Statement from Bishop Felipe J. Estévez in response to the failure of Church leadership to protect the Lord’s flock

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

It is with profound sadness and shame that I write to you, the people of God of the Diocese of St. Augustine, regarding the crisis our church now faces.

                              Bishop Felipe J. Estévez

Many of you have written to me, emailed and responded through social media. I have read your concerns, and I share your anger, frustration, and dismay over the recent grand jury report in Pennsylvania and the allegations that have come to light against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

I want you to know that I hear you. You have made it abundantly clear that you don’t want more apologies on behalf of the bishops – rather you want to see corrective actions taken against Church leaders who have failed to protect the people they serve. You wonder whether your children are safe in our parishes and schools? You question if allegations are taken seriously? And, like me, you resent what all of this has done to the Church that Jesus Christ established and that you love so much.

I know there is little I can say to restore your trust in the leadership of the Church, but I can assure you of my firmest commitment to provide safe environments for everyone, especially our children and vulnerable adults.

As a first step in that promise of transparency, I want you to know that since 1987 the Diocese of St. Augustine has had in place an independent Review Board that is comprised of lay men and women with the expertise in civil and canon law, criminal investigation, psychology, medicine, and victim advocacy.

When an allegation is made, we have a victim assistance coordinator who accompanies them through the process of reporting their abuse. All necessary reports are made to law enforcement for investigation, and the member of the clergy in question is removed from ministry pending the outcome of an investigation. All sexual child abuse cases are sent to the Review Board to evaluate and provide me with recommendations on appropriate actions. This Board holds me accountable for action.

The stories of those who have suffered abuse are delicate and personal. Their pain is heartbreaking to me. Mostly, when victims come forward after suffering so long, they are not necessarily seeking financial gain. Most are selflessly seeking only to be heard and to do what they can to ensure others won’t be harmed because they were silent – and in telling their story, they can begin the healing process. In response, the diocese welcomes them and seeks to accompany them with pastoral care and offers financial assistance for counseling and other services. I pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort, and strength in God’s loving presence.

In the next several months, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be working to improve the 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” regarding the safe environment program. In particular, they will address how bishops will be held accountable for their actions and inactions; a process for prompt, independent, and transparent review will be addressed. I am fully committed to this work and to ensuring that bishops and priests are held not only accountable for their actions but also held accountable for failing to report and hold their brother bishops and priests accountable.

Please know that in the days, weeks and months ahead I will be working closely with lay experts to strengthen the policies and procedures we have in place in our diocese. I look forward to sharing with you the outcome of this work.

You are important to this work. I call upon you to hold me accountable and to pray for me and all the bishops as we pursue resolutions and decisive actions.

I pray for all of you that you will maintain your witness of faith and hope even in these difficult times. Your prayers are needed now more than ever.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez, S.T.D.

Bishop of St. Augustine

August 17, 2018

______________________

Clic aquí para leer Declaración en Español

Other letters from Bishop Estévez:

Bishop Estévez Remains Fully Committed to Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults

Catholic Writers Guild, St. Johns Chapter Monthly Meeting

The Catholic Writers Guild, St. Johns Chapter will have its Monthly Meeting on Saturday, September 8, 2018 at St. Paul’s Church & School Auditorium (2609 Park Street) in Jacksonville from 10:00 a.m. to noon. All those interested (including poets, fiction and non-fiction, screen play writers, musicians, artists, editors, illustrators, etc.) are invited. Refreshments served with a raffle. Panel discussion – “Marketing Your Book” – Jack Manilla, Tony Kolenc & Jacqueline Brown – local authors. For further information contact R. T. Beaman at writerrod@comcast.net or P. Babadi at wordsbypaula@gmail.com.

Post expires at 1:00pm on Monday August 27th, 2018

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Announces Effort That Will Involve Laity, Experts, and the Vatican stating, “Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions,” as U.S. Bishops’ Offer Firm Resolve to Address “Moral Catastrophe”

August 16, 2018

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement after a series of meetings with members of the USCCB’s Executive Committee and other bishops this week. The following statement includes three goals and three principles, along with initial steps of a plan that will involve laity, experts, and the Vatican. A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Read More

Bishop Estévez Remains Fully Committed to Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults

On Tuesday, August 14, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report on widespread sexual child abuse involving 301 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses. According to the report, the abuses occurred over a 70 year period and involved more than 1,000 victims and their families. And even more horrific, the report said church leaders knew of the abuses, and some did not prevent it from again.

In the wake of the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, the allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other allegations that have come to light involving seminaries, Bishop Felipe Estévez of the Diocese of St. Augustine said he remains firmly committed to providing safe environments for everyone, especially children and vulnerable adults.

Bishop Felipe J. Estévez

“I am profoundly saddened to hear of the lives that have been shattered at the hands of clergymen and the mishandling of these cases over a 70-year period,” said Bishop Estévez. “I want to see greater transparency and greater accountability among all bishops, and we must demonstrate a spirit of repentance and recommitment so that such abuse cannot happen again and we can restore the full trust of our people.”

The Diocese of St. Augustine implemented policies and procedures to address allegations of abuse in 1987. In 2002, the U.S. Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter was revised in 2011 and again in 2018. The Charter pledges to maintain transparency and to provide for the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone.

As part of the Charter, each diocese is audited annually with onsite visits by independent auditors every three years. The Diocese of St. Augustine is getting ready for an onsite review in October to ensure we are demonstrating transparency and accountability. The diocese has been found compliant every year since the audits began in 2003.

Here are some of the measures in place in the Diocese of St. Augustine:

  • More than 45,000 adults in the diocese have been trained in the Protecting God’s Children program.
  • Since 2002, the diocese has screened and conducted national and international criminal background checks on more than 48,000 clergy, employees and volunteers with renewal checks every five years.
  • The diocese spends on average $220,000 each year for its child protection efforts.
  • Children who attend our Catholic schools and parish programs are taught to recognize a predator’s grooming process, to say “No,” and to tell their parents and other trusted adults about such behavior.
  • Procedures are in place to respond promptly with compassion to all reports of misconduct – treating all victims with dignity, respect, privacy, and confidentiality.
  • The Bishop meets with victims to assist in their recovery.
  • There is a Zero Tolerance for sexual abusers.

Also, the diocese has in place an independent Review Board to hear complaints and allegations, to investigate the claims and provide direction on their outcomes. The board is made up of a sitting district judge, a prosecuting attorney with experience in sex crimes, a child psychiatrist, a physician, nurse, former police detective, a victims advocate and other lay men and women who serve as staff.

How to Report Abuse notices, in various languages, are published in parish bulletins and the St. Augustine Catholic magazine. The notices provide the phone numbers to the Department of Children and Families and the diocese.

The Province of Miami, which comprised of the seven dioceses and its bishops in Florida, will meet in November to review the policies and procedures in place. The bishops continually look for ways to strengthen their efforts. It is unfortunate that we continue to hear of child abuse cases committed by clergy, but the diocese is doing everything possible to protect our children and vulnerable adults. That is our foremost concern.

As Catholics, we need to be reminded that a majority of the abuses we are hearing about in the media today are the failings of church leadership from the last century. That is not the church we have today. Our bishops have mandated the implementation of strict policies and procedures to safeguard our children and vulnerable adults. They are committed to transparency and accountability. But more work needs to be done.

If you would like to discuss this further, please call Kathleen Bagg at (904) 262-1705, or call (904) 262-3200, ext. 129 to report abuse. To view our policies and procedures, visit www.dosafl.com and click on the Safe Environments tab on the homepage.

________________________

Click to view Diocesan Policies & Procedures

BASA Ministry Highlight

Did you know? There are Parish Family Life Coordinators in 35 parishes within the Diocese of St. Augustine. The mission of this network of volunteers is to promote a culture of marriage and family through training and resources provided by the Diocese of St. Augustine Office of Family Life. Your faithful support of the Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal helps provide assistance to diocesan ministries like the Office of Family Life. It’s not too late to give to Bishop’s Annual Stewardship Appeal! Go to www.dosafl.com/ways-to-give/ to make your 2018 gift.

Post expires at 1:00pm on Monday August 27th, 2018

Florida Catholic Conference Announcements – Election Season

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops recommends publishing the following announcements in parish bulletins beginning three Sundays before both the Primary and General Elections. Parishes may choose from the three sample announcements provided or use all three.

Recommended publication prior to Primary Election: August 12, 19 and 26
Recommended publication prior to General Election: October 21, 28 and November 4

2018 Candidate Questionnaire Project: What’s a Catholic voter to do?
Catholic faithful are urged to choose their political leaders according to principle, not party affiliation or mere self-interest. To help parishioners become informed on where candidates stand on key issues, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has polled those running for U.S. Congress and the Florida Legislature. To see how candidates appearing on the August 28 Primary Election / November 6 General Election ballots responded to the questionnaire, visit www.flaccb.org.

2018 Candidate Questionnaire Project: Let your conscience be your guide
Catholic faithful are called to political engagement shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable. To help parishioners become informed on where candidates stand on key issues, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has polled those running for U.S. Congress and the Florida Legislature. To see how candidates appearing on the August 38 Primary Election / November 6 General Election ballots responded to the questionnaire, visit www.flaccb.org.

2018 Candidate Questionnaire Project: An informed voter is a responsible voter
The U.S. bishops remind us, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation.” To help parishioners become informed on where candidates stand on key issues, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has polled those running for U.S. Congress and the Florida Legislature. To see how candidates appearing on the August 28 Primary Election / November 6 General Election ballots responded to the questionnaire, visit www.flaccb.org.

ESPAÑOL

La Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de la Florida recomienda que los siguientes anuncios se publiquen en los boletines parroquiales comenzando tres domingos antes de ambas elecciones, las primarias y las generales. Las parroquias pueden escoger uno de los tres ejemplos proveídos o usarlos todos.

Se recomienda que los anuncios antes de las elecciones primarias se publiquen de agosto 12, 19 y agosto 26
Se recomienda que los anuncios antes de las elecciones generales se publiquen de octubre 21, 28 y noviembre 4

Proyecto del Cuestionario de los Candidatos 2018: ¿Qué debe hacer el votante católico?
Los fieles católicos son urgidos a escoger sus líderes políticos basados en sus principios, no en la afiliación partidista o interés personal. La Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de la Florida, para asistir a los feligreses que quieren conocer la posición de candidatos políticos sobre temas claves, ha encuestado aquellos postulándose para el congreso y la legislatura estatal. Para ver como los candidatos, que aparecerán en la papeleta de la Elección Primaria de agosto 28/Elección General de noviembre 6, respondieron al cuestionario, visite www.flaccb.org.

Proyecto del Cuestionario de los Candidatos 2018: Que su conciencia sea su guía
Los fieles católicos somos llamados a la participación política. Esta participación debe ser influida por las convicciones morales de conciencias bien formadas y enfocada en la dignidad de cada ser humano, la búsqueda del bien común, y la protección de los débiles y vulnerables. La Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de la Florida, para asistir a los feligreses que quieren conocer la posición de candidatos políticos sobre temas claves, ha encuestado aquellos postulándose para el congreso y la legislatura estatal. Para ver como los candidatos, que aparecerán en la papeleta de la Elección Primaria de agosto 28/Elección General de noviembre 6, respondieron al cuestionario, visite www.flaccb.org.

Proyecto del Cuestionario de los Candidatos 2018: Un votante informado es un votante responsable
Los obispos estadounidenses nos recuerdan que: “En la Tradición católica, ser ciudadanos responsables es una virtud y la participación en la vida política es una obligación moral.” La Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de la Florida, para asistir a los feligreses que quieren conocer la posición de candidatos políticos sobre temas claves, ha encuestado aquellos postulándose para el congreso y la legislatura estatal. Para ver como los candidatos, que aparecerán en la papeleta de la Elección Primaria de agosto 28/Elección General de noviembre 6, respondieron al cuestionario, visite www.flaccb.org.

Post expires at 1:00pm on Monday October 22nd, 2018

Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends

Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends is an educational seminar, created by Dr. Bruce Fisher, for those adjusting to the end of a love relationship through separation, divorce, abandonment, or death. The 10-week Rebuilding Program offers an ecumenical, comprehensive guide as well as a support system to help in the healing process. The next session begins on Thursday, September 13 and continues every Thursday through November 15. Classes are held 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Holy Family Parish Life Center in Jacksonville (9800 Baymeadows Road in Jacksonville). The cost to attend the program is $60. Materials will be provided at the first class. Rebuilding is sponsored by the Diocesan Office of Family Life . Please visit www.dosafl.com or call (904) 262-3200 for the required registration.

Post expires at 1:00pm on Monday September 3rd, 2018

Pro-Life Pregnancy Center Opens on the Westside

The newest Women’s Help Center location at 4116 Blanding Blvd. is now open! We are excited to expand our services to the many women and families on the Westside who may be facing an unplanned pregnancy. All of our services are provided free of charge. The phone number at the Blanding Blvd. location is (904) 503-2964. Please call if you are interested in volunteering or would like a tour of our beautiful new center. And know that we are always here for every woman who may be faced with an unplanned or unexpected pregnancy.

Post expires at 1:00pm on Monday August 20th, 2018

Best Practices Workshops in Adult Faith Formation – Sign-up today!

     Dominican Sister Janet Schaeffler

Since Vatican II, the Church has officially published more than eight documents calling for adults to be the center of the Church’s formational mission. Now more than ever, adults need to be equipped to share their faith in new and engaging ways to the next generations of believers.  For most adults, the catechesis they received as children is simply not enough to continue in the faith as adults.  There is a desire for a deepened understanding of the Catholic faith.

In order to address this need brought forth in listening sessions and reiterated in the new diocesan pastoral plan, the Office of Christian Formation has invited Dominican Sister Janet Schaeffler to provide three free parish workshops on Best Practices in Adult Faith Formation. These will be held on:

  • Monday, August 13 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Holy Spirit Parish Hall
  • Monday, August 13  6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Queen of Peace Parish Hall, Gainesville
  • Tuesday, August 14  6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  St. Catherine of Siena Parish Hall

Please follow the link below to register and share this link with those in your location who serve in adult faith formation.

https://form.jotform.com/cformation/adult-faith-formation-

About Sister Janet

She currently accompanies others on their faith-journey through days of reflection/retreats, parish missions, workshops, catechist formation opportunities, adult faith formation opportunities, as well as online courses through Crossroads at Boston College, the VLCFF at the University of Dayton and the Vibrant Faith Institute.

Sr. Janet created and publishes GEMS – a monthly newsletter flowing from an ongoing international adult faith formation best practices study.

In 2010, she received the NCCL Distinguished Service Award in Catechetics.

She is the author of hundreds of articles and publications.

Some of her recent publications are: 

Deepening Faith: Adult Faith Formation in the Parish

The Spirituality of Catechists

Teaching Kids to Care

How to Talk to Children about Jesus

Hope: An Anchor in Today’s World

The Seasons of Adult Faith Formation

The Creed: Understanding and Sharing What We Believe

Pep Talks for Catechists

A Prayerbook for Eucharistic Ministers

Creative Connections for Catechists from A to Z

Prayer from A to Z

Lessons and Activities on What Makes Us Catholic

Celebrating Catechetical Sunday – “Enlisting Witnesses for Christ”

The third Sunday of September in the United States is celebrated as Catechetical Sunday in honor to acknowledge and commission those who are catechists.  In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II, said, “Among the laity who become evangelizers, catechists have a place of honor…Catechists are among those who have received Christ’s command to ‘go and teach all nations.’”

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