Healing services demonstrate Jesus’ power to mend the wounds of abuse
March 31, 2022
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a national effort to raise awareness of all forms of abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and online sexual exploitation, along with the risk factors that can lead to child abuse and neglect.
The Archdiocese of Omaha works to protect children, as well as vulnerable adults, through adherence to the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which sets forth guidelines for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse.
The archdiocese’s Victim Outreach and Prevention Office also conducts safe environment training for children plus background checks, training and certification for church and school personnel who have contact with children, and ministers to past victims of abuse through its programs, such as the April 4 service described in the story below.
One of the most common characteristics of someone who has suffered from abuse – whether as a child or later in life – is a pervasive feeling of unworthiness.
“When you are wounded – especially in childhood but also as an adult – you don’t think you’re worthy,” said Mary Beth Hanus, director of the Victim Outreach and Prevention Office for the Archdiocese of Omaha. “You don’t think you’re ‘as good as ….’”
Hanus and her staff keep this in mind when planning healing services for individuals impacted by abuse and those who love them, such as the one held April 4 at St. Leo the Great Church in Omaha.
“The care put into making the service as beautiful as possible is designed to let those who have been wounded by abuse know that they are worthy, that they are a child of God,” Hanus said.
With Archbishop George J. Lucas presiding, the service included a Litany of Healing and beautiful music, followed by a wine and cheese reception.
The first healing service was held in 2017 at St. Cecilia Cathedral. Since then, they have become twice-yearly events – once in Omaha and once in Norfolk. The next Norfolk service will be Sept. 29, 7 p.m. at St. Mary Church.
“This is something we are committed to and want to have every year because it might take someone two years to have the courage to come,” Hanus said.
The service is valuable because it brings abuse out into the light so people can heal, Hanus said. She goes on to say that many people who suffer from anxiety or depression don’t realize that those things often stem from abuse that has never been acknowledged. Bringing that abuse to the light in a Christ-centered environment is critical for people to begin a journey toward healing.
“Counseling helps with coping and with understanding, but Jesus is the only one that can heal,” Hanus said.
Her goal is that anyone who has been wounded by abuse of any kind, or loves someone who has, will come to a healing service. She emphasizes that these services are ecumenical, and you don’t have to be Catholic to attend.
Mary Maguire works with Hanus in the Victim Outreach and Prevention Office and can attest to the power of healing services for those carrying wounds, many since childhood. She said there are many tears shed, especially by men.
“The men couldn’t verbalize it to other people, but the fact that their suffering was brought out and respected, they were validated,” Maguire said. “It’s so personal. You feel like you are bearing it alone, but when you come here and see all these people and the archbishop – you understand that there is healing here.”
She said many people who attend the reception don’t want to leave at the end of the night because they finally feel like they have found a path toward healing.
Lynn Schultz is a parishioner at St. Leo and helps with the healing services, setting up tables and greeting attendees. As someone who has experienced abuse in her past, she understands firsthand the tremendous impact of the services.
“Taking the opportunity to sit with Christ and be present in those moments when prayers are offered specifically for you, for the pain and suffering that you have experienced, can be life-changing,” Shultz said. “You can experience the healing love that Christ is waiting to give you.”