Towards Peace

Spiritual support for survivors of abuse by Catholic Church personnel in Ireland

On 19 October Towards Peace held the third in its series of information and awareness raising webinars, this time for the Irish Bishops’ Conference and the AMRI Congregational Leaders. Entitled ‘Towards Peace, healing the woundedness,one soul at a time’, this webinar built on two previous presentations, the first being to the Spiritual Companions in March 2021, followed by a second webinar to the Towards Peace therapists in June of this year.

The aim in presenting this particular webinar was to seek to empower Church leaders to understand at a heart and soul level the importance and ongoing relevance of Towards Peace and how the onus is on us all to protect the soul.

Upwards of fifty people logged on to the Zoom webinar to hear powerful inputs from the two main contributors Bernadette Fahy and Sister Margaret Mary Joyce SSL.

Bernadette Fahy, a member of the Towards Peace Oversight Committee and a survivor of institutional abuse, spoke simply and gut-wrenchingly of her experience as a child in care in Goldenbridge Convent during the 1950s and 1960s. She told of her own long and arduous journey towards peace and how the wounds of abuse, although they never disappear, survivors of abuse can and do rediscover their spirituality and transform the spiritual vacuum left in the aftermath of such hurt.

Sr Margaret Mary Joyce SSL, spoke movingly of how in Towards Peace, support is provided to survivors through conversations with a spiritual director/companion. Unlike the role of a counsellor this ‘anam cara’ or soul friend endeavours to help each person listen to their own conversations with God – whomever or however they perceive that to be – ever respectful that each person’s individual spiritual journey is his or her own. Margaret Mary reminded us that if we do not transform our hurt we will almost certainly transmit it.Through the process of accompaniment the spiritual companion endeavours to help those seeking support to look at the past in a positive way, to discover seeds of peace where once there were only found grounds for fear.

Those attending the webinar were challenged into questioning their own perception of the journey towards peace and why the role of spirituality is not front and centre, or at least on an equal footing with therapeutic support and legal redress. Why the reticence?  Towards Peace has been established primarily as a resource both for and withsurvivors. It is not a question of bestowing a gift from Mother Church. Listening, particularly to eloquence of  Bernadette’s testimony, it becomes clear that Towards Peace is also a resource for a wounded, sometime fearful Irish Church, also in need of understanding and healing, to be able to suffer-with those who are hurting, and to companion those who seek hope in a loving God.

ENDS