. I had done a lot of reading and reflecting, and I wanted a way to share what I had learned, especially with my Catholic friends and colleagues in Milwaukee. Things took off pretty quickly from there, and this little personal blog became much more, including an active Facebook page and a behind-the-scenes ministry with those impacted by abuse in the Catholic Church.

However, I always knew that I wanted to do more than just write about these problems, which is why I have invested so much in Awake Milwaukee, our grassroots organization doing on-the-ground work in my local area. Awake’s mission is to awaken our community to the full reality of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and work for transformation and healing through the Archdiocese of Milwaukee - and we have lots of big plans for the months ahead. (By the way, are you following Awake’s blog and Facebook page yet? If not, please do that now, regardless of where you live. The weekly Awake blog is a great source of thoughtful, informative content - like what I would write if I had more time!)

Now that Awake is officially a 501c3 nonprofit and I am officially the Executive Director of this growing organization, I have been thinking a lot about how to balance my ever-increasing commitment to Awake with what I do here at In Spirit and Truth.

At the end of this blog post, I’m going to ask you to do me a favor, but first, here are a few of my meandering thoughts about In Spirit and Truth thus far:

- The greatest grace of this blog has been the opportunity to connect with survivors from all over the United States and form real relationships with many of them. These connections are now happening through Awake as well, but I certainly don’t want to give up that aspect of this ministry. Being trusted by Jessica to tell her story remains one of the greatest privileges of my life, and I would be honored if an opportunity like this presented itself with other survivors of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Lifting up the voices of survivors has become more and more important to me the further I get into this work.

- I also value ISAT as a place to share on a more personal level about my own journey - my faith, my struggles, my thoughts and opinions about what I have learned and what I see happening. I love writing, and I have always been perhaps a little too eager to share my opinions on anything and everything, so this blog has been a great place to do both of those things.

- Because I feel strongly about being well-informed and up-to-date about issues and news related to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, I invest a significant amount of time into reading and researching. (I’ve basically tried to make myself a self-trained expert over the course of two years - not an easy task!) And because I do all that reading anyway, I thought I might as well try to share some of what I'm reading with a wider audience. Now I share one or two of the most important news articles or other pieces on the ISAT Facebook page every day, and I compile all of those into a News Roundup blog post every other week.

I still believe it’s important for Catholics - and all people - to be well-informed if we want to be strong advocates for change. But I also know that not everyone (ok, probably almost no one) has the time or desire to read all the news that I do. I notice that views of my news roundup posts continue to decline over time. On Facebook, some of my news posts do get significant engagement, but sometimes I wonder what I’m achieving by posting these articles. I do try to share thoughtful perspectives and reflections, but honestly, most of what I share is bad news. I feel strongly about helping disinterested Catholics hear the voices of survivors and recognize the serious ongoing problems in the Church’s response to sexual abuse, but sometimes I feel like the ISAT Facebook page is mostly “preaching to the choir” in that way. And I also wonder if the constant stream of bad news is helpful to those of us who are committed to working for change. Good news and real progress is less likely to make the news, but that doesn’t mean it’s not part of the story as well. I believe in telling the truth, and the whole truth is always much more complex than any compilation of news articles might lead you to believe.

- One other honest truth - The support that I have received from a small number of committed supporters through the ISAT Patreon page has been a significant help to my family as I left my job in ministry and stepped into unpaid work. So, if you’re one of my supporters on Patreon - thank you! You've been keeping our family afloat and making it possible for me to stay focused on this work for almost two years.

SO… all that said, I am taking some time to prayerful discern the focus of the In Spirit and Truth blog and Facebook page moving forward. As I undertake this process, I am humbly asking for your help. If you are a regular reader of this blog or a follower of the Facebook page, I am asking you to offer your feedback on this brief survey: In Spirit and Truth Feedback Survey.

I’m mostly asking you to share what YOU value about ISAT, but you’re also welcome to boss me around and give me advice. I’ll read every comment and take it to heart (although I’m sure they won’t all agree!). If you are an abuse survivor reading this blog post, I would especially appreciate your insight. All responses will be kept confidential. I will be the only one reading these responses.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.

~ Sara

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