While most of the process has focused on the interactive relationship between the vulnerable persons, volunteers, coordinators and facilitators, we are not neglecting to also focus on abuse prevention through attention to the physical layout of the parish buildings and meeting areas.
An example of how the physical layout process has worked for the St. James Parish communities in Okotoks and Black Diamond was in the planning and building of the parish hall and office addition. While the planning process was underway, it gave an excellent opportunity to upgrade the existing physical structure of the eight year old church, as well as incorporate the new safety guidelines into the addition.
This resulted in incorporating considerations that led to a much more secure and risk free environment including:
- Replacing the solid sliding doors in the two existing meeting rooms in the narthex with side glass and swinging doors with glass panes.
- The small kitchen was opened up with a second door and an additional pass through opening.
- Two individual handicapped bathrooms were installed to make it easier for the individuals with a caregiver.
- Windows were installed in the confessional doors.
The new construction ensured:
- Each meeting room has an interior side glass, and outside windows.
- The children’s liturgy room has a bathroom included within the room so that young children don’t have to leave to use the public washrooms.
- The entrance to the hall is controlled by key fobs rather than keys; enabling the staff to manage access for volunteer rotations.
- The two main entrance doors are controlled by timers that open the doors during office hours and lock them after hours.
- Extra exterior lighting covers all parking lot and building areas.
Fr. Jaroslaw (Yarek) Dziuba and the parish staff, as well as the volunteers, have been blessed to be able to incorporate the SOPC structural guidelines within the new building. While not all parishes have the opportunity to renovate or to build, these guidelines are readily available as changes become affordable. Some updates are very cost effective taken on their own if a parish wishes to proceed with undertaking them one at a time.
As Strengthening our Parish Communities matures into the five-year window of renewing forms and vulnerable sector police checks, this initiative has moved from a “program” to an ingrained way of ministering for all in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.
The acceptance of this process has progressed from a few being okay with it, to the majority of the volunteers now having embraced and completed the process. The journey to this stage has taken some time and has been successful through the faith and dedication of the volunteer ministers. There is factual evidence that the process is working to protect the volunteers, and the vulnerable. In a few instances it has either dissuaded risky volunteers from applying for a ministry position; brought to light the need to move individuals that posed a risk to the groups or individuals they were serving.
For more information, please call (403) 218-5549 or visit http://www.calgarydiocese.ca/about-us/departments/safe-environment.html.