Consistent Theme: Listening

One among many themes continues to recur during our advance broadcasts ahead of the Spirit Fire Global Broadcast on Abuse and Faith. That theme has been listening and its powerful impact on healing.


Just this week, Dr. Heather Banis, who is a psychologist with a specialization in trauma and who offers pastoral ministry as a victims’ assistance coordinator in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, spoke during our survivor broadcast, Wounded & Healing. She described the powerful ministry of presence, and her experience of learning from survivors as she gets to know our stories and our resilient pathways.

Heather also explained how, in order to listen and hear a story well, we each must learn ways to restrain our own expectations of how that person should describe their experiences and how they should find solutions that work for them. Part of the process is learning, first, there are people who can be trusted who are willing to listen, and, second, you are free to choose what happens to you.

These are skills important in any healthy, adult relationships, but they are critically important in relationships with survivors who continue to be vulnerable during the remembering and recovery process.

Survivors Aree

Another wonderful guest, Fr. Larry Dowling has written for The Healing Voices Magazine and very active in supporting survivors of clergy abuse. He was our guest for both broadcasts. Mostly, Fr. Larry talked about what it means to “be present” to survivors and others who have or are suffering trauma. What it means to…. listen while helping the presence of God become real for the person.

Fr. Larry spoke from years of experience listening to the struggles survivors endure as they come to grips with the memories and move through recovery. He also related the inspiration and many spiritual gifts survivors offer. Fr. Larry described various ways people have chosen to share their experience over the years. The very process by which a priest may be tested and then trusted with a deeply held grief varies greatly from person to person. His reflections were woven with ideas about helping people through the trauma they suffer these days, during the strain of the virus, offering wisdom and reassurance to listeners.

Fr. Jeff also offers pastoral support to survivors and has done so for some time. He placed particular stress on listening to what the survivor has to say, otherwise you cannot begin to help a person take the next steps they are struggling to take spiritually. We cannot pretend to know where each person is, or what he or she needs.

Some time ago, yet another Spirit Fire broadcast guest, Jasmine Salazar, who is a licensed social worker and Vice Chancellor in the Diocese of Brooklyn, spoke with both audiences describing, again, a sense of being present to survivors and others who have experienced trauma — either in the past or in the present, as the Diocese of Brooklyn knows too well, being at the epicenter of the COVID pandemic.

Jasmine described this role of listener in detail, both how to let go of one’s own expectations and to listen with radical respect. Like our other guests, Jasmine remarked on the inspiring impact of encountering survivors and learning how each one is able to create a new and safe and thriving life a little bit at a time.

One of our first guests, Michele, is a fellow survivor who works with Spirit Fire at events and preparing for the upcoming broadcast series. She focused on very practical tips and suggestions for getting through the tough times in therapy and for living a well life–with a large dose of self-care and a lot of encouragement to find people who can be trusted to hear our stories as we piece everything together without trying to control or affect our choices.

In the coming weeks, we will be hearing from more survivors and more trusted people who work with Spirit Fire and survivors healing from abuse by clergy and by others in the Catholic Church. We hope you will tune in!

Wounded & Healing – For Everyone

Wounded & Healing guests talk about the resilience and spiritual gifts survivors offer the Church, as well as ways to move through remembering and recovery that have worked for other survivors integrating faith into recovery.

Please sign up for our open broadcast (no password) intended for survivors, their family members, and those who offer pastoral care at: Wounded & Healing. Registration is free and confidential.

Preaching to Trauma – For Clergy

For clergy, we have a closed session on Fridays at 3 pm Eastern offering free and confidential registration at Preaching to Trauma. We talk about ways clergy can offer care to parishioners who have suffered abuse or more general trauma, drawing on the descriptions offered by survivors of abuse and experience of diocesan and religious-order survivor ministers. (Registration is confidential, but we do privately confirm identity of any person who signs up anonymously.)

Spread the Word

We hope you’ll share the news of our upcoming broadcast in July as well as these more personal broadcasts as broadly as possible. Have you ever considered asking your local diocesan newspaper to feature them? If not, please do!

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