BRIDGEPORT—A special Mass for those who have been sexually abused as a minor and for family members, spouses and others who have been impacted by abuse will be held on Sunday, October 29, at 2 pm at St. Anthony of Padua Church, located at 149 South Pine Creek Road in Fairfield.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will celebrate the Mass, which is the second major event planned and sponsored by the Committee for Healing of Survivors of Sexual Abuse group in association with the diocese. All are welcome to attend.
“Over the past two years we have been moving forward with a number of events,” said Peter Philipp, a member of the survivor’s group. “What we’re trying to do is to bring people together to heal. There are people who have left the Church over this issue. We want the group and its events to be a place of re-entry and a place of belonging, where people can celebrate their baptism.”
Philipp said the Healing Mass is part of an ongoing series of events and resources to reach out to people who suffer from abuse and to foster reconciliation in the Church.
In support of the upcoming Healing Mass and the ongoing work of healing in the diocese, group members have most recently participated in a video project produced at Sacred Heart University in association with the Safe Environments Office of the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Posted on the diocesan website and available for viewing (www.bridgeportdiocese.com), the two videos offer a hopeful look at what the group and diocese have done to address victims and prevent further abuse, but also explore the pain and ongoing suffering victims have felt as they come to terms with abuse in their own lives and work and seek to protect others.
The short video offers a positive look at the reconciliation now under way in the diocese. The longer video, “A Conversation on Hope and Healing,” explores the full range of feelings, challenges and hopes of those who have suffered from sexual abuse.
Appearing in the videos are James DiVasto, Peggy Fry, Barbara Oleynick and Peter Philipp, all of whom experienced abuse as children and teens.
“We are so grateful to the members of the Committee for Healing for having the courage and commitment to share their stories. Through their honesty, integrity and compassion, they have helped the entire diocese to move forward in a spirit of healing and reconciliation,” said Erin Neil, director of Safe Environments and victims assistance coordinator.
“By sharing their stories, they have helped us to grow in understanding. It is a very hopeful sign for the diocese that they are willing to forgive and to join in our efforts to increase awareness and prevent future abuse,” said Neil.
Over the summer, group members also served as guests on “Thoughts for the Week,” a radio program co-hosted by Father Ray Petrucci and Dorothy Riera. The program, which focused on healing from abuse, was recorded at Sacred Heart University radio studios and aired in August. It will be re-broadcast on October 22 on stations throughout the state.
The first public event sponsored by the survivor’s group was the Service of Peace, Hope, and Healing for survivors of Clerical Sexual Abuse held at the Egan Chapel of Fairfield University in November 2016. It was an evening of prayer and reconciliation that involved the personal reflection of adult men and women who had experienced clerical abuse.
In addition, the group has sponsored gatherings at the Bridgeport Public Library at their North Branch, 3455 Madison Ave., Bridgeport. This is an opportunity to meet with fellow adult survivors of abuse as a minor together with a diocesan victim assistance coordinator. “You are important to us and we want to know how we may assist you in your journey towards healing,” said Neil.
(If you are an adult survivor of abuse as a minor, and you would like to learn more about this Mass, the upcoming gatherings, and resources that are available in our diocese, contact one of our victim assistance coordinators: Erin Neil, LCSW, 203.650.3265 or Michael Tintrup, LCSW, 203.241.0987.)