For a number of years, I have been helping with this program to make our parish and our church more safe for the vulnerable. What I believe is that we are making progress with our Model Code of Conduct, Police Information Checks, and abuse prevention training for the parishioners who help in our high and medium risk ministries.
It is so important to be aware of our seniors and children. While being around the elderly, I notice how they are so wonderful and helpful to all and they have so much knowledge to share with us. By getting to know them, we begin to see what they are going through, and what abuse some have received from people in their lives. Some just stay silent, but we all must be aware and reach out to them.
The deathly silence of some of those victims, our own elders, brings to mind Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth” [53:7]. And again, “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities…” [53:5]. This reminds us of the truth that many vulnerable suffer by the sinful actions of others.
Isaiah says that this suffering and this iniquity would make us whole, that “by his wounds are we healed.” But we know that healing is a long way off for many, even some very close to us. There are no excuses for violence and abusive behavior. We are only very slowly learning that, if someone is abused mentally or physically or sexually, blaming the victim is never justified.
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, says that “this world is in trouble and I am urging us to work for all of humanity.” We know that we are children of God and as St. Paul has explained, the Spirit we have received gives us the grace to cry “Abba, Father” and to be free from the fear of being slaves [Rom 8:15]. With the grace of the Holy Spirit and the willingness to question and change our lives to help each other in strengthening our parishes and protecting our vulnerable, we can realize God’s desire for all people to live as his beloved children.
This is a time of change in our diocese, but also of celebration, for the Protection of Minors Diocesan Committee. We say farewell to Bishop Henry and welcome Bishop McGrattan. We also say goodbye to and thank Dave Wilson, our committee chair, who has provided outstanding leadership over the years.
It has been gratifying to have national and local newspapers recognize Bishop Henry’s care for the poor, and in particular, his leadership in founding programs for the homeless in our city.
Our particular cause for celebration is the success of the Protection of Minors initiative in the Diocese. This work has amply reflected Bishop Henry’s identification with those who particularly need our care and concern. Bishop Henry has consistently acknowledged that we must take action to restore the confidence of the world in our Church, as we are the face of Christ’s mission.
In February 2011, he launched our program to protect minors and vulnerable adults, under the diocesan banner of Strengthening Our Parish Communities. He has supported the transformation of how we run all of our diocesan programs. At the same time, the value of those in ministry has been enhanced to reflect their roles in keeping the vulnerable safe. In so many areas, great strides have been made to provide measures to protect the vulnerable:
- Screening of all, whether volunteers, staff or clergy, who serve the vulnerable
- Training in both child abuse prevention and elder abuse prevention
- Supporting pastoral care, especially of the elderly
- Ongoing efforts to end homelessness and provide affordable housing, such as Acadia Place and
- Offering strong programs like Elizabeth House, Feed the Hungry and Youth Ministry.
On the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Pope Francis addressed the bishops of the world directly, “To contemplate the manger also means to be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbours, especially where children are involved. The same thing is asked of us pastors today: to protect from the Herods of our own time, those who devour the innocence of our children. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children.”
The challenge for our committee has been that of educating parishioners with respect to the need to protect young people and vulnerable adults from any kind of abuse. We can safely rejoice in the development of awareness and success of the program. Today we can say with confidence that our leader has had that courage called for by Pope Francis. Again, we thank Bishop Henry!
For more information about the initiatives, including the online abuse prevention training, please contact your parish volunteer screening coordinator or call Deacon Stephen Robinson or Barbara Raleigh-Smith at (403) 218-5549 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following are a collection of articles written over the past few years on the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults.
- A New Normal
- Outdoor Way of the Cross: A Way of Prayer, a Way of Suffering, a Way of Joy
- Facilities and Safe Environments
- How Are My Records Kept
- It's Not Over...Ever!
- The Medicine of Mercy
- Pastoral Care Strengthens our Parish Communities
- Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults: Everyone Has a Part to Play
- Safe Environments for Children and Vulnerable Adults
- Strengthening our Parish Communities: Signs of New Life
- Step Eight: Called to Protect
- Volunteers, Gifts, and the Spirit
- We are Not Alone
Step 8 of the "10 Steps of Volunteer Screening" addresses the need for education. We know that implementing our policies and procedures is a necessary step to making abuse impossible. However, to create an environment where abuse is unthinkable and everyone is part of a "culture of safety," we need to educate everyone who has any kind of leadership or who holds a position of responsibility in the parish. Our diocesan requirement is that this includes all clergy, staff, Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Council members, everyone who works with or around minors or vulnerable adults, coordinators of all ministries, even if their ministry does not involve minors, and all facility key holders.
Child Sexual Abuse Training
Called to Protect: group workshop training
The classroom program is excellent for parishes and programs which are just beginning to train their people or which have a number of new volunteers. Called to Protect is a 2 to 2.5 hour workshop, with videos and presentation content, purchased from Praesidium Inc. in the United States. With this training, our people satisfy the initial sexual abuse prevention program requirements. Sexual abuse prevention training must also be refreshed at least every two years. This would be done using Praesidium's online training, called Armatus.
Armatus: online training
The required initial education component of the "10 Steps of Volunteer Screening" can also be satisfied by individuals going online to complete the education modules from Praesidium. They call this program Armatus. The basic modules take about the same amount of time to complete as the workshop (2 hours). Armatus training is also the tool for the required refresher training, which should take place at least every two years. New modules (not just rehashing the original material) are regularly added for this purpose. People in all of the categories listed above must go through an average of one new module per year. Typically, each module takes 30 minutes to complete. If you have already been given login instructions or are already enrolled as a user, you may click on the link below at any time. If not, please contact your Parish Screening Coordinator or Ministry Coordinator to get set up.
Elder Abuse Awareness Training
In addition to the training for child sexual abuse prevention, those who are working with vulnerable adults in care facilities and visiting their homes, the Diocese of Calgary has trained a number of people who can deliver a 2.5 hour workshop called "Taking Action Against Abuse of Older Adults: An Awareness Workshop". This program was developed by the YWCA and has been made available to us free of charge. Please see your pastor or parish screening coordinator to find out if there may be a workshop in your parish or region.
For a summary of the 10 Steps of Volunteer Screening, click here.
Most common screening documents:
- Volunteer information form
- Sample interview questions
- Interview helps
- Reference check questionnaire
- Agreement to abide by the Model Code of Conduct
- Participant follow-up survey
- Self-review form
Other screening documents: