The purpose of Lina’s Project was to publicly acknowledge the devastation caused to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy and other Church personnel, as well as the damage done to their families, friends, and the whole community. It was also an opportunity to admit with shame and to beg forgiveness for the Church’s cover-ups and failures to report allegations of child sexual abuse.
As such, the Perpetual Day of Remembrance holds before us our history of child sexual abuse and the reality of its ongoing impact on the lives of those directly and indirectly affected. The day is acknowledged in two ways. One is for the Church community to remember this history and respond with a range of opportunities for prayer, ritual and worship that seek to respect the diversity of the Catholic community.
Growing this Church response is critically important and challenging, and we are committed to developing our response from year to year as we listen and reflect on our experience. For the community of faith, prayerful remembering is about shining the light of Christ on our experience, particularly our brokenness, in order that we will see with the eyes of Christ and be changed, individually and as a community.
To mark the Perpetual Day of Remembrance with Sunday Mass is the most meaningful way for the Church to respond. This year, to add to this significance, Bishop Bill has issued a decree declaring “Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday” a feast inscribed on the diocesan liturgical calendar. It will be celebrated on the Sunday of or before September 15 and will have its own readings and prayers.
While Mass is one way we can pray, it is not the only way. And so, as we did last year, there will be a range of additional resources provided for school, diocesan agencies and other groups, and for individuals and households. Hopefully, everyone will find something that will enable them to stand with survivors and their families and friends and show their commitment to shine the light of Christ on this issue. To quote a line from the prayer for turning on the lights:
“Where there is dishonesty and denial may we shine the light of your (Christ’s) truth.”
The other form of acknowledgement is for the Diocese to facilitate or support a survivor-led event. Unfortunately, this year there can be no “event” as such due to COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions on gatherings. However, the day is too important to be overlooked. It is a day to stop and reflect on the ongoing pain experienced by those affected by abuse as well as taking time to remember those who are no longer with us because of that pain. Bishop Bill has written to survivors noting that people might like to acknowledge the day in a variety of ways. If you want to reflect on the meaning of the day you might do that in a way that is meaningful to you, be that listening to a piece of music, visiting a significant place, or simply being still with your own thoughts.
This year, this day is also providing an opportunity to share with people information about the Bishop’s Healing Fund. This is an annual allocation by the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle of up to $25,000 to assist in promoting the healing of those affected by child sexual abuse in the Diocese. The Healing Fund’s target groups are those affected by child sexual abuse perpetrated by Church personnel in this Diocese and those residing in this Diocese who have been affected by child sexual abuse perpetrated by a member of a religious order or another Diocese. This is an opportunity for survivors and family members to create and suggest activities, events or projects to promote healing or wellness among those affected by abuse. For more information about the Bishop’s Healing Fund please go to officeofsafeguarding.org.au/bishops-healing-fund/ or phone 4923 0636.