New Initiative at Marmion Academy To Promote Healing, Moving Forward
Patricia Szpekowski, Observer Correspondent
April 13, 2023
AURORA—Initiating an effort to continue a path of keeping students immersed in a safe environment, Marmion Academy established a partnership with the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. late last year.
This commitment was addressed again following the publication of an article in the Chicago Sun Times last fall concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors by past Marmion monks with regards to reported cases that occurred over 35 years ago.  
A restorative justice presentation held April 4 at Marmion outlined its initiative to promote the healing of victims of sexual abuse and others impacted by the trauma of sexual abuse.  
It was led by Dr. Janine Geske, the inaugural director of the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice Initiative at Marquette University. A distinguished professor of law, she is also a former Justice of the State of Wisconsin Supreme Court. Dr. Geske was joined by Dr. Jim Richter, a Chicago native and survivor of clergy abuse, who works with institutional and grassroots organizations to advocate for victims and survivors.
Over 75 people listened to Drs. Geske and Richter as they shared their experiences of meeting with those affected by crime and abuse — victims, survivors, extended family and community members 
and predators. 
Dr. Geske outlined the successful fundamentals which Restorative Justice has used to propel the energy of forgiveness: creating the process of dialogue with a safe environment for different and, at times, difficult conversations to move in the direction of healing. This is the conceptual description she regards as a “circle of individual survivors, community impacted (with no direct link), and the person who caused the harm.” 
Dr. Geske noted there is difficulty with closure. “There is none, but there is healing in moving forward,” she said. 
Dr. Richter held nothing back and shared how he has been significantly impacted by clergy sexual abuse and the harm it has left on him and others who have experienced the same. 
“The harm includes a power dynamic that is sexual, financial, and emotional,” he said. “You build a wall because you are ashamed and lonely, but do not want to be defined by your victim. I facilitate these ‘circles’ to advocate for those who have been sexually abused. 
“If I have learned anything, it is the importance of being your authentic self; a true version of who you are. Ultimately, power is with the survivors.” He added, “We are created in the image of Christ and those who are abused are God’s children. I am evolving and on a journey.”
Abbot John Brahill, OSB (‘67) stated, “We formed our committee in November and are grateful for Restorative Justice to begin today. This is a beginning.”
“I applaud Marmion’s willingness to engage in this work and to be honest and compassionate,” said Dr. Geske. “We will begin our circles here and train people to listen.” 
Marmion’s first presentation by Restorative Justice launched the initial phase and work of the school’s permanent committee, which is composed of faculty, staff, clergy, trustees, and student members who will carry the initiative forward for healing and restoration.
A question-and-answer session followed the presentation. 
“We are consultants and facilitators,” said Dr. Geske. “These are baby steps but we have to start with transparency and will begin our circles with students, clergy, and staff tomorrow. We are tasked with moving forward so that sexual abuse doesn’t happen again. When you see something, say something, do something, is now more important than ever.”
According to organizers, Marmion recognizes the need for healing that exists on a wide scale, one that goes beyond specific incidents of sexual abuse to a range of mental and physical trauma. It is committed to providing healing in the form of Christ-like compassion and care.
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