While chatting with some folks after mass, a leader in the parish came by to lock the door we were standing near. I was surprised, but he said it is now standard practice to lock certain doors while the collection is being processed. Since some break-ins and other incidents have taken place, we are taking more precautions for the safety of the building, the parish resources, and for the parishioners.
Was what we were doing before so wrong? Of course not! What we did in the past was considered adequate at the time. However, with new awareness of the need for increased security, we are adapting, and avoiding risk and negative consequences.
What we are doing to protect our children, youth and vulnerable adults is similar in many respects. We acknowledge that some of the good people in our parish(es) consider the 10 Steps of Volunteer Screening a nuisance at best, or an indication of mistrust, at worst. On the other hand, many have embraced the fact that there is no question that we must implement the new strategies in place to strengthen our parish communities in safety.
The 10 Steps of Volunteer Screening have been implemented with collaboration of clergy, employees, and volunteers from all parishes and programs of the diocese. Here is what has been accomplished over the last five years:
- All clergy, employees, and volunteers have agreed to abide by our Model Code of Conduct. This code is a minimum standard for behaviour, something all good organizations have.
- Approximately 5,000 Vulnerable Sector Police Checks have been completed by local police and the RCMP, for clergy, employees, and volunteers ministering to children, youth and vulnerable adults. Most checks will be renewed this year.
- More than 3,000 people have participated in a Called To Protect™ workshop. This is the education component for how to prevent child sexual abuse, and parishes continue to offer this workshop to their parishioners.
- More than 1,200 users are at various stages of completing the Armatus™ online training, as part of the ongoing refresher training in child abuse prevention. All present volunteers with minors as well as employees and clergy are expected to complete this refresher this year.
- More than 150 pastoral care ministers and others have attended our elder abuse awareness workshop called Taking Action Against Abuse of Older Adults. Parishes continue to offer this workshop to those in ministry, as well as volunteers.
Continuing to Protect
Having offered the recent Called To Protect™ workshops at St. Patrick's in Calgary (50 people) and St. Thomas More (90 people), we have been told that our parishes and ministries are continuing to hold training sessions, striving to become safer all the time. Workshops are planned this month at St. Vincent Liem, St. Mark's, and St. Anne's in Calgary, and Holy Family in Medicine Hat. We congratulate the parish screening coordinators for communicating the need for training and screening documentation so well with their people.
We are at a stage now where the next steps require creating new motivation to make the program self sustaining at the parishes. Any parish wishing to get an idea of where they are in the process can email Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (403) 218-5549 to obtain a parish self-assessment checklist or book a parish abuse prevention workshop.
April and May bring us nature's profound participation in resurrected life. Our place in the Church's liturgical year invites us into a deep experience of the Easter mysteries of Christ's redeeming, loving and merciful presence. When coinciding with our actions to help bring God's kingdom closer, these wonderful realities become even greater signs of new life.