Masses Ask God to Heal Many
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
September 20, 2018

At the Cathedral of St. Peter and in parishes around the Rockford Diocese, Masses seek reparation in midst of national sexual abuse crisis. 

DIOCESE—Bishop David Malloy celebrated a Mass of Healing and Reparation at the Cathedral of St. Peter the evening of Sept. 14. 

It was one of several similar Masses held at parishes around the diocese with the Church’s sexual abuse scandals in mind. The bishop was joined at the altar by a handful of area priests who had invited their parishioners to the Cathedral Mass.
“This Mass and our participation is a recognition of the seriousness of this moment and the seriousness of the challenge,” Bishop Malloy said. The Mass was offered on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and preceded the celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows the following day.
The images of both the cross and Mary standing below it, he said, “are spiritual reminders to us of the damage done to those abused sexually in the Church, and the damage done to the Church herself.”
“Recent events and revelations have deepened and extended the need for healing — the need for reparation,” he said. The actions of Archbishop McCarrick, the stories from the Pennsylvania report and the memo from a former papal representative have brought attention to the scandals.
“We grieve for the victims,” Bishop Malloy said. “We grieve for all who have lost faith or left the Church because of these sins and crimes. We grieve because families have been rocked by this breach of trust against young people by those who have been called and ordained to bring us Christ.
“All of those tragedies are the consequences of the wounds of sin.  And they have painful and deep results. That is why we are here this evening praying for healing ... The healing that we pray for is an action and a gift from God. It is a gift of grace that is, ultimately, more powerful than sin.
“But the healing also goes to another level — one beyond any one of us. It involves healing the damage being done to the Church, and especially to the unity of the Church and to the Church’s ability to show forth to the world as the Body of Christ.”
The Mass was also about reparation, the bishop said, pointing to questions he’s heard about why those who have not committed the sins should be expected to repent.
“The question is understandable on one level,” he said. “As a bishop in these days, I acknowledge the failures of leadership surrounding the episcopal office. Still, in the Church, we are drawn together in good times and bad. ... Like a family we bear together both joy and shame. ... Together then, we make reparation to God for all sins, our own personal sins and those of others as well.”
Continuing with the theme of the day’s feast, the bishop said, “We stand with Mary beneath the cross in a context of suffering. The Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Jesus’ suffering upon it remind us that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. 
“All of this means that the Church has confronted sin before.  Like Mary, we must stay faithful, and maintain our hope that Christ is more powerful even than the evil that has manifested itself within the Church. ... All of our efforts must begin here (at Mass). But along with prayers, the current crisis demonstrates that there must be actions taken as well to address what has gone wrong.”
He outlined and supports what Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has proposed: 
 an apostolic visitation, 
 the establishment of transparent and independent bodies to receive allegations against bishops, and 
 a wide reliance on lay faithful to ensure allegations “are treated appropriately and not subject to being covered up.”
As in his Aug. 16 statement on these issues, Bishop Malloy again pledged to work with the USCCB leadership “to heighten our efforts to provide safe environments in which we can confidently practice and live out our lives of faith.”
He thanked all who made the sacrifice to attend the Mass. “I offer again a word of sorrow for the sins and crimes of sexual abuse. I especially offer an apology to those young people who have been victims of sexual abuse by clerics.
“And,” he said, “I ask you to join me in our continuing prayer for healing and reparation.” 
Echoing the bishop’s sentiments were pastors who offered Masses of Healing and Reparations in their parishes.
Msgr. Stephen Knox, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in St. Charles, one of the largest in the diocese with nearly 5,000 families, said, “Do not lose hope in God. He is the center of His Church.
“There is soul damage,” he said, “and sadly many leave,” but he reminded everyone, “Never underestimate the power of faith.”
He also said, “A priest is called to be a brother in Christ. … Pray for reform of the Church. Pray for the pope, for the bishop, to be good shepherds.”
About 90 people attended the 7 p.m. Mass at the parish’s Crane Road church, where diocesan seminarian Nick Sentovich assisted at the Mass.
“We always need to pray for our Church and for our priests but particularly in these difficult times,” said Maria Roman, a parishioner of St. Thomas More in Elgin who attended the Mass in St. Charles.
At a Sunday Mass, St. Patrick parishioner Karla Sambrano said, “I had all the intention to attend the Mass and pray for all those victims but, I couldn’t go for family reasons.” She has, however, prayed for the situation.
Many had family and other commitments made prior to the bishop’s request for Masses through the diocese. 
At St. Mary Parish in Byron, for example, it was homecoming at the local high school.
One of the smaller in the diocese with just over 600 families, there were still a few dozen people who came to the Mass. 
Father Howard Barch told  parishioners, “It’s a great testament to our faith to see us gathered together to pray” for what he described as the “scourge” the sexual abuse crisis has “created in our midst today.”
“These sins against the innocent and the young have greatly hurt our Church,” he continued.  But it is important, he said, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, to “join our suffering to His. It’s the salve that’s put in the wounds of Christ.”
Joellen Petit of Winnebago, said she was “very appreciative the bishop called for” the Mass. “God’s power is what’s going to stop” the sexual abuse crisis.
Her husband, Deacon Tom Petit who assisted at the Byron Mass, said,  “I think it’s a very good thing, especially when you (add) reparation and (the opportunity) to grow in holiness. … We all make mistakes.”
“I think it’s something we needed to do, needed to address,” said Roy Lorenz, a past Grand Knight of Byron’s Knights of Columbus Council. “We need to pray for our priests,” he said, adding, “There’s only one perfect person and He sits at the right hand of the Father.”
— Margarita Mendoza and Sharon Boehlefeld contributed to this story