Reflections from Survivors
Written reflections by people who have been abused by Catholic Church personnel. For some people, their faith life may be too shattered for words or repair; for other people, their faith may be what is holding them together.
Personal experiences of Towards Peace
I am an ordinary person with an extra ordinary God who loves, understands and walks with me on my life’s journey of healing even though for years I found it hard to trust Him and was open very angry and confused. However, I never let God go completely. As I began to build up a relationship with Him as opposed to a knowledge of Him many extraordinary things began to happen in my life. I came to believe and experience that with God by my side the impossible becomes possible. I choose to be a survivor of abuse rather than a victim and came to realise that no one could ﬁx me except myself.
The ﬁrst thing I needed to do was let go of my anger which was stopping the ﬂow of positive energy and grace ﬂowing through me. This was hard work at times. I surrounded myself with positive people. I am sorry to say that many church people were not a positive energy because they were so upset and often frightened of people like me. I sometimes felt responsible for the state of the church because of the negative vibes coming from them. I have a few very special priests and church people sent by God who have walked with me and empowered me with their love and understanding to walk my often difﬁcult journey without feeling guilt. They did not feel sorry for me – “poor you” which used to crack me up. I feel very much if church people could have sat down with us without fear and being on the defensive we would be in a much better place now.
When my abuser died I decided to go to his funeral with my husband not telling anyone else I was going. Before Mass I went up to his cofﬁn and told him I forgave him and let him go to God’s judgement because God knows the whole story. There is a God- given wisdom in the request to forgive those who harm us. Firstly, because we need to free ourselves from the burden of anger and hurt; secondly because those who hurt us are still human beings, in need of Gods mercy and peace. I will never forget the feelings of peace and joy in my heart as I left the church that day. I also know that part of the reason I went was to make sure he was dead. My journey now continues with great freedom and joy in my heart.
“I would like to thank Towards Peace from my heart, for connecting me to my Spiritual Companion. Because of my own personal past experiences, and indeed other members of my family, I felt so betrayed, confused, broke and lost. I am getting older, weaker, fragile and in a lot of emotional, physical and mental pain. I felt a great need for spiritual direction to help me to prepare to meet my God.”
“Towards Peace has given me the opportunity to address the impact that abuse by a Catholic priest has had on my life – particularly my vocation, faith and relationship with Jesus/God. I have felt heard, respected and understood as I work through the spiritual consequences of the abuse in my daily life. In working with a spiritual companion, I hope to come to a place of peace and acceptance in my spiritual life and faith journey and hopefully come to believe and feel that there is a loving God in my life as I have lost all sense of this over the years because of the abuse.”
Reflections from Survivors
When we are abused by priests our whole core is damaged. We lose trust and confidence in ourselves, God and others. After all these were God’s people with the role of bringing the good news of love and forgiveness to us all. When I took the big risk of meeting and sharing my story with my spiritual companion, my life changed. I was able for the first time to start my inward journey of healing. I started to untie the knots that prevented the dream God had for me coming true. We cannot do this journey alone. I hope people who are hurting will reach out for help in realising that they are very special and deserve peace and joy in their lives. It is not an easy journey but believe me it is possible.
During the last few weeks of snow and storm which at times I found quite frightening and confining I was reminded of the gospel passage Mark 4: 35-41 when Jesus with his disciples went on a boat to the other side of the lake for to get away from the crowds because Jesus was so tired and needed to rest. He fell asleep on the boat and a great storm arose. The disciples became scared and they called Jesus “Teacher do you not care that we are perishing.” He woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea “Peace be still.” The wind ceased and there was dead calm. He said to his disciples “Why are you so afraid?” Have you still no faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another “Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”
I have been in that storm as have all of us many times with my mind often in turmoil and I felt I was drowning and Jesus was asleep and did not notice or care that I was sinking.
I get great comfort from the fact that the disciples were with him and saw all he did but they did not believe until they experienced his help themselves when they cried out to him as they felt they were sinking. They realised that all they needed to do was to call out to him from the bottom of their hearts and he answered their call. Since I learned to trust in Jesus and know he is there for me always I have experienced great calm especially in times of distress or confusion.
As we approach Easter time my wish for us all is to gain the trust to believe that Jesus came and died for us all and is there waiting for our call. Even if we have moved from him, he never moved from us.
I was feeling a bit down recently, finding it hard to keep positive and wondering how am I going to continue my journey in life with energy and the belief that Jesus is there helping me all the time. I suddenly remembered the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13) which I have often read and liked. I got it out and read it again slowly.
The story goes like this: There were two disciples walking along the road feeling discouraged and not able to make sense of their lives. While they were walking and discussing life and all the things that had happened to Jesus, He then came and joined them on their journey, but something stopped them from recognising him. The ‘stranger’ asked the disciples what they were discussing along the road. They stood still looking sad. They asked Him, “Are you the only person in the whole of Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened to Jesus?”
He listened silently to their story. As I reflected on this I began to realise that their story had lots of ups and downs, just like mine. As Jesus was about to leave, the disciples invited him to stay with them because the day was nearly over and they were hungry and tired. Jesus accepted the invitation. While they were at supper Jesus took bread blessed it and broke it and gave it to them and suddenly their eyes were opened and they recognised Him. But He vanished from their sight.
The disciples then began to remember their conversation on the road to Emmaus and realised that Jesus had been opening the scriptures to them. They were filled with joy.
Immediately they returned to Jerusalem to tell the apostles and the rest of their companions what they now knew for themselves – “The Lord has truly risen! He has revealed Himself to us through the scriptures and the breaking of bread.”
As a result of their encounter with Jesus in their hour of confusion and worry, even though they were slow to understand, these people grew in wisdom and returned to their daily tasks with a new heart.
As a result of that same encounter, I too can now lift up my heart because the Word of God has helped me yet again to remember that Jesus is on my journey with me if I but take time to recognise Him. He never moves from me, but sometimes I close my heart and eyes to Him and as a result I get down and confused.
Thank you Jesus for the great wisdom and comfort contained in your Word. I will now continue my journey through the winter with Jesus by my side. I ask Him to help each one of us to be aware that He is there just waiting to be called on especially when we are really feeling down.