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"Live on in me, as I do in you." John 15:4
Here we go! This is the launch of a regular effort
to gather all of VOTF for a virtual plenary session. Many in VOTF
remember the days when we could fit into one room – many more never
had the pleasure. Yet VOTF has grown in other spaces all over the
country. We are grateful for the electronic capability to say to
one and all, “Welcome to the vineyard – let’s catch up!”
Please know we are working on a hard copy for our
members who do not have access to e-mail. Until then, perhaps those
who are “computerized” could print copies of In the Vineyard
and share some of the outstanding work being done in our organization.
In the Vineyard will include an office update/remarks
from the Executive Director, Communications Team news, various Parish
Voice and Committee contributions, Upcoming Events, Q&A, a "Best
Practices" piece and/or anything else that is working well in your
Let's remember that the vineyard will only produce
what our labors bring to it, so keep those e-mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org
. Peggie L. Thorp
From the Desk of Steve Krueger, Interim Executive Director
The story of Voice of the Faithful continues its compelling
journey as a spiritual, religious, and social movement of our times.
We are well aware that the fruit of our labor may not be born for
many years. Yet, the stories of personal commitment and sacrifice
of our employees, volunteers, and members continue to inspire us
every day and provide the manna from heaven for us to carry on.
We face a Church that bans our members from meeting on Church property
and that continues to put its perceived welfare ahead of the pastoral
needs of its members, survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and priests
and religious. Yet the rigors of a start-up company and the issues
surrounding our governance compound the challenges we face in living
our mission and fulfilling our goals.
The Culture We Make
As we build our organization we are seeking ways to provide
the means for your empowered contributions to shape VOTF policies
and decisions while at the same time to grow as quickly as possible
and to respond to a fast paced, perilous environment as a professionally
managed organization. To this end, your Representative Council has
authorized the formation of a Governance Study Committee to develop
an organizational structure that does this and at the same time
meets the legal requirements of our corporate status. Some have
suggested we are trying to invent a new type of organizational structure.
This is a complex, organic exercise that will evolve over time,
but one that will necessarily have as its goal the creation of an
organization that focuses on serving you, our membership.
While this discussion advances through us, I would like to suggest
that another one take place beside it - it may be a bit more inviting
to discuss and answers the question, "What kind of culture do we
want to develop in Voice of the Faithful?" The discussion of organizational
structure focuses on the tangible ways our relationships relate
to one another and is often portrayed in diagram form. The discussion
of our culture focuses on values and answering the intangible questions
of who we are, how we conduct ourselves, and how we relate to one
another as people (of God.) It is better defined in how we treat
one another than how we diagram our organization chart. We need
We are very cognizant of the hierarchal structure of our Church.
We can see it and it is indisputable: Pope - Bishops - Pastors -
Us. What has been more difficult to see is the culture of our Church,
which many believe to be the root cause of the clergy sexual abuse
crisis. While the structure is important, the culture has the more
powerful effect in orienting the organization and the people in
the organization. And this is especially true in service organizations,
where culture is arguably the most important factor in their success
- living their mission and attaining their goals.
The first thing that may come to mind in cultivating a VOTF culture
is embracing gospel values. But what does that mean within our organizational
structure and how do we respond to the currents we are facing? I
offer you some questions to think about and discuss and I encourage
you to share your responses with us if you are so inclined.
What does the Vatican II sense of the word "collaboration" mean
to you? What does "servant leadership" mean to you? How are we responsible
and accountable to one another and to our Church? Finally, what
role do you think our culture will play in our "success" of living
our mission statement and pursuing our goals? We look forward to
your opinions and views.
One of the recent and interesting stories of VOTF is the inconspicuous
ways that Parish Voice Affiliates are springing up across the country.
We have discovered people from all over the country are adopting
our mission statement, goals, and model of Parish Voice and are
starting PV affiliates without contacting us directly, using the
web site as a reference. This is truly an organic movement leveraged
by internet technology. However, if you belong to such an affiliate,
please contact us, so can better serve you and your organization.
Bannings In The News
Among our immediate goals and priorities is the reversal of
the bannings. We should be able to meet in the same churches on
Monday nights that welcome us on Sundays and ask for our financial
support. Since August, VOTF has been banned in at least seven dioceses
across the country, including Boston (MA), Bridgeport (CT), Brooklyn
(NY), Camden (NJ), Newark (NJ), Portland (ME), and Rockville (Long
Island, NY). The bishops in these dioceses have impugned the intentions
and character of VOTF without taking the opportunity to learn about
us directly! See our web site for the VOTF press release regarding
these actions and Jim Post's response to them.
Governor Keating meets with VOTF
Survivors and VOTF representatives met on October 4th with Gov.
Frank Keating, chairman of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ National Review
Board. The Board was established to monitor the compliance of Catholic
Bishops with new policies for disciplining sexually abusive priests.
Gov. Keating said, “Bishops need to listen to survivors and grassroots
organizations. I don’t see what’s wrong with open dialogue – we
can’t talk too much.”
VOTF to Meet with Cardinal Law
Recently, representatives from VOTF met with Bishop Edyvean,
Vicar General, and other representatives from the Archdiocese of
Boston (RCAB). The meeting was initiated by VOTF in response to
published reports that RCAB was re-considering its ban on the formation
of new VOTF affiliates. The purpose of the meeting was to address
significant concerns that Cardinal Law and some other Chancery officials
had with regard to VOTF's third goal. Unlike the previous two meetings,
which could be characterized as an exchange of positions and views
of our relationship to one another and our advocacy for survivors
of clergy sexual abuse, this meeting centered on Chancery officials
learning more about us and our Structural Change Working Document
(on the web site). Chancery officials, including two canon lawyers,
indicated their willingness to discuss the document again and described
it as positive and reasonable. Additionally, VOTF presented a number
of examples of the positive and energizing effect VOTF affiliates
have on their parishes - something Cardinal law had been told in
his recent regional visitations with both pastors and the regional
vicars. Bishop Edyvean conveyed that Cardinal Law would like to
meet with representatives from VOTF in the near future. We remain
cautiously optimistic that this meeting will be arranged soon and
will be constructive in literally "opening the doors" of our churches
for VOTF to use in the work we do for survivors, priests, and one
Our web site has been transformed and is content rich, updated
frequently, and easy to navigate. If you have not visited it lately,
you might want to take a look around.
Also, we have recently asked all of our members to "re-register,"
so we may know who you are and how the crisis has affected you.
The information you provide is confidential and will not be shared
outside of VOTF and only selectively within VOTF. Please
We now have the capability to accept donations over the internet
and hope to utilize this feature of our web site as part of a year-end
fund-raising campaign. This will be another important step for our
continued success. To make an online donation click
From the Desk of Mary Ann Keyes, Parish Voice Committee
Since September, I have increased the number of our coordinators
by 15, which brings our total to 33 including our Secretary, Mary
Jane Sullivan, RSCJ and our Web Master, Bob Strong. We have 20 new
affiliates, now numbering 97!
I have also initiated a bi-monthly update to all the coordinators
and affiliate leaders as well as an effort to update PV website
news every two weeks.
We invite you to visit the VOTF Parish Voice on our Web
site for a list of all coordinators, affiliates and contact
information. You will find a wealth of information about vigils
offered by our affiliates, victim support opportunities and achievements,
Speakers' Forums and various reports from our coordinators all over
Many pastors have noted the work VOTF is doing and I am happy to
share some of their thoughts:
"The best thing VOTF is doing is getting laity involved at every
level of parish life."
"Voice of the Faithful has given a sense of hope for the future
of the Church."
"I believe Voice of the Faithful is about being willing to make
an investment in your faith, become passionate about your beliefs
and make time to demand what is rightfully yours through Baptism."
We are thrilled with our growth and look forward to the journey
From the Desk of Mike Emerton, Media Contact
The last two weeks have indeed been a very busy period for VOTF
Communications. Top-tier press outlets such as Time Magazine, New
York Daily News, Washington Post, New York Times and Associated
Press have continued to turn to VOTF for our response to breaking
news. The news topics that have peaked their interest range from
the recent VOTF bannings in Brooklyn, NY to inquiries seeking clarification
on Vatican responses to the U.S. Bishops' proposed Dallas Charter.
As always, please visit our Web site for the latest response to
From the Desk of Svea Fraser, Priest Support Working Group
In an effort to determine how best to support our priests, our
Goal #2, ten members of the Priest Support Working Group (PSWG)
met with five diocesan priests at the Tufts Catholic Student Center
on October 17th. Our first priority was to listen to what the priests
had to say. The gathered group is called, appropriately, a "Sounding
We learned about the current crisis from another perspective. In
addition to the overwhelming workloads and expectations placed on
priests, they are feeling vulnerable and "raw."
We discussed the importance of identification - in this case, some
priests are uncomfortable with "priests of integrity." They find
it divisive and judgmental. Others felt changing the term should
take place only after careful consideration. We plan to bring this
subject to an upcoming Council meeting for discussion.
We also discussed due process for accused priests. Everyone agreed
that the first priority is the protection of children and that justice
pursued must be justice for all. Currently, it seems to many that
an accused priest is guilty until proven innocent.
When we asked how we can best help our priests, the resounding
response energized everyone present. The hope of priests is that
large numbers of laity will take a greater role in the life of the
Church. More education and more imagination are needed to galvanize
Catholics in this direction.
This evening ended with a feeling of hope and good will. As one
person put it, the meeting was a good "first date." One of the priests
thanked VOTF for "ringing a bell."
There is much work to be done, but the investment of time spent
praying together, listening to each other and learning more about
our roles will certainly bear fruit in a renewed and vibrant faith
Voices From Afar
Voice from Indiana - Lola McIntyre Indiana Regional Coordinator
VOTF-Indiana has initiated VOTF-Indiana Bishops Compliance Project:
This project embraces all 3 of VOTF's goals, and challenges
us to think outside the box. It will walk us to all corners of Indiana's
dioceses, and to many perspectives. We hope to learn and grow from
We have established 5 different Bishops Compliance Project Facilitators;
one for each diocese in our state (at this point we are a state-wide
affiliate). At our next meeting we will divide into 5 "buzz" groups,
each with a facilitator. Facilitators have been reviewing their
designated diocesan web site, and brainstorming on HOW to do this.
The project includes clear procedures. We are committed to studying
the Charter in its entirety, studying the Diocesan website and sharing
our findings with each other.
Additional steps will be shaped by committee meetings throughout
Voice from Winchester, MA - Bob Morris, Winchester
Area Voice of the Faithful
These are some highlights from our group in the past month and
some upcoming events:
James Carroll's appearance on October 7 drew over 450 people to
St. Eulalia's Church. After reading from his new book, Toward A
New Catholic Church: The Promise of Reform, Carroll took questions
for close to an hour. He left to a standing ovation.
Led by Christina Hurley, Clare Keane, John & Mary Deyst, and others,
we are in the process of completing our survey of over 30 Boston
area priests. The results of this survey will be made available
once completed. The survey results will enable us to begin working
toward fulfilling the goal #2, "Support priests of integrity."
On October 20, we conducted our second "Introduction to VOTF" after
the 11:00 Mass. We conducted a similar session in September after
the 9:00 Mass. We attracted about 35 people who had never attended
one of our regular meetings. The questions we received were not
hostile, but revealed that despite all the media coverage, there
is considerable ignorance about VOTF. We still have much work that
needs to be done.
On November 4, we will welcome Fr. Robert Bullock of Our Lady of
Sorrows Parish in Sharon, and one of the co-founders of the Boston
Priests' Forum. He will address VOTF's goal of "supporting priests
On December 2, we will welcome Thomas Carr and his Pastoral Response
Assistance Team. Tom and his group will be addressing the issue
of sexual abuse by clergy. Tom's group is presenting a day-long
program at Merrimack College on October 26.
Voice from New Jersey - Maria Cleary
The Northern New Jersey and Southern New Jersey VOTF groups
realized we were having our October meeting on the same night. We
decided to plan a joint candle-lighting service for survivors. We
had a phone connection open between the North Jersey and South Jersey
affiliates and we lit candles and prayed the same prayer at the
same time! It was really inspiring to think that we were joined
together in spirit for a common cause despite the miles between
us. In any event, it's great to touch, in some concrete way, those
who are following the same journey across the country and around
the world. It's what technology does best, and why it's such a gift
to this movement. We're looking forward to trying this again --
maybe even teleconferencing.....who knows?
Voice from the Westford-Chelmsford Area - Lauren Franceschi
The Westford Chelmsford Area Parish Voice voted unanimously
to pay tuition for 5 members of the Clergy and Staff from each of
our Parishes to attend a seminar offered on Oct. 26 at Merrimac
College. It was entitled, "Developing a Pastoral Response to Sexual
Abuse in the Church."
This day-long program was not affiliated with the Archdiocese of
Boston or its offices, but was offered to foster healing and reconciliation
in the Church. It promises to be of great value to our parishes.
Our Parish Voice has also hired renowned speaker Eileen Snow to
come and speak to our group about the history and teachings of Vatican
ll. We are making this special event available to all members of
our parishes and encouraging DRE's to recommend it to their Confirmation
These are both expensive programs that will be paid for by contributions
to our weekly collection basket. Because we believe that both to
these programs will be beneficial to our parishes and we are recommending
that Parishioners, Staff and Clergy partake in them, we thought
it would be wise to "put our money where our mouths are." Our parishes
are suffering financially due to this crisis and typically do not
provide enrichment that does not come straight from the Archdiocese.
We wanted everyone to see an example of how VOTF can fit in and
find a place as a buttress to our Church. As we evolve, we are more
able to specifically define our role in the parishes. When an opportunity
arises for us to be of help to the Parish, and carry out our Mission
and Goals, we need to take it!
We also raised another $100.00 this week in a separate collection
to be donated solely to Survivor Support (that's $1,600.00 total)
and carpooled 5 members of our PV into the Cathedral last Sunday
to stand in solidarity with the survivors.
Our PV managed to work effectively on all 3 goals in these simple
acts this past week. We've been "listening" in our sessions for
months now and understand the work ahead.
Voice from the Worcester Diocese - Joanne Helkowski
Mary Keville (St. Theresa, Harvard, MA) and Roger Racine (St.
Richard's, Sterling, MA) met with Bishop Reilly (Worcester Diocese,
MA) on Oct. 17. The meeting was a response to Bishop Reilly's advisory
to all pastors that it would be premature for a parish to sponsor
a VOTF affiliate without first consulting with the Bishop's office.
Mary and Roger's meeting provided the Bishop with information about
VOTF and found that the Bishop listened well and was open-minded.
He requested that VOTF send a package of information to the pastors
in the Worcester diocese. Before the meeting was concluded, the
Bishop and VOTF representatives agreed to a number of collaborative
efforts. The Bishop has since requested a second meeting to discuss
issues around the "structural change" goal.
St. Theresa's has focused their fall education activity on a five-part
tape series entitled "Vatican II: The Faithful Revolution."
Voice from Northampton, MA - Ann Turner
In Northampton, our group meets twice monthly at St. Mary's
Parish Hall. At our last meeting Fr. Walter Cuenin spoke about his
vision of a future church. His inspirational talk was warmly received.
He discussed the role of women in the church, the role of a newly
empowered laity and the need for our church to respond to the winds
Soon, we will be voting on becoming a VOTF affiliate and I will
pass on that outcome.
Voice from Hartford-East - Regional Coordinator Mary Ann Murray
At St. Bridget's in October, we held a candlelight prayer vigil
as well as a Holy Hour prayer time for the survivors.
Our Parish Voice affiliate hosted a reception for our priests.
Our pastor and two retired weekend associate pastors were honored
with encouragement, support and praise for their work. Our informal
gathering provided good food, friendship and laughter.
Our next meeting on November 9 will focus on the Structural Change
document, the Governance document and the Beliefs document recently
distributed. John Ryan, our Council Rep. will take these comments
Regional Coordinators and Parish Voice chairpeople will meet in
Hartford to discuss our vision, roles and actions for the next few
We would like to engage a speaker on pedophilia and a survivor
to tell his/her story. These would be followed by a listening session.
Our education subcommittee is also interested in speakers for a
discussion of church history/structure and the documents of Vatican
" It is in the Spirit that we eagerly await the justification
we hope for, and only faith can yield it." Gal. 5:5