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The Way retreat to help victims of abuse

The three Catholic dioceses of Nebraska are working together to offer a way for victims of abuse to overcome deep hurt, dread, confusion, betrayal and anger – a way to find help, healing and peace.

The dioceses are offering The Way, a three-day healing retreat centered on Christ’s Passion. The retreat walks victims through the abuse Jesus endured, showing them the steps he took to transform pain into new life, organizers say.

The Way, scheduled for July 23-25 at St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, is open to women who have suffered all types of abuse, including childhood abuse, domestic violence, rape and verbal abuse.

“We as a Church recognize and care about people who have been hurt,” said Mary Beth Hanus, director of the archdiocese’s Victim Outreach and Prevention Office.

Through the Church, victims have “an avenue for healing” – Jesus – “the only one who heals,” Hanus said.

“He’s there with you, and he understands what you’ve been through,” she said.

The retreat is open to Catholics and non-Catholics. Opportunities for joining in a Rosary, Mass, confession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are encouraged but not required.

Reading materials and art supplies will also be available.

Victims don’t have to share their stories with anyone if they prefer not to, Hanus said. “It’s really about them and Jesus.”

“The most significant thing I took from the retreat was the overwhelming love and acceptance God has for us,” a past retreat participant said. “Things I had heard thousands of times before but they really hit home for me at the retreat. I was able to see that God is willing to meet us right where we are – wherever that is – and to heal us, and to help us and love us no matter what our past has been. Wrapping the pain of my abuse in the suffering Jesus endured for me and then accepting and absorbing the love He has for me was truly life changing.“

The $250 cost includes a private room, meals and retreat materials. Financial assistance is available, if needed.

The archdiocesan Victim Outreach and Prevention Office, with victim outreach offices from the two other dioceses, is hosting the retreat. The first The Way retreat in Nebraska was hosted by the Grand Island diocese in 2019.

Another retreat, for men, will be offered Oct. 1-3 in Cozad, Nebraska.

Sue Stubbs, director of a victim assistance program in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, will be leading the women’s retreat, which she developed about eight years ago. She is a nationally certified counselor who has been treating survivors of abuse for more than 16 years.

Others serving on the retreat team are Hanus, who has worked for the archdiocese for 15 years and is a clinical social worker and licensed mental health practitioner in Nebraska; Mary Kay Maguire, who also works for the Victim Outreach and Prevention Office and has a graduate certificate in pastoral ministry; Elizabeth Heidt Kozisek, director of the Office of Child Protection for the Diocese of Grand Island, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology; Cheryl Albright, outreach and victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Grand Island; Jeff Hohlen, victim assistance and safe environment coordinator for the Diocese of Lincoln, a former University of Nebraska-Lincoln police officer with experience in helping abuse victims; and retreat chaplain, Father James Tiegs, a retired archdiocesan priest.

Applications for the women’s retreat must be received by July 1, and space is limited. To request an application, contact Hanus at 402-827-3798 or mbhanus@archomaha.org.

Anyone who would like to be on a prayer team for the retreat and its participants can call Maguire at 402-557-5562.