VOICES, VOICES EVERYWHERE!
National Parish Voice has identified four U.S. regions
for purposes of affiliate coordination, communication
efforts and future regional definitions and representation:
Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana,
Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Hawaii,
North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota,
Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana,
Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee,
Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut,
Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, West
Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, District of
REPORT from VOTF president Jim Post on his visit
Seattle, WA August 3-4, 2003
I had the good fortune to visit the Pacific Northwest
in early August, when the weather was splendid and the
interest in VOTF running high.
Eileen Knoff, regional coordinator, and Catherine Smith,
president of the Puget Sound VOTF, organized a wonderful
two days of activities.
On Sunday, I spoke at St. Patrick's Catholic Church
on the topic, "The Future of the Laity: Collaboration,
Consultation, and Partnership." Nearly 200 people attended
(forsaking a sunny Sunday afternoon!) The session also
featured comments from a number of lay women and men
whose experiences illustrated various aspects of local
The Archdiocese of Seattle has a rich history of active
lay involvement in the governance and guidance of programs.
Dennis O'Leary and Mary Santi, representatives from
Archbishop Brunett's staff, participated in both Sunday's
public conversation and in a special meeting on Monday
to review local procedures for dealing with sexual abuse
cases. VOTF representatives and archdiocesan staff discussed
the mechanisms for addressing these issues as they arise,
and implementing effective programs to prevent future
The visit was capped off by a first year anniversary
dinner on Monday night at the parish hall of St. Joseph's
Catholic Church. Nearly 40 VOTF leaders from Seattle
and Tacoma, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Boise,
Idaho gathered with local leaders of SNAP and supporters
to give thanks for the commitment of so many people
to addressing the sexual abuse crisis and to renewing
Throughout the visit, the phrase "dialogue process"
was used to describe our activities. In retrospect,
we seemed to be engaged in one continuing conversation
about the crisis, our response as Catholics and as human
beings, and the good will that must be nurtured among
laity, clergy, and bishops as we seek to repair the
Voice of the Faithful has a purpose and a place at
the table in the Pacific Northwest. The commitment of
the laity, clergy, and Archbishop Brunett to active
lay involvement, justice for survivors, and seeing the
Church renewed, is a positive model for other dioceses.
We should all give thanks for the inspired work of
the women and men of the Pacific Northwest for their
leadership in this important mission.
VOTF Northern Illinois
Submitted by Terry O'Connor Terry offers here
what he calls a "60 second report on VOTF in Northern
group claims its voice on the North Shore as a new
affiliate is announced at Faith, Hope and Charity
in Winnetka. We are also please to announce that St.
Francis Xavier parish is in the final stages of establishing
their voice in the western suburb of La Grange. For
those who have contacted us in the past for information
on VOTF in the Winnetka or LaGrange area, please contact
us at this time so we can introduce you to your neighborhood
- For the
latest news in the growth of VOTF in Illinois, visit
the affiliate web page and check us out. While your
there PLEASE also sign up for VOTF, if you haven't
done so under the new system.…we need your name to
keep growing and to reach our goal of continuous dialogue
in our Church.
has it that VOTF in the Joliet Diocese plans a major
step in networking their local diocese. Their objective
appears to be centered on better communications and
dialogue with their bishop. More details to follow
as they develop.
also has it that VOTF in the Archdiocese of Chicago
is working on improved communications with their cardinal;
however, there are no details to report at this time.
- The Rockford
Diocese continues to expand its membership as it begins
to talk about the local issues in its diocese. Their
membership drive remains focused in the Fox Valley
region, and in the city of Rockford and its surrounding
area, while local strategies are being worked out.
- If you
had a chance to visit the Irish Fest in Milwaukee,
you also may have had the opportunity to attend Mass
with the delightful Milwaukee Archbishop, Timothy
M. Dolan at the Fest…. Having done so, you may have
returned home and noted on the late news, the associated
press release indicating -"More than 160 priests in
the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee have signed
a letter arguing that married men should be allowed
to enter the priesthood." I mention this not as an
issue, but as a process to watch and support. Many
believe this is the sign of how positive change will
take place with support from priests of integrity.
In a separate article from MSNBC, "The priests hope
the letter will prompt a dialogue about the issue
of optional celibacy because of the shortage of priests,
said the Rev. Tom Suriano, pastor of St. Patrick Church
in Whitewater." The Rev. Robert Silva, president of
the National Federation of Priests' Councils, said
he would request that the letter be discussed by the
Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry, a subcommittee
of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
the same Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan will
chair that committee, beginning in November, Siva
said. Archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski said,
" Dolan did not attempt to stop the priests from circulating
the letter. Topczewski also did not expect any fallout
for priests who signed the letter.
Isn't that what we all want, just to talk things over
and be part of the process. I think the above is a step
in the beginning phase and process of healing. The next
step is to sit in on the meeting and help out in the
discussion. Peace be with all of us.
VOTF Cleveland, Ohio
Submitted by Tom Byrne (too late for the August issue,
but the details remain worthwhile.)
August 18, 2003 - The Cleveland affiliate of Voice
of the Faithful (VOTF) will sponsor a Mass of Healing
at 12:00 noon on Sunday, August 24, 2003, at Padua Franciscan
High School, 6740 State Road, Parma, Ohio. Reverend
Walter Dolan, OFM, will be principal celebrant. A panel
discussion featuring child sexual abuse experts and
victim advocates will follow the Mass.
Thousands of people have come forward in the last two
years to reveal that, as children, they were sexually
abused by priests. "Many are still emotionally crippled
by the shame that destroyed their childhood", according
to Tom Byrne, coordinator of the Cleveland VOTF affiliate.
"We want victims to know that their fellow Catholics
are aware of their suffering and that we care".
The moderator of Sunday's discussion will be John Seryak,
M. Ed., a teacher with Revere Schools in Summit County.
Seryak, author of Dear Teacher If You Only Knew…
has spoken on child sex abuse at universities and conferences
around the country. Panelists will include Barbara Blaine,
founder and national president of Survivors Network
of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP); Dr. Maryhelen Kreidler,
University of Akron nursing professor and child sex
abuse therapist; Margaret Grant, director of the Victims
Resource Center of Laurelwood Hospital, part of University
Hospitals Health Services; Victoria A. Didato, director
of the Child Sexual Abuse Institute of Ohio; and Fred
and Kay Starr, parents of a victim.
VOTF Dayton, Ohio
Submitted by Kris Ward
Insistent on beginning the Dayton Ohio Affiliate of
Voice of the Faithful with prayer in a sacred place,
the co-founders of the affiliate, Kris Ward and Mike
Knellinger, battled through resistance from the Archdiocese
of Cincinnati for six months before a launch event of
VOTF on April 3.
The evening began with a prayer service "A Church Lamentation"
in the Immaculate Conception Chapel of the University
of Dayton, the 10th largest Catholic university in the
country. Through its president, Daniel J. Curran, the
university has become a collaborator with Dayton Affiliate
Voice of the Faithful.
With a continued refusal to allow Church property to
be used for the open conversation that immediately followed
the prayer, the meeting was held at a nearby hotel.
Jim Post, president of Voice of the Faithful and David
Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network for
Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), were the guest speakers
to for an audience of 170 people.
We held three meetings off Church property on April
24, May 8 and May 22 before the co-founders met on May
25th with Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk. At that meeting
the Archbishop informed the co-founders he would announce
on June 11 at an archdiocesan meeting of priests that
he no longer opposed Voice of the Faithful meetings
on Church property and he would allow individual parish
pastors to make their own decisions. The Archbishop
had given his permission in March 2003 for Voice of
the Faithful to meet on parish property in Cincinnati,
the seat of the 19-county diocese.
Dayton Affiliate Voice of the Faithful met June 13,
June 27 and July 10 at St. Charles Borromeo with Monsignor
Lawrence Breslin in attendance. Monsignor Breslin has
been a strong supporter of VOTF. Also attending the
June 27th was the pastor of two other parishes in the
At the July 10 meeting, the co-founders were elected
co-chairs. Bill Wabler was elected Treasurer and Dottie
Key was elected secretary. We voted to send a letter
to the Archbishop asking him to name the "fewer than
five priests" he acknowledged at a March 2002 press
conference to have credible allegations made against
them and who had been transferred to other assignments
without any contact being made by the archdiocese with
the civil authorities. The letter also asked for details
on the archdiocese's financial support of priests who
are removed from ministry, and the status of the canonical
process of removal from the priesthood of an archdiocesan
priest, Father Kenneth Schottmyer, who was convicted
of sexual abuse of a minor. Dayton VOTF made a decision
to stay together as a single group and hold meetings
in a number of parishes until there was enough strength
in a single parish or parishes to begin Parish Voices.
On August 14 Dayton VOTF met at Incarnation Parish,
the largest parish in the city, with the pastor, Father
Lawrence Mierenfeld, in attendance. The Archbishop responded
to Dayton VOTF's letter advising he could not name the
fewer than five priests "yet" because of legal considerations.
He provided some details about financial arrangements
but could not give details, he said, about the status
of the canonical process of the removal of Father Schottmyer.
The August 14 meeting was the largest to date.
Dayton VOTF meets September 11 at St. Charles Borromeo
Parish 7 PM with a presentation on the "History of Structural
Change in the Church" by Sister of Charity of Cincinnati
Louise Akers, Ph.D.
Dayton VOTF has scheduled meetings in parishes through
December and is working on the 2004 schedule. In November,
the rector of the archdiocesan seminary will be the
guest speaker at St. Albert the Great Parish. Father
James Manning, pastor, is a member of the seminary's
Dayton VOTF co-founder and co-chair Mike Knellinger
stood with the attorneys and David Clohessy on the steps
of the archdiocesan cathedral on August 11 at a press
conference announcing that six additional lawsuits were
filed against Father Lawrence Strittmatter who was removed
from active ministry last year. Four other victims had
previously filed a suit. The priest was serving in Dayton
at the time of his removal. The suit filed racketeering
charges against the Archbishop, the second suit in the
country to file these charges against a bishop on the
basis of failure to supervise.
Dayton VOTF held a special meeting with Mr. Clohessy
on August 11. On August 14 Dayton VOTF voted to send
a letter to the county prosecutor requesting action
on the investigation of a priest, Father Thomas Kuhn,
removed from active ministry last year. Father Kuhn's
removal was precipitated by the civil seizure of computers
from St. Henry's Parish where he was serving as pastor
having previously served 12 years at Incarnation.
Dayton VOTF participated in Dr. Jim Muller's visit
to Cincinnati on August 8 and looks forward to the October
4 Cincinnati VOTF event with Dr. Donald Cozzens.
Dayton VOTF's Prayerful Voice is working on three additional
prayer services. Our Support for Priests of Integrity
group is working on a day in October when Catholics
in the Dayton area will be called upon to show active
support for their priests.
Dayton VOTF continues its media contacts and interviews
with local television stations and the city's newspaper
regarding the recent removal of three priests, Father
Richard Unwin, Father Frank Massarella and Father David
Kelley and another priest whom Dayton VOTF believes,
based on information from a victim/survivor, is one
of the fewer than five priests in the Archbishop's announcement.
VOTF Louisville, Kentucky
Submitted by Paula Radmacher
Our affiliate began meeting in a snowstorm last winter
and we continue to weather events in Louisville.
Our meetings are structured around the three goals.
Additionally, we are beginning each meeting with a short
educational segment, to remind/inform us of how various
aspects of Church governance have evolved over the centuries.
Members of VOTF-Louisville have had two meetings with
the Archbishop and his Chancellor: one before the recently
announced settlement and one since. The first meeting
was to get acquainted, let them know what we are about
and offer to work with them for healing in our community.
While not closing the door, their responses were cool.
The most recent meeting included information regarding
new teacher training, which will be conducted by staff
from the Center for Women and Families. New standards
for ministerial behavior (priests, teachers, employees,
volunteers) have been developed and will be in place
for this school year. The Archbishop and Chancellor
were non-committal about continuing to meet with us.
In June, a $25.7 million settlement of 243 lawsuits
was announced. The settlement was in response to accusations
against 34 priests and Church workers over a period
of 60 years. The funds were to come from unrestricted
assets of the Archdiocese and placed in escrow until
decisions could be made about how money would be divided.
In July, a conference was presented by Carroll Craddock:
Healing and Preventing Wounds of Sexual Abuse in Our
Religious Organizations. It was attended by a number
of VOTF members who also met privately with Dr. Craddock
after the meeting.
In August, Link-Up sponsored a candlelight vigil during
the meeting of the National Assembly of Male Catholic
Religious Orders here in Louisville. Members of VOTF-Louisville
also attended and were able to talk to some of the heads
of the various orders and provide witness to our support
for priests of integrity.
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville received
a letter from the Archbishop in late August outlining
a 5-year plan to restore financial stability following
the settlement announced in June. Among other things,
parish assessments will increase.
a healing mass for survivors of abuse
a listening forum with priests of the Archdiocese
a list of known abusive priests and their current
VOTF Winchester Area, MA
Reported by Bob Morris
We continued our schedule of weekly meetings this month,
featuring four well-attended sessions. On August 4 and
11 we looked at the abuse crisis from two very different
perspectives. On August 4, our meeting (attended by
about 65 persons) focused on the removal of Rev. Ronald
Bourgault of St. Zepherin's in Wayland after an allegation
of abuse in 2002, and his reinstatement earlier this
year. Attorney Tom Fay, who represented Fr. Bourgault,
and Darrell Simpson, a Regional Coordinator for Voice
of the Faithful and a member of St. Zepherin's Parish,
explained how a rudimentary investigation, conducted
many months after the allegation was raised, resulted
in the victim acknowledging that the accused priest
could not have committed the act in question.
On Monday, August 11, we welcomed Phil and Lauren deAlbuquerque,
founders of the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is the nation's
first resource center for victims of clergy abuse, located
in East Boston. Phil explained how the idea of the Lighthouse
came to him in a dream, and how he used his own assets
to pursue that dream. While not himself a victim of
abuse, Phil has truly walked the path taken by survivor-victims,
and showed us all how the support of survivors is truly
the work of God. Phil's warm and open spirit touched
many of the 75 persons present that night.
On August 18, about 50 members gathered to discuss
the report of Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas
Reilly on "The Sexual Abuse of Children in the Roman
Catholic Archdiocese of Boston". Members focused on
the question of how we can ensure that such a calamity
never occurs again. Ideas developed by members ranged
from expanding the reach of the Archdiocese's Virtus
training program on abuse prevention, to ensuring that
something similar to education on the Holocaust be included
in religious education, in order to ensure that this
tragic period is never forgotten.
Finally, on August 25, over 100 persons gathered to
hear Fr. David O'Leary, Tufts University Chaplain, discuss
his book in progress on Boston-area priests. Fr. Dave
has interviewed over 130 priests since the onset of
the abuse crisis, and is in the process of compiling
his wealth of data to compile his book. Fr. Dave fielded
many questions about his research, and related issues.
Looking ahead, we want Boston-area VOTF members to
be aware of a program we have planned for Monday, October
27. On that evening, four leaders of the Boston Priests'
Forum -- Frs. Robert Bullock, John McGinty, John Mahoney,
and Austin Fleming -- will be joining us. We will have
more details about this program as the date approaches.
VOTF Northern New Jersey Affiliate
Submitted by Maria Cleary
The VOTF Northern NJ Affiliate marked its first anniversary
this August and is proud to represent 500+ members from
the Paterson, Newark, Trenton and Metuchen dioceses.
We look forward to our second year, which will focus
on "The Future of Ministry," and we already have a number
of wonderful speakers lined up to address this urgent
First on the list is Dr. Dean Hoge of Catholic University
who's written two new books, Evolving Visions of
the Priesthood and The Future of Catholic Leadership:
Responses to the Priest Shortage. We'll also be
visited by David Gibson whose book, The Coming Catholic
Church has been very positively reviewed.
We have found that the subject of clergy shortages
can be an interesting topic for a VOTF affiliate. Our
Paterson Diocese, for instance, has projected that in
fifteen years, there will be 32 priests to serve 99
parishes. This statistic seems to have caught the attention
of the laity who are concerned about the Church for
their children and grandchildren. Does your diocese
have projections they would be willing to share? And
if so, what kinds of plans are being made to accommodate
those numbers? Perhaps this is an area where your VOTF
affiliate might be able to offer some assistance.
We're also excited to be starting a more active prayer
life as a community. A local retreat house has generously
offered its facility so that we can plan a regular liturgy,
and we're having our first one on Sept. 21. We hope
to make this a Sunday practice one or two times a month,
and we've been fortunate to have a number of priests
offer to help.
And, of course, we've all been working feverishly on
our convention. We've been getting together every few
weeks at Fordham Prep in the Bronx, New York. Our committee
of over 30 people hails from all over the NY, NJ and
CT area. We're hoping this will be a real reunion for
much of our VOTF family. We look forward to seeing as
many of you as possible at Fordham University on October
VOTF Boston, MA - Paulist Center
Submitted by Ron DuBois
We will have our first Paulist Center Voice of the
Faithful meeting of the "new year" on Sunday, September
14, after the noon Mass, in the library.
We will be discussing our vision for the coming year,
i.e., "Healing the Body of Christ." We will also briefly
describe our new organization and our intentions to
work more closely with existing ministries at the Paulist
Center, especially the Pastoral Council. We plan to
have a table at the Community Festival on September
27/28. Ideas are welcome as well as volunteers to "person"
the table at the festival.
I look forward to seeing many at our September meeting.
This will be a very important year in the history of
the Archdiocese, and Voice of the Faithful intends to
play an important role in "Keeping the Faith and Changing
of the Faithful, VOTF, "Keep the Faith, Change the Church,"
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of the Faithful is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt organization.