Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are called to share our gifts with one another and with the world. Given the importance of this call from God, it is essential that we, as a community, do all we can to assure that the right gifts are shared in the right way, at the right time and by the right people. We fulfill our mission more effectively when we make every effort to ensure a richer, stronger, more vibrant and safer community of faith.
INTRODUCTION on "The Theological Framework" OF STRENGTHENING OUR PARISH COMMUNITIES
David Corry on "The Legal Landscape"
Lisa Michetti on "Ten Steps of Volunteer Screening"
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.
Catholic Pastoral Centre
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Pope St. John XXIII described the Catholic Church as a loving, patient mother, called to be an agent of the “medicine of Mercy”. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is leading us to a much deeper understanding of this “medicine.” Pope St. John Paul II explained that “Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person is a Good Samaritan.” That Samaritan, of course, was the one Jesus described, who showed mercy to an injured man by the road.
Vulnerability of the Sick Person
Pope Francis suggests that “illness places human existence in crisis and brings with it questions. Why has this happened to me? We can feel desperate, thinking that all is lost, that things no longer have meaning.” This experience makes the sick person vulnerable. He or she is defenceless, powerless, weak in some way and in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.
A desire to minister to another is a remarkable gift. The name “Good Samaritan” fits every individual who is sensitive to the sufferings of others. To be present to those persons is certainly not easy but Pope Francis explains the necessity of this service: “How wonderful and pleasing to God it is to be servants of others! This makes us like Jesus, who ‘did not come to be served but to serve’” [Mk 10:45]. Those who do pastoral care exhibit the best of human and divine qualities.
We know that even healthy children are susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. However, those who are already suffering often wear the signs of their vulnerability outwardly. Parish pastoral care teams in the Calgary Diocese have been models of willingness to embrace screening protocols for working with the vulnerable. Many have asked for elder abuse awareness training which is now readily available.
Pope John Paul II initiated the World Day of Prayer for the Sick in 1992 to encourage people to pray for those who suffer from illness and for their caregivers. For our loved ones who suffer because of illness we ask first for their health. But love makes us ask for even more. We ask for peace, a serenity in life that comes from the heart, which God, in His mercy, does not deny to those who trust. On this World Day of the Sick let us ask Jesus in his mercy, to grant to all of us the readiness to serve our vulnerable, infirm brothers and sisters.