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Mass of Healing for Survivors of Abuse

On Saturday, April 23, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. Bishop Gregory Parkes will celebrate a Mass of Healing at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle for those in need of spiritual healing because of abuse in all forms, including sexual, physical or emotional, and those who wish to pray for victims/survivors of abuse, their family and friends. The community is invited to participate. To help us learn more about the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s effort to help bring about healing to survivors of abuse, we hear from John Lambert, Victim Assistance Coordinator of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

What does the Victim Assistance Coordinator do?

I am a full-time psychotherapist in private practice. I'm a faith-based counselor. I accompany someone who might be coming forward to say that he or she had been abused at some time in the past and walk them through the process.

How does the church help individuals to find healing after abuse?

It starts with listening to their story and empathize with their situation. I'm also a trauma therapist. It's a healing process.

What kind of advice do you have for someone who has suffered abuse and they don't know where to go or what to do?

The first part of the process is to talk about it, come forward and talk about it. I would add there is a spiritual abuse component as well, particularly in view of the fact that someone may have been abused by someone representing the Diocese, the Catholic Church. But we're also talking about survivors of all abuse. So, whether it's at the hand of someone in the Church, or domestically as in intimate-partner violence, domestic abuse, abuse as a child, current abuse, we're trying to address the whole arena of abuse.

I know someone who is a person of really strong faith. They know Jesus, they love Jesus, but they have suffered abuse at the hands of an ex-husband. They have found healing because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. Is that what you try to offer people as well - try to connect them to the healing mercy of Christ?

If they're open to that, sometimes they avoid anything spiritual, anything church related. So, it depends on the person and if there is some opening to the spirituality.

We are raising awareness about a particular event here, in the Diocese, for survivors of abuse. We invite them to come to the Cathedral of St. Jude, the Apostle on Saturday, April 23, at 11:00 a.m. to a Mass of Healing for Survivors of Abuse. Tell me about the Mass.

Bishop Parkes asked me, what I thought of it, and I said, I would definitely be encouraged that he is inquiring about it, and that he would offer that. Last year was our first annual Mass and we had a number of concelebrating priests with Bishop Parkes. After the Mass, they all made themselves available to meet with anyone who wanted to talk with them or share with them their experience or have them pray for them if they so desired. I was also available to speak with anyone who wanted to talk with me and that would be the same this year.

How many people attended the Mass last year? Do you have any idea how many you're going to have this year, participate in this Mass of Healing for Survivors of Abuse?

It's hard to tell since last year was our first year. Last year there were probably 24 or so in addition to the concelebrating priests and Pastoral Center leaders. We had wonderful music. This year, the word is getting out.

The goal is to have all of our parishes really invite the community to be a part of this Mass if they have an openness in their heart to seek healing, through the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is that correct?

That's correct. It's also for anyone who would want to be praying for survivors of sexual abuse. Sometimes, it's difficult for someone who's experienced this kind of trauma to walk through the doors. This will also be livestreamed:

It sounds like such an important opportunity to be together because we believe that when one member of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. So, you brought up that great point about intercessory prayer for people that we know or people we don't know but that we still want to embrace them with our prayers, to pray for their healing, and pray for the end of all abuse.

Yes, and another thing I'd like to mention too, is that Jesus went through so much suffering and trauma. Sometimes people say, "Well, that was just a few days and then it was over with." However, I've come to understand in a deep way that he continues to suffer with everyone who's suffering. It's not just as a bystander, but actually as he's experiencing it. When I tell people that, it really touches them, that they know he suffered with them during the trauma, and he continues to suffer with them. So the sufferings of Jesus continue even beyond his own passion, death and resurrection.

Prayer for Healing of Abuse

God of endless love,

ever caring, ever strong, always present, always just:

You gave your only Son

to save us by his blood on the cross.

Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace, join to your own suffering

the pain of all who have been hurt in body, mind, and spirit

by those who betrayed the trust placed in them.

Hear the cries of our brothers and sisters who have been gravely harmed,

and the cries of those who love them.

Soothe their restless hearts with hope,

steady their shaken spirits with faith.

Grant them justice for their cause, enlightened by your truth.

Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts,

heal your people’s wounds

and transform brokenness into wholeness.

Grant us the courage and wisdom,

humility and grace, to act with justice.

Breathe wisdom into our prayers and labors.

Grant that all harmed by abuse may find peace in justice.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

– Prayer via the USCCB.