April 13, 2023  |  By:   |  Press Releases  |  

–Second healing garden in Archdiocese to be dedicated at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Ventura–

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is commemorating National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April by reaffirming the Archdiocese’s commitment to protect our children and young people from sexual abuse. During the month, parishes and schools are called to highlight abuse prevention efforts through various prayer events and activities.

“In keeping with our commitment to protecting children and young people from child sexual abuse, more than 400,000 clergy, educators, volunteers, parents, and guardians have participated in the VIRTUS® Protecting God’s Children Adult Awareness Program since its inception,” said Joan Vienna, Coordinator of the Archdiocese’s Office of Safeguard the Children who spearheaded the launch of the newly revised VIRTUS® Protecting God’s Children 4.0 LA Version last summer.

The Empowering God’s Children and Young People Safety Program was created by the Office of Safeguard the Children to empower more than 340,000 children and young people in the Catholic schools and Religious education programs of the Archdiocese with knowledge and tools to empower them to keep themselves and others safe from possible harm which also emphasizes internet safety.

In recognition of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a packet has been sent to all parishes and schools. The packet contains new posters, stickers and the 2023 “Keep Kids Safe” Pinwheel Resource Booklet to highlight the month. Included in the packet is the 2023 “Working Together to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse” Brochure, with a special message from Archbishop José H. Gomez. This resource also provides a current listing of safe environment policies, programs, resources, and reporting contact numbers.

Among the outreach efforts, the Archdiocese will also lead the faithful in its fourth Novena of prayer and reflection for healing from sexual abuse beginning Friday, April 22 until Saturday, April 30 leading up to the end of the National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The novena, organized by the Archdiocese’s Victims Assistance Ministry, is offered in support of all sexual abuse survivors –those harmed in their families, the Church, or the community at large. Faithful are invited to join the novena online (when available) on lacatholics.org/united-together, in person, or in spirit.

“Victims Assistance Ministry is a ministry of accompaniment – a manifestation of the church’s commitment to those harmed by the sexual misconduct of someone in our church,” said Dr. Heather Banis, the Archdiocese’s Victims Assistance Ministry Coordinator. “We respond with compassion, ensure the appropriate civil authorities are notified of the misconduct reported to us in a timely manner, coordinate healing resources, and continuously seek to more fully understand the needs and hopes of victim-survivors so as to support their healing and foster renewal in the Church. It is an honor to serve in this ministry.”

Each day of the novena, a different parish in the tri-county Archdiocese (Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara counties) will host a prayer service or celebrate Mass livestreamed on lacatholics.org/united-together (when available) dedicated to healing from sexual abuse, especially the victim-survivors served by the Archdiocese’s Victims Assistance Ministry, their families and friends, and all those in the Church who struggle with, and hope to heal, the wounds of sexual abuse in the Church and our communities.

The nine days of prayer and reflection will begin on Saturday, April 22 at Holy Family in Artesia at 6 p.m., and conclude on Sunday, April 30 at St. John the Evangelist in Los Angeles at 10 a.m. Other sites across the Archdiocese will host the Novena, including Sacred Heart Parish in Altadena, Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Ventura, and St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. For a complete listing of the schedule please visit, lacatholics.org/united-together.

During the novena, faithful are asked to decorate and light a candle at home for the healing of those who have suffered from sexual abuse. Prayer intentions and intercessions during the novena include the protection of the most vulnerable in our communities, for the healing and comfort of those who have been sexually abused, and that all families strive to provide safe and nurturing environments for children and young people.

In addition, the second garden of healing dedicated to victim-survivors of sexual abuse will be dedicated at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Ventura on Tuesday, April 25th at 6:30 p.m. Episcopal Vicar for Santa Barbara Region, Msgr. Leon Hutton, will preside and after the dedication the faithful will pray the Novena for Healing from Abuse.

The first of its kind healing garden in the Archdiocese is at Saint Camillus Center for Spiritual Care in Los Angeles. Gardens of healing are being planned in the three other pastoral regions of the Archdiocese spanning Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. These gardens are made possible by the collective offering of parishes throughout the Archdiocese as a manifestation of the ongoing care for and support of those impacted by sexual abuse in all its forms. Inspiration for the gardens of healing came largely from a victim-survivor, Joe Montanez, who taught horticulture and landscape design locally for more than 30 years and shared his experience and vision in planning the simple but important garden.

June 2023 will mark the 21st anniversary of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Archdiocese has been committed to the implementation of the Charter since its inception. The Archdiocese has created a website, https://lacatholics.org/protect/ that serves as a comprehensive tool containing resources, programs, and services for protecting children and reporting abuse.

For more information about Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Archdiocese’s Office of Safeguard the Children, and the Victims Assistance Ministry, visit https://lacatholics.org/child-abuse-prevention-month/.