Five Years Strong

  • By admin
  • April 4, 2020
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Teresa Pitt Green, Founder

I remember early steps to found this magazine, which now reaches every diocese in the United States – and is read in English-speaking Catholic circles around the world, like the United Kingdom, Ireland, Europe, Australia, Guam, South Africa and the Vatican.

There was that first phone call which several survivors of clergy abuse attended after Thomas Tharayil, LSW, BCD, suggested we all meet and consider taking over a newsletter his office had issued occasionally.

Tom was and still is the Director of Chicago’s Office of Assistance Ministry. People should get to know the long-time veterans ministering in this rare and little-known role in the Church. Tom’s connections to survivors, and his generous offers of care and compassion, reach well beyond his technical bailiwick. That included having made contact with a survivor in Virginia hundreds of miles away. That was … me.

Tom had heard of me from Francis Cardinal George, OMI, who (I am told) suggested his staff read my first book, Restoring Sanctuary, which is a chronicle about the helpers who drove me home to Catholicism. Tom invited me in 2011 to write an article for a newsletter he was publishing for survivors in Chicago. I wrote about my experience of recovery as learning to make distinctions, such as between forgiveness and enabling – and between priest and abuser. That article was called, simply, Making Distinctions, and remains the most requested and downloaded article I’ve written to date.

The impact of the good and devoted, self-giving victim pastors in the Church can be overlooked, even by clergy, but in this case the connection – gift, really – Gave me some life-saving friends like none others. Like Mike Hoffman.

Mike Hoffman, who is the editor of this issue annually, is a rock for so many survivors and many others rattled by the reality of abuse. His courage in the face of his own abuse is unique and empowering to others.

Mike has no only served in many capacities in the Church, developing the annual archdiocesan Mass for Hope and Healing (nine years strong!), healing prayer services and Pinwheels for Prevention events. He has also been instrumental in creating sacred spaces in Chicago and supporting their development in places as far away as Australia.

Mike has served in various leadership roles with Prevent Child Abuse – Illinois, for which he most recently has been serving as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. PCA Illinois offers a wealth of free information and materials for ways everyone can participate in keeping kids safe.

While the Five Years Strong anniversary of The Healing Voices Magazine is a shared accomplishment among a group of survivors, this annual issue devoted to child protection is entirely Mike’s own contribution. When he sees this post, he will object to the mention and want me to explain why I didn’t write the post about a conference we are holding soon.

And, he might even agitate for me to delete this post about him, but, ah, to control the passkeys for the blog and the skills to post … there’s the power. This tribute will not be taken down.

Indeed, it is important to understand that Mike Hoffman has raised a family and been a devoted husband and godly man not just despite the brutality and injustice visited upon him – but because of it. He has taken the darkness he encountered at an age far too young and in a way far to unprotected and transformed it into a person and a way of being that reflects one thing about all things – the power of grace.

I had the honor of reviewing his book, Acts of Recovery: The Story of One Man’s Ongoing Healing from Child Sexual Abuse by a Priest, in an article entitled Every Precious One, which talked about Mike’s ability to walk through his own recovery and to seek to ensure protection for every precious child.

But the “every precious one” to which the article title refers is actually Mike, and his astonishing and humble story, and every other precious gem of a story every other survivor has to offer – if only we can find ways to listen as healers. For that, The Healing Voices Magazine was founded, and to that end Mike has worked tirelessly as one of the most dedicated and hard-working of all the editors.

Adding to the surreal experience of these days of pandemic has been, for me, observing the grief and outcry, even outrage, by Catholics for not having access to the Eucharist in person. Someday a few of them may see some parallel in the agonies and angers of survivors of clergy abuse who could find no way home to the Eucharist, facing bars to homecoming by any number of additional injustices perpetrated against us over years.

And, this brings into focus exactly why Mike and I and others keep working on The Healing Voices Magazine. We don’t know the path for each person back to God, nor even the look of each person’s healed relationship with God, but we do know that, once the children’s safety is kept “at the center of the room,” as Cardinal Blase J. Cupich has said, it’s time to go back out looking for every single precious one – to offer safe homecoming after all.

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