Parish calendar of events

BROOKSVILLE The Dwelling Place, Life Lines: Finding the Pearl of Great Price, May 3-5. Life Lines is a writing experience in which the narrative technique of storytelling to focus on different life experiences is used. Facilitator: Raymond Komar, Ph.D. Begins with dinner at 6:30. Donation: $180. Details: (662) 738-5348 or email for more information.
CULLMAN, Ala., Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center, Common Wisdom: Parallels in Benedictine And Twelve-Step Spiritualities, Saturday, May 4, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. This reflection day will focus on the core principles of Twelve-Step spirituality and the gift of spiritual freedom that is experienced when these principles are put into practice. Retreat Director: Sister Therese Haydel, O.S.B. Cost: $30, includes lunch. Details: (256) 734-8302, or
MOBILE Ala, Spring Hill College, Silent Ignatian Directed Retreats, June 7-15 following the the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Participants may register for either three, five or eight full days of retreat. The eight-day retreat begins with a short orientation on Friday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. and ends after lunch on Saturday, June 15. Five and three-day retreats may be taken for any five or three consecutive days during this time period. Details: Father Christopher Viscardi, S.J. at (251) 380-4662, and for registration information.

BROOKSVILLE The Dwelling Place, Life Lines: Finding the Pearl of Great Price, May 3-5. Life Lines is a writing experience in which the narrative technique of storytelling to focus on different life experiences is used. Facilitator: Raymond Komar, Ph.D. Begins with dinner at 6:30. Donation: $180. Details: (662) 738-5348 or email for more information.
CULLMAN, Ala., Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center, Common Wisdom: Parallels in Benedictine And Twelve-Step Spiritualities, Saturday, May 4, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. This reflection day will focus on the core principles of Twelve-Step spirituality and the gift of spiritual freedom that is experienced when these principles are put into practice. Retreat Director: Sister Therese Haydel, O.S.B. Cost: $30, includes lunch. Details: (256) 734-8302, or
MOBILE Ala, Spring Hill College, Silent Ignatian Directed Retreats, June 7-15 following the the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Participants may register for either three, five or eight full days of retreat. The eight-day retreat begins with a short orientation on Friday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. and ends after lunch on Saturday, June 15. Five and three-day retreats may be taken for any five or three consecutive days during this time period. Details: Father Christopher Viscardi, S.J. at (251) 380-4662, and for registration information.

BRANDON Bay Point Golf Course, 2019 Knights of Columbus State Convention Golf Tournament, Friday, April 26, 8:30 a.m. Cost is $65 per player includes refreshments and lunch. Hole sponsorships available for $85. Proceeds will support the Retired Priest Fund. Details: visit
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi Cajun Fest, Sunday, May 5 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Dropoff location for donations is the Social Concerns Office by Saturday, April 27. Details: church office (601) 856-5556.
NATCHEZ Holy Family, “A Southern Road to Freedom” a choral presentation, Monday April 15, and Tuesday, April 16, 8 p.m. The Natchez saga of African-Americans from slavery to modern times. Details: church office (601) 445-5700.
St. Mary Basilica, Adult Sunday School, DVD series from Saint Benedict Press, “Queen of Heaven: Mary’s Battle for Souls,” Sundays at 8:30 a.m. in the Family Life Center. Details: Karen Verucchi, (601) 870-5388
Assumption of BVM, Line Dancing, Mondays 10-11 a.m. Details: church office (601) 442-7250.
SOUTHAVEN Christ the King, calling all women, Rejoice and be Glad, Saturday, April 27, 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Gather with us to come aside and rest a while and reflect on the words of Pope Francis. Lunch will be provided; no childcare. Details: (662) 342-1073.

GLUCKSTADT St. Joseph, Easter Egg Hunt, Easter Sunday, April 21, at 9:20 a.m. for children up to age nine. Details: church office (601) 856-2054.
Save the date, Vacation Bible School “Savior Stadium,” June 10-12. adult volunteers needed. Sign up for attendees and youth helpers will begin in May. Details: contact Karen Worrell at or (601) 672-5817.
JACKSON Sr. Thea Bowman School, 13th Annual Draw Down, Saturday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Building. Good food, entertainment, silent auction and door prizes. Grand prize: $5,000. Tickets are $100 and Second Chance Insurance is $20. Details: Shae Robinson at the school office (601) 352-5441 or
MERIDIAN Catholic Community of St. Joseph and St. Patrick, Baccalaureate Mass, Sunday, May 5, at 11 a.m. at St. Patrick in honor of graduating high school students. Details: contact John if you plan to attend at (601) 693-1321, ext. 9 or
NATCHEZ Cathedral School, 35th Annual Cathedral Crawfish Countdown, Friday, April 26, 6-10 p.m. at Cathedral School Cafeteria. Details: school office (601) 442-1988.
OLIVE BRANCH Queen of Peace, Divine Mercy Holy Hour, Sunday, April 28, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Reception to follow. Details: Contact Mary Jerkins for more information at (662) 895-5844.
PEARL St. Jude, Save the Date, Vacation Bible School, “Surf’s Up – Chill Out with the Beatitudes,” June 17-21, 9 a.m. – noon, ages 3 years and up. Details: church office (601) 939-3181.

NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Fridays at 12:05 and 5:15 p.m.
Assumption, Fridays at 5:30 p.m.
PEARL St. Jude, Fridays following 10 a.m. Mass and Stations of the Cross ending with Benediction at 6 p.m. Following the 6 p.m. Stations, the Knights of Columbus will be preparing catfish dinners.
WOODVILLE St. Joseph, Monday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Leadership conference gathers Child Protection teams from across America

By Carl Peters and Maureen Smith
CHERRY HILL, New Jersey – The 14th annual Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference, held March 24-27 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, drew 210 representatives from archdioceses and dioceses throughout the United States, including Vickie Carollo, the Coordinator for the Office of Child Protection for the Diocese of Jackson. The large majority of the group were women, but their professional backgrounds varied. They included social workers, psychotherapists, educators and others.

Pat Ciarrochi, retired CBS news anchor, seated with Ken Gavin, chief communications officer, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, speaks on the role of the media during the Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill. Diocese of Jackson Child Protection Coordinator Vickie Carollo is seated in the front row. (Photo by Maria Toci D’Antonio, Catholic Star Herlad.)

Like most professional conventions, the three-day conference was designed to let participants update and sharpen their skills, enjoy camaraderie with their peers, and boost morale. But the title of the first day’s last presentation was an indication of the difficult challenge these workers face: “Keeping Our Faith When Exposed to the Worst Things That Happen in Our Church.”
Unlike the average Catholics in the pews, or even other church workers, who have found their faith tested by news stories about clergy abuse, the individuals who gathered in Cherry Hill have jobs that are a direct result of the church’s worst scandal in modern times. Furthermore, while they are employees of the institutional church, their primary responsibility is to those who have been wronged by it, and to do their best to prevent the same mistakes in the future.
That complex task was illustrated by Robert Crawford, a licensed counselor with a practice in South Jersey who has worked with sexual offenders for more than 15 years. A strong advocate for the church, he spoke with gratitude about a diocesan priest and a religious brother who were strong influences on him and good role models. Echoing many church leaders, he asserted that homosexuality and celibacy are not causes of abuse, and that abuse extends far beyond the Catholic Church.
The most likely place for anyone to come face to face with an abuser or a victim is at the dinner table at Thanksgiving, he said. The family, he said, can be either the most dangerous place for a child or the best prevention against being victimized. Crawford’s topic was “The Pathway from Priest to Predator,” and he noted that predators manipulate children with a false sense of intimacy they are often missing at home. Church leaders, he argued, cannot think of a serial predator as a “priest with a problem;” he is, instead, “a pedophile who happens to be a priest or religious.”
The scarcity of new accusations against clergy does not mean the problem of childhood sexual abuse is over, Crawford said, citing the increasing presence of child pornography on the internet. “You are five clicks away from the most deviant thing you can imagine,” he said.
Carollo said the gathering provided “a wealth of education in child abuse and awareness and renewed her energy for her difficult job. “The only thing standing between a predator and a child is us. We have to be vigilant,” said Carollo. “The diocese (of Jackson) has and will continue to hold fast to our commitment to protecting children and young people,” she added.
Some of the other topics at the conference were “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome,” presented by therapist Dr. Karen Ann Owen Jimenez; “The Role of the Media,” by Pat Ciarrochi, retired CBS news anchor, and Ken Gavin, chief communications officer, Archdiocese of Philadelphia; and “Healing the Ravaged Soul,” by Sue McGrath, an author and spiritual director. Bishop Dennis Sullivan greeted the participants during the conference’s opening reception, and in a welcoming message observed that it coincided with the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which provided the Marian theme, “Full of Grace.” “Who better than Mary, the Mother of our Lord, to be with you, to encourage you and to inspire you as you work to protect the children entrusted into your care?”
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark celebrated Mass on the second day. The event was hosted by the Diocese of Camden in association with the archdioceses of Philadelphia and Newark, the dioceses of Metuchen, Paterson and Trenton; and the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic.
Rod J. Herrera, director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, Diocese of Camden, and one of the principal organizers of the event, noted that attendance for this conference was higher than for any of the previous 13 conferences.
“I think that has to do not only with Philadelphia as a draw but also because of the current environment we are all faced with,” he said. “We pray for each other and we pray for our church. I want to thank our Blessed Mother for her grace and guiding and inspiring the speakers at this conference.”

(Most of this story was excerpted with permission from the Catholic Star Herald, the newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Camden.)

Vigilance by parents with their children called key to safe internet use

By Eleanor Kennelly Gaetan
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In his internet safety presentations at schools, Justin Gaertner emphasizes that safety “comes back to parents and kids being vigilant.”
“If you see something, say something,” he tells his audiences.
Wounded in war while serving in Afghanistan as a Marine veteran, Gaertner works with the Department of Homeland Security, pursuing predators who collect and trade child pornography – more accurately termed, child sexual abuse imagery – on the internet.
“We all have to be very careful,” Gaertner told Catholic News Service.
One resource for guidance on internet safety is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC, runs the website with tip sheets and guidance tailored for various audiences. The site is one of more than a dozen sites with child safety resources the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection lists at
For parents, NCMEC suggests the best way to protect your children is to actually engage with them in accessing things online: offer to play the games they like, ask them to show you what platforms they use, discuss being respectful online and never responding to sexual questions or requests for pictures.
“Your kids might not tell you everything but ask anyway,” the center says. “Regular conversations about safety can go a long way in increasing trust and communication.”
The site tells parents: “No technology, no piece of software, no parental control is ever a substitute for active and involved parenting. The most effecting internet safety tool is you!”
Launched in 2013 by the USCCB’s Department of Communications and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Faith and Safety website has a variety of resources, including reviews of mobile apps; ways to address issues faced by children online, such as bullying; and resources to educate parents on protecting their home networks.
It also features regular columns by leading Catholic and Orthodox figures on connecting faith and technology, as well as news updates, how-to guides and video content.
“All safety – especially mobile and online safety – begins at home,” the site’s homepage says. “The habits you exhibit about technology use in your home will be the same habits your children learn. … Model the behavior you yourself expect from your children.”

Child sex abuse called ‘a serious and pervasive’ issue in U.S. society

By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Child sexual abuse in the United States is at epidemic levels.
More than 60,000 children are reported to have been abused every year, outnumbering those killed by guns or cars. Those who survive are often left not only with physical wounds, but also with psychological wounds that may never heal. These wounds exact both a profound personal and social cost.
Much attention has been focused on the issue of child sexual abuse and the Catholic Church, and rightly so. Allegations of abuse by clergy and church workers as well as cover-ups and bureaucratic mishandling by bishops, dioceses and religious orders have caused terrible pain for survivors of such abuse and their families. It also has resulted in disillusionment on the part of ordinary Catholics. The cost of this abuse and its aftermath totals more than $4 billion so far, according to the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection.
While the Catholic Church continues to struggle with this legacy, it has instituted a wide variety of steps to improve oversight, identify abusers and protect children.
One under-reported fact from the recent, highly publicized Pennsylvania grand jury report is that for all of the many horrors it identified, the good news was that it appeared to document the decline in current cases.
As Jesuit Father Tom Reese told America magazine in its Dec. 24 issue, every one of the accused priests in the report was either deceased or had been removed from ministry, “and only two had been accused of abusing a child in the last 20 years.”
During these same 20 years, however, an estimated 1.2 million children in this country were abused nationwide in schools, organizations, churches and families.
Understanding the plague of sexual abuse in this country means going beyond the immediate headlines and understanding what experts are saying about this scourge. It also means looking not only at the Catholic Church but at all institutions and societal structures where abuse can take place.
So far, no grand jury, congressional committee or law enforcement organization has undertaken a broad societal investigation of what is happening to children in public schools as well as private, in sports and other youth-oriented programs and organizations, in pediatric facilities and perhaps most common, in families. (In Australia, a Royal Commission investigation of child abuse in nongovernmental organizations took five years.)
“Sexual victimization of children is a serious and pervasive issue in society. It is present in families, and it is not uncommon in institutions where adults form mentoring and nurturing relationships with adolescents, including schools and religious, sports and social organizations,” said the John Jay report issued in May 2011 on “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.”
“If you want to talk about sexual abuse of minors, you’re talking about families, foster care programs, public schools,” New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said in a recent Sirius XM interview. “You’re talking about organizations, every religion, you’re talking about public schools, it is a societal, cultural problem. There is no occupation that is freed from it.”
The U.S. Catholic Church “is no greater (an) offender than anybody else. In fact, some of the statistics would say that priestly abuse among minors is less than other professions,” the cardinal said.
He made the remarks in late January after the New York Legislature passed a measure to ease the statue of limitations on civil abuse cases. The state’s Catholic bishops agreed to support the bill after it was broadened to include not just the Catholic Church but public institutions.
Over the years, highly touted organizations such as the Boy Scouts, U.S.A. Gymnastics and Penn State have had abuse scandals.
Often such organizations are accused of behavior similar to what the Catholic Church has been accused of: denials, cover-ups, relocation of predators and unwillingness to tell authorities.
In July 2018, shortly before the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released, a team of Chicago Tribune reporters turned out a special series on abuse in Chicago’s public-school system: “Betrayed: Chicago schools fail to protect students from sexual abuse and assault, leaving lasting damage.”
“Whether the sexual attacks were brutal rapes, frightening verbal come-ons or ‘creepy,’ groping touches, the students often felt betrayed by school officials and wounded for years,” the paper reported.
“When students summoned the courage to disclose abuse, teachers and principals failed to alert child welfare investigators or police despite the state’s mandated reporter law,” it said.
The Tribune is hardly the first media outlet to examine abuse in the nation’s public schools. In December 2016, USA Today published its own series.
“Despite decades of repeated sex abuse scandals – from the Roman Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts to scores of news media reports identifying problem teachers – America’s public schools continue to conceal the actions of dangerous educators in ways that allow them to stay in the classroom,” it said.
USA Today’s network of media outlets conducted a yearlong investigation and “found that education officials put children in harm’s way by covering up evidence of abuse, keeping allegations secret and making it easy for abusive teachers to find jobs elsewhere.”
“As a result, schoolchildren across the nation continue to be beaten, raped and harassed by their teachers while government officials at every level stand by and do nothing,” the paper reported.
How bad may it be in our schools? According to an Associated Press 2017 investigative report, abuse cases are underreported, but what is tallied is staggering.
The yearlong investigation “uncovered roughly 17,000 official reports of sex assaults by students over a four-year period, from fall 2011 to spring 2015.”
“Though that figure represents the most complete tally yet of sexual assaults among the nation’s 50 million K-12 students,” AP said, “it does not fully capture the problem because such attacks are greatly underreported, some states don’t track them and those that do vary widely in how they classify and catalog sexual violence. A number of academic estimates range sharply higher.”
What happens when abuse is reported varies widely from school district to school district, but what The Associated Press found was not encouraging.
“Elementary and secondary schools have no national requirement to track or disclose sexual violence, and they feel tremendous pressure to hide it,” AP reported. “Even under varying state laws, acknowledging an incident can trigger liabilities and requirements to act. And when schools don’t act – or when their efforts to root out abuse are ineffectual – justice is not served.”
2018 began with sentencing of Larry Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor who was world famous because he treated the top U.S. Olympic women gymnasts. He was convicted and sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. More than 150 women and girls testified during the court proceedings that he sexually abused them over the past two decades.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has launched an investigation on the inaction of then-USOC CEO Scott Blackmun and chief of sport performance Alan Ashley in the roughly yearlong period after they were informed of the allegations against Nassar.
In late 2018, another medical doctor was in the abuse spotlight over sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred from the 1950s through the 1970s: Dr. Reginald Archibald, who ran a prestigious clinic for about 30 years at Rockefeller University Hospital in New York, where he treated children who were small for their age.
The New York Times reported Oct. 18, 2018, that “parents sought him out” to get help for their children with this condition. The hospital, according to the story, sent a letter to as many as 1,000 of his former patients in September 2018 asking if Archibald had had inappropriate contact with them. the story said the hospital knew about the possible abuse in 2004; Archibald died in 2007.
While doctors, teachers, clergy and other authority figures can be abusers, they also “can be neighbors, friends and family members,” according to Darkness to Light (, a South Carolina-based nonprofit organization dedicated to child abuse prevention. “Significantly, abusers can be and often are other children.”
About 90 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser, and only 10 percent are abused by a stranger, Darkness to Light says: About 60 percent of those victims are sexually abused by people the family trusts; approximately 30 percent of them are sexually abused by family members.
The younger the victim, the more likely it is that the abuser is a family member. Of those molesting a child under 6, 50 percent were family members. Family members also accounted for 23 percent of those abusing children ages 12 to 17.
About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to Darkness to Light. “About one in seven girls and one in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.”
Because of underreporting and a lack of systematic, nationwide data collection, estimates of sexual abuse can vary.
“Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than most people realize,” according to Darkness to Light. “Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences.”
Understanding the scope and scale of child sexual abuse in this country is only the start. In future articles, Catholic News Service will look at treatment for victims, the pursuit of predators, the threat of human trafficking and the impact of the internet on child abuse.

Child sexual abuse is a widespread problem. (CNS graphic/Caroline Lindsey)

(Greg Erlandson contributed to this story.)

Societal shifts seen in acknowledging sex abuse, finding ways to address it

By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON – In her 25 years of working with sexual trauma issues, Eileen Dombo said, “our culture has shifted” in terms of believing people more readily when they come forward about being abused and being more “aware of the signs of sex abuse, signs the child is being groomed.”
“We have a greater capacity to be open to the belief that an adult can harm a child in this way, when for too many years culturally we haven’t been able to believe,” said Dombo, an associate professor in the National Catholic School of Social Service at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

This logo goes with stories in a Catholic News Service series on the scope of child sex abuse in the United States. (CNS illustration/Todd Habiger, The Leaven)

Still, “child sex abuse is a massively big problem in our culture,” she told Catholic News Service. “It crosses all kinds of stratifications – socioeconomic, race, religion, ethnicity.”
About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to Darkness to Light. Dombo called such numbers “staggering.”
And despite the fact sex abuse victims are believed more now than in the past, a lot of this abuse still goes unreported, she said.
“Sometimes the child does tell an adult and they are not believed, and the response to the initial disclosure can silence someone for decades,” Dombo explained, “even if they try to tell in a child’s way – not concretely, but say, ‘This person makes me uncomfortable, or ‘I don’t want to be around them or don’t want to go to that place’ – if they are not asked to provide more clarity, they feel shut down.”
Or in other cases, “they disclose and they are not believed because the person (the abuser) is so beloved or powerful or an authority figure,” she added.
“One of the greatest things that can be done” to address abuse “is empowering a child with the language, the knowledge and the tools to spot someone – or tell a trusted adult – when someone is making them uncomfortable,” said Dombo, who specializes in working with trauma survivors.
She also applauded the many safe environment programs and the training that exist now to help children understand “good touches and bad touches” and how to talk to adults about what makes them uncomfortable as well as teaching adults how to respond when a child comes forward with such a concern.
Melissa Grady, like Dombo, is at Catholic University’s National Catholic School of Social Service, where she is an associate professor and chair of the school’s clinical concentration. Her area of research is in working with those who have committed sexual offenses.
Grady stated that many in this field “have really pushed for sexual abuse to be considered a public health problem.” Using this approach, she said, “prevention efforts should be oriented around using levels of prevention as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control: primary, secondary and tertiary.”
She said primary prevention would take a universal approach by providing interventions to everyone, including providing age-appropriate sex education, reinforcing it with more information as they age, which includes making sure they understand consent. Grady added that such programs should take place beginning in preschool and be continued through the university level.
Grady stated that secondary prevention efforts seek to intervene with those who are identified as “at risk.” For sexual abuse prevention, it would mean ensuring that those who have been abused get services, and also provide interventions to those who show sexualized behaviors at a young age or other concerning behaviors. Today “there is much more awareness that these kids need immediate help and intervention,” she said.
Tertiary prevention involves providing interventions to those who have already abused in order to prevent them from doing it again in the future. This would mean, she said, that “we need to provide competent and effective practices to those who have offended to reduce their risk of ever committing another crime.”
Grady stated that there are numerous theories regarding what leads someone to sexually abuse another, but there is not a clear answer.
“We do know that this population has experienced significant trauma, not just in number, but also a wide variety of traumatic experiences,” she said. “These include surviving sexual abuse, physical abuse, physical and/or emotional neglect, and various types of family dysfunction. What we are unclear about is how such abuse histories contribute to subsequent offending.”
She went on to say that we need more research on what factors lead someone to commit such crimes and how to provide effective treatment that addresses both their own victimization as well as their offending behaviors to ensure that they never commit such a crime again.
Grady also shared, however, that among the numerous facts that are misunderstood about this population, is that while there are certainly some individuals who repeatedly re-offend, “ they actually have one of the lowest recidivism rates of any criminal population.”
“However, we need more resources to learn about how to make those rates even lower and to implement effective interventions strategies focused on prevention so that no one should have to experience these crimes,” she said.
Dombo similarly told CNS that “the vast majority of people who are sexually abused” do not become abusers.
“However, you have to ask the question what would lead someone to do this to a child?” she said. Like Grady, she said many have had some form of trauma in their lives and that there is no one reason why someone would abuse a child. Some suffer from sociopathy; some may simply have a disregard for social mores; for some it is “a crime of opportunity.” For still others, Dombo said, it could be a crime related “to personal issues of power” – they feel powerless in their own lives so abusing someone is a way to have power over someone.
The damage sexual abuse does to children can be wide-ranging, so the sooner an abuse victim gets supportive help in family therapy or from other trained professionals the better, Dombo said.
Abuse can impact children’s “self-esteem, their beliefs, their view of themselves in the world, their ability to trust others (and) develop trusting relationships the rest of childhood and in adulthood,” she explained. It can affect coping behaviors, create educational problems and behavioral problems, she continued; victims can have difficulty with their peers, become aggressive, can be targeted as ‘a problem child.’”
In adolescence, abuse victims might turn to drugs or alcohol, cause self-injury, act out sexually, have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide, suffer anxiety, depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder, Dombo said, and many common mental health issues “stem from untreated abuse.”
“The one thing we have been trying to do as social workers, educators and researchers is make sure all the services people come in touch with – drug counseling, mental health, etc. – are trauma-informed, meaning if they have the sense the person is a trauma survivor, we create a space that allows the potential for disclosure,” Dombo told CNS.
In addition, Grady feels that prevention efforts should absolutely include teaching people how to keep from becoming victims, but they also should include helping children learn to express themselves without “resorting to any kind of violence. Children need to learn how to regulate their behaviors and emotions, and to “cognitively process” challenging situations, as well as how to be empathetic and kind.”
“We need to address prevention by helping children to learn simultaneously – how do you keep yourself safe from others while learning to manage yourself?” she added.
Dombo sees strides being made in addressing child sex abuse “in terms of the culture’s willingness to see that we have a problem and not deny this is a massive problem.”
Asked about the Catholic Church’s response to abuse, “we have a systemic response,” she said, referring to the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and the protocols it spells out.
The church is taking responsibility “for keeping all God’s children safe from harm” and “starting to dismantle” structures that have led to abuse, Dombo said.
“No other institution has undertaken a public study of sexual abuse and, as a result, there are no comparable data to those collected and reported by the Catholic Church,” said the John Jay report issued in May 2011 on “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.”
“Other organizations should follow suit and examine the extent of sexual abuse within their groups to better understand the extent of the problem and the situations in which sexual abuse takes place,” it said.
The study was mandated by the U.S. bishops’ charter and was commissioned by their independent lay-run National Review Board. Conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, it provides a framework for understanding not only the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests but the sexual victimization of children in any institution.
“Only with such an understanding can effective prevention policies be articulated and implemented,” the report said. “While some sexual abuse will always occur, knowledge and understanding of this kind of exploitation of minors can limit the opportunities for abuse while also helping to identify abuse situations as early as possible.”

(Editor’s Note: The full John Jay study can be found at
Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher)

Abuse expert offers insight to Diocese of Jackson educators, staff

By Maureen Smith
MADISON – “Prevention of sexual abuse is not a mindset, it is activity. You have to do something in order to prevent.” More than 500 educators and staff members of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson went home with this advice from a half-day workshop from child sexual abuse expert Monica Applewhite on Monday, Feb. 4. The Office of Child Protection offers an annual workshop for educators. This year’s event was held at Madison St. Joseph School and was open to chancery staff as well as teachers, staff and principals from the Catholic schools here.

MADISON – Monica Applewhite, a Texas-based expert on child sexual abuse, delivers a workshop to educators from across the diocese on Monday, Feb. 4, at St. Joseph High School. (Photo by Maureen Smith)

Applewhite has spent more than 25 years in the field of abuse prevention and research. She is based out of Austin, Texas. She started the day by detailing the history of abuse awareness and prevention in the United States. She wanted the teachers to recognize that the study of sexual abuse and the laws meant to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse are relatively recent in historical terms and so constant study and education are an important factors to make programs more effective.
One of Applewhite’s key points in the morning presentation is that the tough work of prevention is worth the effort. One success story she profiled was Big Brothers, Big Sisters. In the 1980s “Big Brothers discovered they had become a magnet for adults seeking sexual relationships with kids,” she explained. The organization’s leadership tackled the issue head-on, transforming their model to add screening, training and better supervision. “They decided that sometimes there is no substitute for the difference a relationship can make in the life of a child,” Applewhite said.
Applewhite gave a detailed presentation on different types of sexual offenders and how each of them operates within an organization and with an individual child or vulnerable adult. She discredited many stereotypes during this part of the presentation to make the point that abusers are not the shadowy strangers many think, but are often charming and involved in the community. Many spend a long time grooming both a victim and their families. This is how some abusers are able to maintain a relationship with their victims and keep them from reporting the crimes.
The afternoon presentation shifted to wholesome relationship development. “Wholesome relationship development involves compassion and empathy and independence,” she explained. Adults who want to involve other healthy people in a child’s life and who are emotionally consistent and transparent have a child’s best interests at heart. By contrast, grooming – that is “the process by which someone prepares a child and others in their environment for abuse,” is exclusive, secretive and isolating. Grooming often involves forbidden or sexually explicit conversations and boundary testing.
There is some overlap between the two relationships, said Applewhite. Teachers and youth leaders often do have close relationships with their students. This is where policies can help define appropriate behaviors, identify risky ones and keep everyone involved safe and accountable.
She urged the educators in her audience to step back from their personal relationships when they see a behavior that might be a sign of grooming or abuse. “We have to be open to things that are wrong or weird,” she said. “We have to be willing to say something, to confront the situation,” even if it involves a friend or colleague, she added.
Having standard policies may seem inflexible when young kids are involved, but they can help with gray areas. One example Applewhite used was an adult who wrestles with teens. It may be that the adult grew up in a family where rough-and-tumble behavior was the norm, but it also represents a boundary violation. A coworker or supervisor can issue a warning based on the standard policy that physical contact including wrestling is inappropriate. The warning details for the adult what structures are in place and it allows the supervisor to keep an eye out for further warning signs. It may seem like some rules are arbitrary ‘lines in the sand,’ but, “you have to set up that arbitrary line so you can act on it,” said Applewhite.
The last part of her presentation looked at peer-to-peer abuse. Applewhite spent some time discussing normal sexual behaviors in children, including curiosity about their bodies and trying out “potty words,” and then detailed behaviors that may be cause for concern and finally, problematic behaviors adults need to report and address. A majority of abuse perpetrated against very young children comes from other older children, she explained. Identifying and addressing early problem behaviors can protect the young children and save an older child from becoming an adult abuser.
Child Protection Coordinator Vickie Carollo saw Applewhite speak at a national conference and knew she wanted to invite her to the Diocese of Jackson. “I felt like her expertise and her wonderful way of presenting this tough information would be a perfect fit for our teachers and administrators,” said Carollo. “I went home with new information and I hope everyone who attended was encouraged and learned something new,” she added.

Advances in therapy can change outcomes in abuse cases

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – One of the main goals of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults is to provide a means for the victims of abuse to seek healing from their trauma. Experts agree that it is never too late for someone to seek therapy. In the Diocese of Jackson, counselors at Catholic Charities’ Solomon Counseling Center offer trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TFCBT), an evidence-based therapy. In fact, Solomon was one of the first centers to offer this type of therapy thanks to a grant Catholic Charities received 12 years ago.
“It was an amazing opportunity. We got trained by the developers of TFCBT, said Valerie McClellan, the director of Solomon Counseling Center and Victims Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Jackson. “It was really just coming out, getting disseminated at that time,” she added. All of the counselors at Solomon are trained in this therapy. While TFCBT is primarily used to treat children who have been traumatized, Solomon offers a similar therapy that can help adults.
“Many of the clients we see are also adults that have a history of childhood abuse and those are different evidence-based therapies – cognitive processing therapies (CPT) — is one that was initially designed for rape victims, but it is also been adjusted a little bit. It’s been used with veterans – really any adults who have a trauma history. And then EMDR – eye movement, desensitization, reprocessing is an evidence-based therapy. So those three are really what we use in treatment of trauma in both adults and children,” explained McClellan.
The approaches may differ, but the goal is the same. “The hope is to make meaning out of that experience,” said McClellan. “It does not, of course, wipe out that they had that experience in their lives, but it can take away what I call the emotional kick – the reaction based on that experience that is held in their body and in their souls. Any emotion is held in the body so all of these therapies teach people to calm themselves down and think about how they want to act rather than react, but the end result is to make meaning out of that. It is not going to take the memories away, but it’s going to help them redefine their life so that is not the primary driver in what they do.” Therapy, she went on to say, does not last forever. Each of these approaches has a time frame associated with it. McClellan said therapy can remove symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Yes, they are going to know what happened; yes they may even have minor symptoms, but they will know how to keep themselves safe, because some of trauma is that they are taught that they are victims basically. Perpetrators pick out people and that (idea of being a victim) can be almost ingrained in somebody so they don’t know how to keep themselves safe — of course I am in no way saying that the person is responsible for what happened to them, but we teach them what are boundaries, because if you have never been taught that, you don’t know what it is. We teach them what is a safe situation, how to listen to instinct. I tell people that instinct is God talking to us. That is how we are supposed to know how to keep ourselves safe. You know how sometimes you walk into a situation and something just doesn’t feel right? Well people, particularly victims, have been taught not to listen to that voice. So part of therapy process is to listen to that voice inside them which is there to help them keep themselves safe.”
Everyone processes trauma differently and symptoms can be very different in children and adults. “There are so many extremes. Probably one of the primary ones we see (in adults) is difficulty in relationships with other people. You don’t know what boundaries are; people can take advantage of you. You don’t know how to pick a healthy partner; difficulty in work – which is difficulty in relationships. A lot of anger management issues which can, of course, cause serious problems at work; substance abuse issues – alcohol and drugs. Other mental health issues. If trauma happens at a really young age it can flip the switch so to speak for depression or anxiety issues,” said McClellan.
Her staff has developed a screening for adults who come in with some of these problems to determine if they have been abused or suffered some other trauma in their lives. Clients may not even realize how some event in their past is still showing up in their behavior today or that they can get therapy to better deal with the impact of that trauma.
“Children do not have language so, if they are being abused, if they are scared, if they are angry, whatever they are feeling, they are going to act it out. A lot of times we have kids that have been abused and their parents are extremely frustrated because they are having a lot of behavioral issues. Well, that’s how kids tell us something’s wrong,” she said. Many children come in with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). McClellan said while these disorders are real and treatable, sometimes the behaviors are caused by trauma.
“If they have had an adult abusing them, they are going to be mad at a lot of adults. That’s really a strength. Rather than just being a victim, they are trying to fight back in the only way they know,” she said. She urged parents to pay attention to behavioral changes in their children and look for the causes rather than just label the kids as ‘bad.’
Trauma can have many sources, but there is always hope for someone who is suffering. “Although Solomon Counseling is an outpatient counseling program we are primarily a trauma treatment center. We get referrals through the Children’s Advocacy Center, they do the forensic interviews for kids that have been physically and sexually abused. We get referrals through the Children’s Justice Center at UMMC – they do the forensic medical for children who have been abused. We get referrals from law enforcement; from attorney general’s office. A lot of those who are involved in the legal aspect of hopefully making perpetrators face the crimes that they do,” said McClellan. The counselors work with children and adults and also offer other mental health services including marriage counseling and help with depression and anxiety.

Scam Alert: emails, texts target generous faithful

Photo courtesy BigStock

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Scammers have taken aim at pastors, parishes and even the bishop in the last couple of months. Just after Christmas, Jackson St. Richard parishioners received a warning that someone pretending to be pastor Father John Bohn was using a fake email address to try and convince people to buy gift cards for him. Father Lincoln Dall, pastor of Pearl St. Jude Parish and Father Albeen Vatti, pastor of Madison St. Francis of Assisi, had to warn their parishes of similar schemes. Most recently, the parishes served by the Priests of the Sacred Heart in North Mississippi sent out warnings to their members. Even Bishop Joseph Kopacz was not immune. Twice in the last four months, someone has created an email account using his name and sent messages asking for gift cards.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office have both sent out alerts about scams just like these. Priests and pastors will never email parishioners looking for gift cards and would never send a business email from a private account such as aol or gmail.
“Scammers are good at convincing people there really is an emergency, so lots of people have made the trip to the Walmart or Target or CVS to buy gift cards to send these callers. And scammers love gift cards – it’s one of their favorite ways to get your money. These cards are like giving cash – and nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately,” wrote Jennifer Leach, Assistant Director, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC, in a blog post for the federal agency. She added that gift cards could never be used as payment for any kind of emergency such as a car repair or plane ticket.
If someone has fallen victim to this type of scam, there is some help, but the victim has to act quickly. “If you’ve bought a gift card and lost money to someone who might be a scammer, tell the company who issued the card. (The contact info might be on the card, but might require some research) Call or email iTunes or Amazon or whoever it was. Tell them their card was used in a scam. If you act quickly enough, they might be able to get your money back. But – either way – it’s important that they know what happened to you. And then please tell the FTC about your loss. Your report helps us try to shut the scammers down,” wrote Leach. The FTC has an online complaint page where victims can enter their information.
A follow up scam at St. Richard and St. Jude involved text messages sent to parishioners asking for gift cards for the pastor. St. Richard parish secretary Chelsea Vaughn said she was able to report the phone numbers used for the texts to Google Voice so they could be shut down. Most parishes impacted sent emails to their parishioners and posted warnings about the scams to social media, but it is hard to tell how many people may have responded before the warnings went out.

On Friday, April 12, the diocese put out a warning about a job application scam. Someone is placing job ads on pretending to represent the Diocese of Jackson. The supposed contact attempts to get personal information from applicants. The chancery office does not have any ads currently running on this job site and the Diocese of Jackson would never ask for personal information on the phone before a staff member conducts an in-depth interview. The diocese does not currently have a David Morgan or Jennifer Smith in the HR department. 
A second type of scam landed in the diocesan payroll office. When the diocese reported it, State Attorney General Jim Hood’s office said it had already issued an alert about this kind of scheme because it had surfaced at state agencies. Hood explained the scam in his alert:
“The scammers are emailing agencies’ Human Resources (HR) Directors requesting a Direct Deposit Form, which is the step taken when an employee wishes to sign up for or make a change to their paycheck deposit. The email appears to come from an employee’s work email address. In one case, an email address of a state agency’s executive director was spoofed. The email indicated that the executive director was changing bank accounts and needed to change the account information on file at the office. When the HR director sent the proper forms to make such a change back to the email address that made the request, the address appeared as a gmail account. The scammer behind that account quickly replied with the “new” banking information, a fake voided check, and the signed forms.”
When someone emailed the diocesan payroll office impersonating an employee the payroll office was able to ask the employee in person to verify the change. Luckily, this scam was stopped before any money was deposited.
The bottom line, say experts, is that people should always verify in person or by phone any request involving money or personal information. Email and text messages are convenient, but anonymous and easily created by crooks.

Pope describes how to discover one’s vocation

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Within the universal Christian vocation of serving God and serving others, God handcrafts a specific calling for each person, a vocation that fits his or her personality and abilities, Pope Francis said.
“To discern our personal vocation, we have to realize that it is a calling from a friend, who is Jesus. When we give something to our friends, we give them the best we have. It will not necessarily be what is most expensive or hard to obtain, but what we know will make them happy,” the pope wrote in “Christus Vivit” (“Christ Lives”).
The document, his apostolic exhortation reflecting on the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment, was released at the Vatican April 2.
Much of the document is a summary of the discussion at the 2018 synod and a presynod meeting of young adults about ways to improve youth and young adult ministry and create more space in the church for the contributions of young people.
But the most original part of the 35,000-word document is its explanation of what a vocation is – strongly moving away from seeing vocation only as a reference to priesthood or religious life – and practical ways for a person to discern his or her vocation.
A Christian’s first vocation is a call to friendship with Jesus, he said. And closely related to that is the call to serve others.
“Your own personal vocation does not consist only in the work you do, though that is an expression of it,” the pope said. “Your vocation is something more: It is a path guiding your many efforts and actions toward service to others.”
Finding one’s vocation “has nothing to do with inventing ourselves or creating ourselves out of nothing. It has to do with finding our true selves in the light of God and letting our lives flourish and bear fruit.”
God’s personalized gift of a vocation “will bring you more joy and excitement than anything else in this world. Not because that gift will be rare or extraordinary, but because it will perfectly fit you,” Pope Francis wrote. “It will be a perfect fit for your entire life.”
Following a vocation, he said, “is a very personal decision that others cannot make for us,” which is why it requires “solitude and silence,” as well as serious discussions with friends and wise guides.
Pope Francis offered basic questions each person should ask him- or herself: “Do I know what brings joy or sorrow to my heart? What are my strengths and weaknesses?”
But since a vocation isn’t about serving oneself, he said, those questions lead to others: “How can I serve people better and prove most helpful to our world and to the church? What is my real place in this world? What can I offer to society?”
And, then, he said, one must ask: “Do I have the abilities needed to offer this kind of service? Could I develop those abilities?”
Discovering one’s vocation, even in the deepest prayer, is not like finding the exact road map for one’s life with all the stops and starts and obstacles and detours clearly marked, he said. Instead, it is more like being invited on an adventure.
That sense of adventure, even as a person ages and slows down, is what keeps them young at heart, he said. “When I began my ministry as pope, the Lord broadened my horizons and granted me renewed youth. The same thing can happen to a couple married for many years, or to a monk in his monastery. There are things we need to ‘let go of’ as the years pass, but growth in maturity can coexist with a fire constantly rekindled, with a heart ever young.”
Most young people will discover their vocation is to marry and form a family, he said, and that requires preparation to grow in self-knowledge and in virtue, “particularly love, patience, openness to dialogue and helping others.”
“It also involves maturing in your own sexuality, so that it can become less and less a means of using others, and increasingly a capacity to entrust yourself fully to another person in an exclusive and generous way,” the pope wrote.
And while most young people will marry, he said, Catholics must believe that God continues to call men to the priesthood and men and women to religious life.
“The Lord cannot fail in his promise to provide the church with shepherds, for without them she would not be able to live and carry out her mission,” he said. And “if it is true that some priests do not give good witness, that does not mean that the Lord stops calling. On the contrary, he doubles the stakes, for he never ceases to care for his beloved church.”
The key qualification for helping someone in their vocational discernment is an ability to listen, the pope said. The helper may be a priest, religious, layperson or even another young person.
“The other person must sense that I am listening unconditionally, without being offended or shocked, tired or bored,” he said. And while listening, “I need to ask myself what is it that the other person is trying to tell me, what they want me to realize is happening in their lives.”
Assistance also means having such respect for the work God is doing in the life of the other, that the guide would never dare to try to dictate the way forward, he said. “In the end, good discernment is a path of freedom that brings to full fruit what is unique in each person, something so personal that only God knows it. Others cannot fully understand or predict from the outside how it will develop.”
(Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_WoodenA)

After unrest and anger, new Washington archbishop wants to rebuild trust

By Rhina Guidos
HYATTSVILLE, Md. (CNS) – Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, set to become the new head of the Archdiocese of Washington, promised to serve with truth, love and tenderness in a region where he acknowledged “unrest and anger,” after the downfall of former Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick and the church’s current sex abuse scandal.
“I want to offer you hope. I will rebuild your trust,” Archbishop Gregory said during an April 4 news conference. “I cannot undo the past, but I sincerely believe that together we will not merely address the moments we’ve fallen short or failed outright, but we will model for all the life and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and we will reclaim the future for our families, for those who will follow us. That is my greatest, indeed, it is my only aspiration.”

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory smiles during a news conference in the pastoral center at the Archdiocese of Washington April 4, 2019, after Pope Francis named him to head the archdiocese. He had headed the Atlanta Archdiocese since 2005. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Gregory was introduced to media gathered for the announcement at the Archdiocese of Washington’s pastoral center in Hyattsville by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl. Pope Francis accepted Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation as Washington’s archbishop in October and named him apostolic administrator. The cardinal, now 78, had submitted his resignation, as is mandatory, to the pope when he turned 75, but it had not been accepted until last fall.
Cardinal Wuerl had faced pressure to resign following an Aug. 14, 2018, grand jury report detailing past sexual abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses, which showed a mixed record of how he handled some of the cases when he was bishop in Pittsburgh from 1988 until 2006.
Cardinal Wuerl also recently faced questions about what and when he knew about past accusations involving McCarrick, who was stripped by Vatican officials of his clerical status Feb. 16 after months of accusations that he may have sexually molested minors and abused seminarians at various times and places in his 60 years as a priest.
Cardinal Wuerl remains apostolic administrator until the scheduled May 21 installation of Archbishop Gregory, who offered kind words for his predecessor while acknowledging shortcomings.  
“It’s difficult to come into a situation where there is unrest and anger,” Archbishop Gregory said. “I’ve known Donald Wuerl for over 40 years. He is a gentleman. He works very hard for the church. He’s acknowledged that he’s made mistakes. That’s a sign of the integrity of a man. If I can shed light on what I think we need to do in response to some of the mistakes that he’s acknowledged and asked forgiveness for, I’ll do that.”
As he begins his tenure in Washington, following a 14-year stint in Atlanta, Archbishop Gregory said he wants to spend time “in the field.”
“For the foreseeable time, I’m not going to spend too much time in the office,” he said. “I have to be in the parishes, I have to meet with my priests. Why? Because I can’t be their archbishop if I don’t give them an opportunity to tell me what’s in their hearts, to come to know me and to establish a bond.”
He said he wanted to communicate to them his support, affection and yearning to work for Catholics of the region. He acknowledged that Washington, as the country’s seat of political power, may ask for political savvy from its archbishop.
“I see this appointment to be the pastor of the Archdiocese of Washington, I was not elected to Congress and so I intend to speak and promote the church’s moral and doctrinal teaching that comes with the job, but I think my involvement with the political engines that run here has to be reflected through that prism,” he said. “I’m here as pastor. The pastor must speak about those things that are rooted in the Gospel but I’m not going to be at the negotiating tables. That’s not my place. My place is in the pews with my people.”