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The Development of Towards Peace


March: The Irish Episcopal Conference sanctioned the Response to Survivors Initiative. It appointed four bishops, one from each province, to lead this initiative. They were the Bishop of Cork and Ross, the Bishop of Dromore, the Bishop of Ferns and the Bishop of Killala. 



February: A Co-Coordinator of the Initiative, a professional consultant, was appointed. The Co-Coordinator and the four bishops met with individual survivors as well as groups of survivors, and the Co-Coordinator had extensive phone and email contact with a wide range of individuals and groups.



March: As a response to what the Initiative heard and learned in their conversations with survivors, the Irish Episcopal Conference sanctioned the publication of a document which was drafted by the Initiative, entitled: Towards Healing and Renewal. In addition to outlining the Conference’s ongoing commitment to supporting the work of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland and Towards Healing, Towards Healing and Renewal also outlined the Conference’s commitment to a new initiative to support survivors in their spiritual wellbeing.

Following the publication of the document, the four bishops and the Co-Coordinator met with a large number of individuals and groups of survivors to ascertain their reaction to the document. Some survivors were supportive of the idea of a spiritual support service, beginning with the option of one to one spiritual direction, with a lay, religious or clergy person; as long as it was developed in a way that learned from civil processes and that reached out to survivors who were estranged from Church.

A team of three people (a priest with a spiritual direction background, a Director of Safeguarding, and a religious sister with a counselling background) was put in place to further develop the idea of a spiritual support service for survivors of abuse by Church personnel in Ireland. The team consulted with CORI, Towards Healing, and individual survivors and survivor groups. The following is a summary of the many different themes, needs and hopes that they heard:

  • Some survivors wanted a service to support them as they re-connected to their spiritual core, even if they did not want to connect with the institutional Church.
  • Some survivors wanted a service to support them in their struggle with their faith.
  • Some survivors wanted a service to support their sense of belonging within the Church.
  • Some survivors particularly wanted a way to re-engage with their local parish.
  • Some survivors wanted spiritual support via retreats and related services.
  • Some survivors wanted a process of reconciliation with their faith lives in order to be able to experience the sacraments, especially in times of crisis.
  • Some parents and relatives of survivors wanted spiritual support.
  • For those survivors, parents and relatives of survivors who wanted spiritual support through one to one spiritual accompaniment, they wanted a choice between lay, religious or clergy spiritual companions.



January: Sr. Mary Whyte, one of the team of three, was appointed as Coordinator of the spiritual support initiative, based at the Columba Centre in Maynooth, with support from the Centre in regards to finance, IT and administration.

Mary continued to work with the two others on the team, meeting with individual survivors and representative of survivor groups, as well as people providing support with and for survivors. The team began to put together a panel of spiritual companions, to offer spiritual support with and for survivors, through one to one spiritual accompaniment.



May: The first Board meeting for the spiritual support service took place. The original Board was a mixture of clergy, religious and lay people, from Ireland.

September: A name for the service was agreed: Towards Peace.



Further meetings took place with survivors. An initial policy document was approved by the Board. The panel of spiritual companions received specialised training, which included trauma awareness input and hearing input from survivors. A Designated Person was appointed to take care of revelations of abuse. A clergy CORI representative and a lay woman counsellor and spiritual director from Northern Ireland joined the Board.

May: Towards Peace was launched in the South (Cork). A website for Towards Peace was developed.

June: Towards Peace was launched in the West (Knock).

October: Mrs. Una Allen and Mrs. Colleen Brown were appointed as Towards Peace part-time staff, as Director and Administration & Development Coordinator.

December: Information sessions about Towards Peace were held within the safeguarding communities in the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin, and Ferns.



January: Sr. Mary Whyte moved on from Towards Peace, to new work at the request of her congregation.

February: Towards Peace staff began to re-connect with the survivors and support providers with whom Mary had been in touch over her three years with the service. Three new lay Board members joined the Board of Towards Peace.

March: An information session about Towards Peace was held within the safeguarding community in the Diocese of Ossory.

April: The Board of Towards Peace and staff began to develop its website and marketing materials. An information session about Towards Peace was held within the safeguarding community in the Diocese of Ardagh & Clonmacnoise.

May: Events about available supports for survivors, with input from Towards Healing and Towards Peace, were held within safeguarding communities in the Diocese of Kilmore, Dromore and Down & Connor.

June: Information about Towards Peace was provided within an Archdiocese of Dublin safeguarding event.  Sr. Marianne O’Connor was elected Chair of the Board.

August:  The Towards Peace website was updated.

September:  Andrew Fagan was elected Vice Chair of the Board.




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