Tears flowed along with healing oils and cleansing waters at a healing service Feb. 16 at Holy Angels Performing Arts Center in St. Cloud where Bishop Donald Kettler assured those gathered of his “deep regret and profound sorrow” to anyone who was ever harmed by a clergy member or representative of the church.
The service, which drew about 40 people, included representatives from each of four local religious communities including the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers of Onamia, St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville and St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph. The cloistered sisters of the Poor Clares Monastery in Sauk Rapids joined in prayer and a holy hour that evening in solidarity with the service.
Bishop Kettler said the service was just a small step in helping to heal those hurt by clergy abuse or wounded in any other way by the church.
“My biggest hope is for people to know and see the fact that we are concerned and we want to bring the church’s healing power,” he said.
The service included Scripture readings, intercessory prayer and the anointing of individuals with blessed oil. Participants were invited forward to write any hurt, prayer or petition on squares of tissue, which were then placed into a vessel of water as a sign of God’s healing mercy.
Benedictine Prioress Michaela Hedican attended the event to support and pray with the bishop.
“As the representative of my religious community, I wanted to join Bishop Kettler in his expression of sorrow for any way in which members of any religious community have failed in the pastoral presence to those they serve,” she said.
“The prayers were touching and the hymns that the musicians led were supportive and expressive of the healing that we were praying would happen.
The time of anointing was inspiring and humbling as participants came forth and were blessed. I was deeply moved by this experience.”
Crosier Prior Father Kermit Holl represented the Crosier community.
“It was important for me to be a part of the healing service to personally demonstrate that the Crosiers recognize the harm done by numerous Crosiers to members of the church, especially to minors and vulnerable adults, and to continue to be moved in prayer to sorrow, repentance and a focus on preventing such abuse by our members in the future,” he said.
“We are responsible for those who serve in our name, and we are responsible to protect those in the church who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.”
Father Holl added that he was “most moved by the call to prayer and repentance.”
“The music and the prayers and the Scriptures were powerful in their lament and their sorrow for those abused,” he said. “The music was somber, but not hopeless. Rather, it was a very moving expression of pain and an expression of the transformation for which we hope.
“Also, standing before those who sought to hear words of apology was a challenge,” he continued. “My few words can seem so inadequate, and yet we must speak what we can and trust that the Spirit of God will carry our inadequate words into a Word of God’s power that touches the heart of the receiver by God’s grace.”
Bishop Kettler pledged continued diligence in caring for all who have been hurt within the church and is open to having more healing services across the diocese. Victim advocates also were present to assist victims and their families with questions or concerns. A list of advocates is available on the diocesan website, www.stcdio.org.
“My prayer for those who attended is that it will be the beginning of a graced time of healing,” Sister Michaela said. “Hopefully, they will feel supported if they need to visit further with someone to process their experience, especially if they need to visit with a priest or sisters or other minister in the church. With a number of priests and sisters present that evening, I would hope the participants would know of our care and concern.
“Those who were not present and who are in need of healing because of negative experiences with ministers in the church were also held in prayer,” she said. “By the grace of God, I prayed they would also experience our hope for their healing.”
From Feb. 22 to March 16, Bishop Kettler and other members of a diocesan response team are holding a series of listening sessions at 11 sites around the diocese as a result of claims of alleged sexual misconduct by clergy who served in various parishes in the diocese.