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MORGANTOWN — “We will not let this culture of abuse continue to be swept under the rug, silenced, and ignored. We will not stand silent.”

That was the opening proclamation Saturday at the Morgantown Farmer’s Market where members from several Catholic churches in the area came together to break the silence of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. In 2018, many stories hit the media about clergy involved in sexual abuse, including the Pittsburgh area.

Charles DiSalvo, a member of the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church said people from St. John’s, St. Marys and his own church were present Saturday morning.

“The idea was we felt as though it’s time for lay people to step up,” he said.

Priests and bishops are considered clergy, a non-ordained member of the church is lay person.

DiSalvo said the group hopes to make priests and bishops more accountable to the laity so that further sexual abuse is prevented in the future. He said the suggestion has been made that there be created lay board to oversee allegations of misconduct by clergy.

“Most people who gathered here this morning would support that approach,” he said.

Betty Evans, also a member of St. Francis de Sales, had the original idea to bring together the churches to break the silence against sexual abuse. She said the situation has proved difficult, and the faithful feel that coming together Saturday was an opportunity to come out and speak out.

“We need to see that there’s more transparency within the church ranks and church hierarchy to make sure that this never happens again,” said Evans.

Praying together for the victims, and hearing stories of victims, Evans said it is sad to know that is what is associated with the leadership of the Catholic Church. She said there are so many wonderful priests within the church that do wonderful things and it proves difficult for them as well.

“Quite frankly, I think we’re still waiting to hear what the plan is from the hierarchy to see what’s in place for resolution to the way these kinds of things are handled,” she said.

She said lay people need to be a part of this process because they can add to the solution. As someone looking from it from the outside of the church, it may be seen as a bad situation, but Evans said within the church it’s a crisis situation.

“That’s why efforts like this are so important. We want people to know that we as the faithful Catholics realize it’s a crisis. We don’t have blind eyes to it,” she said.

Evans said it’s a work in progress with a planning committee and meetings bringing together the like-minded. She said ideas come out of those meetings and new ideas are constantly unfolding. She said there are a lot of faithful people involved that are dedicated to restoring faith within the church. The effort has also seen support from clergy, too.

“Our Monsignor Cincinnati has said that he would pray for us and our efforts and he wished us a good turnout. He wished us well today for this effort. We’ve had nothing but support from our church,” she said.






















Under the pavilion on Spruce Street, in the cold drizzle, over 30 members from various Catholic churches in the region joined together for their second annual prayer service for the victims of clerical sexual abuse under former Bishop Michael Bransfield. The service was to pray for healing and well-being.

“It’s letting victims know that they’re not forgotten,” said Frances Brownfield, a member of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church.

Brownfield added that the prayer service was a way to “channel anger” and to “get some good out of the way they’re feeling.”

The service was part of a movement hosted by Lay Catholic Voices for Change, a religious organization based in Morgantown.

Patricia Schaeffer, member of St. Luke Catholic Church, felt personally compelled to get more involved as someone of the Catholic faith.

“I’m hoping to promote further steps of healing … that they know there are many of us here in support of them that care about them,” Schaeffer said. “It’s a way to help me come to terms with it.”


Tiffany Morgan/The Dominion Post
Several members of Catholic churches around the region gathered for the Lay Catholic Voices for Change prayer service.

The proclamation of Lay Catholic Voices for Change stated, “We will not let this culture of abuse continue to be swept under the rug, silenced and ignored. We will not stand silent. We will let it be known that this is the age when the laity will rise up in the time of deep crisis to help Christ and His Church.

“We cannot let the Church forget that this is unacceptable. We continue to work towards justice and healing. The damage of these sins ripple through generations and it will take many years of prayer, dedication and action to overcome. We work within our diocese by building initiatives and lay involvement and by joining other larger groups to keep a vigilant eye on church leadership.”

Lori Brooks, member of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church, said the prayer service gives those of Catholic faith an opportunity to try to understand what the victims went through.

“We’re holding this prayer service so that we can open ourselves to join in the suffering of those who were abused and harassed,” Brooks said. “Through prayer, we open ourselves to the guidance of Jesus to what compassionate actions we need to take to heal.”

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the first prayer service

Churches band together to break silence for victims of clergy sexual abuse

January 26, 2019

by Sarah Marino, The Dominion Post

the second prayer gathering

Lay Catholic Voices for Change gather to pray

January 25, 2020

by Tiffany Morgan, Dominion Post

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