January 18, 2024  |  By:   |  Press Releases  |  

Bishop Matthew Elshoff, O.F.M. Cap., Auxiliary Bishop for the Los Angeles Pastoral Region, blessed the fourth Garden of Healing dedicated to victim-survivors of sexual abuse at St. Bernadette Church in Los Angeles on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.


These gardens are made possible by the collective offering of parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as a manifestation of our ongoing care for and support of those impacted by sexual abuse in all its forms. Gardens of Healing have already been inaugurated at Saint Camillus Center (Lincoln Park/Los Angeles), Our Lady of the Assumption Church (Ventura), and St. Francis de Sales Church (San Fernando) with the aim of having a Garden of Healing in each of the five pastoral regions of the Archdiocese. To date, more than half of the parishes in the Archdiocese have pledged financial support for the project. The next garden is to be built in the San Pedro Pastoral Region.


The Garden of Healing initiative is a first of its kind in the Archdiocese which was inspired largely by 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 gardens.


“A little more than three years ago, I sat in the parking lot at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, waiting to meet with the people from the Archdiocese – the Victims Assistance Coordinator and an investigator. I felt as if my palpitating heart was going to come out of my quivering body. It had been close to fifty agonizing years that I kept my secret. That day, for the first time, I was able to talk about my shameful abuse by my predator,” said Mr. Montanez. “In the years since, I’ve been in intense therapy, met with my perpetrator who acknowledged how he abused me and asked for my forgiveness, worked with Dr. Banis to create a prayer for healing card for all the parishes, and dreamt of building gardens for healing to all who want to heal and help and acknowledge the abuses of the past. I will continue to work with Archbishop Gomez and the Victims Assistance Ministry to help those afflicted with the same pain that I have endured.”


The design of the garden of healing is built around a weeping wall placed somewhere outside the church providing those who might find it difficult to step inside the church with a sacred and welcoming space dedicated to those impacted by sexual abuse. Water flows up the inside of the “wall” coming out and over the top, slowing “weeping” down the front into the rocks at the base – symbolic of the ongoing tears for tragedy of sex abuse in the church yet an embodiment of a pattern of renewal in healing and cooling waters. The plan is to incorporate the same basic design principles in each site.


“I am so grateful to St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church for welcoming this garden to their parish, and as always, to Archbishop Gomez and the parishes of the Archdiocese, for their support of the healing garden project,” said Dr. Banis. “The dedication of this garden marks the completion of four of the five gardens planned.  I pray St. Bernadette’s Garden, and all the healing gardens, will be received as a sacred space to hold and acknowledge the pain of those impacted by sexual abuse in the church, their families, or communities, while renewing their spirits and fostering healing.”


The Archdiocese stands against any sexual misconduct and is resolute in our support for victim-survivors of abuse. The Archdiocese encourages anyone with information regarding these matters to please make a report to law enforcement and/or the Office of Victims Assistance Ministry at (800) 355-2545 or protect@la-archdiocese.org. For more information on the abuse prevention and protection efforts of the Archdiocese, please visit https://lacatholics.org/protect/.


Photos of the event are available here.