BROOKFIELD—An opportunity for healing and understanding was extended to the community through a special prayer service for family members and friends of victims of child sexual abuse by clergy and others.
The emotional service at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys was organized by The Family Members of Victims/Survivors and the Committee for Healing along with the support group H.U.G.S—Hope, Understanding, Guidance, Support.
“As we know, it’s very important in the healing process, to come together to help one another. It doesn’t happen in isolation,” Father Shawn Jordan said, welcoming those in attendance and those who were attending the Mass via live streaming.
A beautiful selection of hymns accompanied the prayer service.
“We are here to advocate for the parents and families of the victims of childhood sexual abuse, the survivors on the journey of healing, the survivors who are still in need of healing and the victims who did not make it through the healing,” Deacon Joseph Cann said tearfully as he began to share his own family’s tragic experience.
Deacon Cann said his son Joseph, suffered in silence for 16 years following abuse by a priest when he was just 11 years old. He told of how his son masked the pain by turning to drugs and on the eve of his death he conceded he needed to seek help for his addiction and his traumatic childhood experience. He died from an accidental overdose in 2016. He was 28 years old.
“I’m not here to point a finger at the Church. I’m here to point out a person can be a pedophile whether they wear a collar or not,” said Deacon Cann, who despite the tragedy that unfolded in his family, completed his journey to become a deacon.
“The Church’s arms are open to all who come forward,” he said. “We must fight the good fight of faith.”
“There are people here tonight who are walking, breathing miracles,” Father Larry Carrew said. “Those that have received God’s healing mercy and want to share that with others that may also be hurting.”
Peggy Fry shared her story of abuse during the prayer service. Fry said she was abused at the age of 16 for about a year by a priest who was a friend of the family and would come over for dinner and attend many family functions.
“I was violated by a man, not by God,” she said. “I prayed God would give me the tools to overcome this.”
She said during the time of her abuse she became sad, introverted, stopped smiling and lost her self-confidence…but she always had her faith.
The Committee for Healing was formed under Bishop Frank J. Caggiano’s leadership and has helped with education, awareness and healing for those dealing with the lifelong impact of abuse.
“I’ve met courageous people who have survived,” Fry said. “It is our goal to reach out to many people to spread hope.”
Fellow group member Peter Philipp was among the attendees and said he still has days that are tough.
As a teenager, he said, he was sexually abused for two years by a priest who taught at Notre Dame High School in Fairfield. Philipp said he felt he couldn’t tell his father as a child because he didn’t have the vocabulary and as an adult, after years of therapy, he didn’t want to burden or hurt his then elderly father with his truth.
“I suffered life-long effects of the abuse,” he said, adding that it led him to question his own sexuality as an adult and although he had the opportunity to marry women, twice in his adult life, he did not.
Fry said, her experience, however unfortunate, has not made her bitter.
“God never wanted this to happen to me, so I believe he was looking for ways to make it up to me, so he sent blessings to me,” she said referring to her husband of 50 years and her children.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have my yesterdays,” she said.
Father Carrew said Jesus wants to heal us.
“The evil one works through other people to hurt people,” Father Carrew said. “Give the Lord full permission to remove the hurts of the past.”
For more information or to learn about the victim assistance program or to report sexual abuse of a minor or a vulnerable adult by any person from the Church, please contact Erin Neil., L.C.S.W, Victim Assistance Coordinator at the office: 203.416.1406 mobile: 203.650.3265 or email: email@example.com; or Michael Tintrup, L.C.S.W., Victim Assistance Counselor 203.241.0987 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The State of CT Child Abuse Care-line is 1.800.842.2288.