Novena seeks to promote healing from abuse crisis

BRIGHTON — Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley is inviting the faithful of the archdiocese to join him in a “Pilgrimage of Repentance and Hope: The Novena to the Holy Spirit” to promote healing from the clergy abuse crisis and renewal of the archdiocese.

“Publicly acknowledging the Church’s faults and failures is an important element of asking forgiveness of those who have been harmed by the Church,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “The sexual abuse crisis has caused intense suffering for survivors and their families and has been a source of shame and sorrow for our entire Church community.”

“Our hope is that these services will bring together survivors, their families and friends, as well as clergy, parishioners, and members of the broader community,” he continued. “I invite all people of this archdiocese to join us as we call upon the Holy Spirit to assist us as we work to bind up the wounds of abuse and restore the faith of our community.”

A letter announcing the program was to be sent to all parishes in the archdiocese this week and is printed in this week’s edition of The Pilot.

The novena will begin on Ascension Thursday, May 25 with a Mass at Holy Cross Cathedral. Then the cardinal will make a “pilgrimage” to different parishes that have “experienced an especially painful history of sexual abuse.” The parishes will be in the towns of Stoneham, Middleton, Brockton, Lowell, Needham, Weston, Hingham, Bellingham and Brighton.

The novena will conclude on the vigil of Pentecost, the evening of June 3, with a procession from the archdiocese’s chancery building to St. Columbkille Parish, both in Brighton.

“The novena services will acknowledge in a particular way the sins of clergy sexual abuse that violated the innocence of children and are an offense against God,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “The service will include an act of reparation that will enable the clergy to join me in an expression of repentance for priests and bishops whose actions and inactions gravely harmed the lives of children entrusted to their care.”

The services are intended to bring together survivors and their loved ones as well as all members of the community whose lives have been affected by clergy abuse. Everyone from priests to parishioners to community members are invited to attend any part of the novena, said Barbara Thorp, director of the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach.

“All are really encouraged and welcome to attend any part of the service that they feel moved to participate in,” she said.

Cardinal O’Malley asked the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach to assist with planning the novena, through which he hopes to reach out to the community and acknowledge and atone for the suffering of abuse victims, she said.

“Cardinal Seán is really responding to this from the heart of the Church and the heart of our identity as followers of Christ,” she said.

“We know that the process for survivors and their families of healing is long,” she added. “For people to experience their cardinal and the priests of the archdiocese really coming to them in love and with truly penitent hearts over all this will be very important for survivors and family members of survivors.”

“The survivors have endured the suffering of this since their childhood, since they were first harmed,” she continued. “When all of this was held in darkness, its effects were insidious and profoundly damaging. I think it’s actually a grace that this is brought out of darkness and into the light.”

Thorpe said that the nine parishes chosen to host the novena are representative of all parishes touched by the abuse crisis. They were carefully selected from the five regions to encourage as much participation as possible.

It is significant that Cardinal O’Malley chose to pray a novena to the Holy Spirit in the week leading to Pentecost, she added.

“We really can turn to the help of the Holy Spirit to help to bind up the wounds that have so separated and so deeply wounded our community as well as the survivors themselves,” she said.