The Safe Environment Program for the Diocese of St. Augustine has been in place in one form or another since 1998. All elements of our program are required by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and the essential norms deriving from the Charter. The essential norms, having received the recognition of the Holy See, are particular law in the dioceses of the United States.

Director of Safe Environment
Donna Wilhelm
(904) 262-3200, ext. 104

Compliance Coordinator
Lucy Hedden
(904) 262-3200, ext. 111

Victim Assistance Coordinator
Tina Nugent
(904) 208-6979

Victim Advocate
Ann Crowder
(904) 333-2814

The diocesan Safe Environment Program consists of the following components:

  • background check and screening program for clergy, religious, lay employees, educators and covered volunteers. It is diocesan policy that background checks and screening be completed before a person assumes his or her position or begins volunteer service; there can be no compromises or exceptions regarding this aspect of our Safe Environment Program.
  • The Protecting God’s Children program is designed to educate clergy, religious, employees, educators and volunteers in ways and means to establish and maintain a safe environment for children and youth.
  • The Touching Safety and alternative program – Children & Youth Personal Safety – are designed to provide children and youth the tools they need to overcome the advances of someone who intends to do them harm. These two programs are designed to assist parents and teachers in this important task. It is of vital importance that every child and every youth in our Catholic schools, religious education programs and parish youth programs be given the opportunity to take part in this critical element of our Safe Environment Program. Here again, there can be no compromises or short-cuts taken.

All of the above components of our diocesan program are in full compliance with the requirements of the USCCB’s Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. Bishop Felipe J. Estévez has directed that the program be fully implemented and continue to be fully implemented in each parish, school and agency of the diocese.

We will continue to evaluate all of the components of our Safe Environment Program. Whenever changes are called for, or improvements are possible, we will strive to implement them expeditiously.

For detailed information on the Touching Safety and Children & Youth Personal Safety programs, click on the following links:  

2015 Safe Environment Program Handbook for Pastors, School Principals, Diocesan and Parish Leaders

Overview of the Touching Safety Program – English

Overview of the Touching Safety Program – Spanish

Touching Safety Parent Opt-Out Form (English)

Touching Safety Parent Opt-Out Form (Spanish)

Lesson plans for the Virtus Touching Safety Program can be obtained by emailing one of the following diocesan entities:

Catholic School Educators – Deacon Scott Conway (

Parish Religious Educators – Erin McGeever (

Youth Ministers – Robin Shipley (

All others – Donna Wilhelm (

Children & Youth Personal Safety program – An alternative program to the Touching Safety program:

Letter from Bishop Felipe J. Estévez
Introduction & Implementation Instructions
Know the Rules – General Tips for Parent and Guardians on How to Keep their Children Safer

High School Lesson Plan
High School Materials
High School Parent Letter
High School Parent Letter [Spanish]

Intermediate Grades Lesson Plan
Intermediate Grades Materials
Intermediate Grades Parent Letter
Intermediate Grades Parent Letter [Spanish]

Primary Grades Lesson Plan
Primary Grades Materials
Primary Grades Parent Letter
Primary Grades Parent Letter [Spanish]