Voices, Voices Everywhere!
Parish Voice has identified four U.S. regions and an
international region for purposes of affiliate coordination,
communication efforts and future regional definitions
and representation. Please click on the appropriate
region to view Regional PV Coordinators and existing
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho,
Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington,
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota,
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina,
Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey,
New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia,
VOTF New Zealand
Submitted by Mike Nicholas, VOTF Regional Coordinator,
Christchurch, New Zealand
A further case of sexual abuse by the New Zealand
clergy is pending. Former priest Alan Woodcock was a
priest/teacher at St Patrick's College Silverstream,
about 35 miles out of Wellington.
This case came to light when it was aired on one of
our current affairs programs. Denis O'Hagan, the Provincial
of the Society of Mary, appeared on television and was
very straightforward and honest about the fact that
Woodcock had been given the relocation treatment. As
a result of the evidence that came out in the program,
the New Zealand Police decided to press charges against
him. Woodcock is currently living in London.
In the paper today it was reported that a date has
been set in one of the London Court's for the extradition
VOTF Overseas - Ireland Report
Submitted by Mary and Bill Sheehan
IRELAND ON THE BRINK
Mary and Bill Sheehan, co-founders of VOTF, Wellesley,
Mass. recently returned from an Ireland vacation. Before
and during their trip they corresponded and met with
several Irish citizens who have been in touch with VOTF.
Their first meeting with an interested couple in Kinsale
focused on VOTF history, goals and distribution of information
about the VOTF. They were then asked to conduct a meeting
of other interested Catholics in Limerick. The whole
issue had re-ignited on the day of the Sheehan's arrival
in Ireland on September 2, so feelings were very reminiscent
of the early VOTF days in Boston.
The Limerick meeting was held on September 14, with
approximately 25 people in attendance. It was conducted
in the same manner as all VOTF meetings, beginning and
ending with a prayer. A presentation of information
by Bill and Mary Sheehan was followed by questions.
Guests came from Dublin, Galway and Limerick and included
a former priest, a nun, married couples and singles.
Both the questions and the thoughts expressed could
have been lifted from any VOTF group as they began to
grapple with the crisis in its many dimensions. For
the benefit of readers who may also be new to this dialogue,
the Sheehans noted the following remarks and questions
from the participants:
the Church want to tell the truth?
feel let down by priests/bishops - they don't listen.
propping up the institution.
a vehicle between walking away and participating.
and money make a dysfunctional system.
was expressed against giving money to Rome.
do you change the system?
are so many priests involved - asked by a nun.
are lonely and can't keep up, stated by a former priest.
the institution crumbling?
growth of Church not encouraging.
has achieved great things
for a VOTF affiliate in and around Limerick.
The clergy abuse situation in Ireland became additionally
explosive after the recent resignation of Chief Justice
Mary Laffoy from the government committee on child abuse.
Her lengthy resignation letter criticized the government
for supposed lack of assistance to fulfill her designated
job in handling abuse allegations - there are about
1700 alleged victims in Ireland. This government committee
was established in 2000 and overseen by the Department
of Education to handle abuse claims. However, the Department
of Education is also under investigation.
Diarmuid Martin is a new co-adjutor Archbishop of
Dublin (8-30-03). He is also a Vatican diplomat. In
his installation address he made several important comments;
(These quotes and remarks are from the Irish Catholic,
Thursday, September 4, 2003.)
Addressing the victims, he said "your wounds are our
wounds, and the wounds of the entire Church, and there
is no way that the Church can forget that, as long as
you still feel hurt." He went on to say that, "the Church
must, in the first place, be a listening Church. A listening
Church will become a more welcoming Church for women,
appreciating the work of women in society and the family."
Archbishop Martin intends to "get out and about in the
diocese, by foot if necessary," to ask lay people, and
priests what they thought needed to be done in the Church.
He said he would be worried by any form of clericalism
and hoped that "GIFTS and CHARISMA of LAY PEOPLE would
help bring a transformation" in the Church, which in
turn would be helped by the clergy, whom he called "his
The Archbishop echoed others when he noted that, "norms
and procedures are not enough. We need more heart and
energy to make new measures a reality…. Many priests
have been wounded by what has happened and are in need
Further, Archbishop Martin stated, "The Church must
learn to be a different sort of Church" and "We must
move forward to a different relationship between priests
and people, where the Church is more one of community,
where all talents are enhanced and respected."
The Sheehans learned that priests also have an organization,
National Priests Conference of Ireland. The e-mail address
of the Irish Catholic is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The media in Ireland is inundated with articles about
the Church crisis. Sadly, the Sheehans found widespread
apathy among many Irish. It lead the Sheehans to conclude
with this thought: "Thank God for the Voice of the Faithful.
We are a means for Catholics to express their opinions."
The rest, as in the United States, remains to be seen.
VOTF Tri-State Conference - NY/NJ/CT
Submitted by Maria Coffey, NY VOTF Regional Coordinator,
NY VOTF 2003 Conference Chair
A while back some of you had asked about the VOTF
Conference to be held at Fordham University on October
25th. Here is an update. First, I know many reading
this live quite far away. However, pause for a moment
and give thought to a get-away Fall weekend in New York.
It is truly a beautiful time of year in New York State
and City. Then there are those of you who told me about
busloads coming to the Rose Hill campus (my friends
in Roslindale, West Roxbury, Scituate, Marblehead, and
Weston)! Some helpful notes:
*As you know, the website is up and running. Please
register sooner rather than later. Please promote it
to your affiliates, friends and family. www.votf.org/octconference
*About those buses--Fordham has asked that we tell
them the number of buses coming. PLEASE send this information
to me (email@example.com)
as soon as you have scheduled a bus. They have to make
arrangements for parking.
The New York Archdiocese has not banned VOTF. We have
no Cardinal Law. There is no current riveting scandal
attracting media attention. But many of us see the need
for VOTF as even greater now than back in July 2002.
Now is the tough time. We need to keep the juices flowing
within a growing national organization; we need
to keep VOTF, the middle-of-the-road source of comfort,
hope and change-- lively and relevant. I'm sure you
agree that our strong, vibrant and enthusiastic participation
at this conference is a major step in this direction.
VOTF Christmas Cards - Order your VOTF
Christmas Cards, sponsored by the Winchester, MA Area
VOTF! All proceeds will benefit the Lighthouse, a resource
center in Boston for survivors of clergy abuse. Please
place your order by October 31 if at all possible.
The four designs were produced by artists in our affiliate.
The back of each card will have a little information
about the Lighthouse and also invite people to learn
more about VOTF by visiting the national site. A PDF
version of our order form with pictures of each of
the cards is available on the first page of our local
Building the Boston Affiliate
Submitted by VOTF vice-president Ann Carroll
The 45 VOTF affiliates in the Archdiocese of Boston
have taken the first step toward the separation of BostonVOTF
from National VOTF with the creation of a ten-person
BostonVOTF Transition Team. The team will be developing
the framework for a new umbrella organization for the
affiliates in the Archdiocese. The umbrella organization
will bring together the voices of all the affiliates
in the Archdiocese's five regions (vicariates), and
will have the ability, when there is a consensus, to
act in a unified way for VOTF in the Archdiocese. Acting
as the unified voice for VOTF in the Archdiocese, the
leadership of the new umbrella organization will also
seek to establish on-going dialogue with Archbishop
Sean O'Malley and chancery officials.
The Transition Team consists of two representatives
from each of the 5 regions in the Archdiocese of Boston,
selected from the affiliates in that region:
Central Region: Ellie Harnett (St. John the
Evangelist VOTF, Cambridge) and Bette McNiff (St. Catherine
of Siena VOTF, Charlestown)
Merrimack Region: Maurice (Mo) Donovan (Seacoast
VOTF, Amesbury) and Other rep. is TBD
North Region: Bob Morris and Louise Aleo (alternate)
- (both from Winchester Area VOTF/St. Eulalia's, Winchester)
and Jack Whelan (St. Pius V, VOTF Lynn)
South Region: Ben Murphy and Anne Southwood
(alternate) - (both from Mayflower Area VOTF, Duxbury),
and John Hynes (St. Gerard Majella, Canton VOTF)
West Region: Rich Acerra (St. Bernard's VOTF,
Newton) and Lois Mastrangelo (Our Lady'sVoice, VOTF
Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton)
In addition, Bob Ott, the Regional Coordinator for
the Boston Central Region, has volunteered to serve
as facilitator for the Transition Team. The Team meets
twice a month. Additional details on the formal launch
of BostonVOTF are anticipated later this year.
VOTF Paulist Center, Boston, MA
Submitted by Donna B. Doucette
At our Paulist Center VOTF meeting in September, we
agreed to meet every other month and to communicate
via email in the intervals. We are blessed because Voice
of the Faithful is fully accepted (and embraced!) as
a Paulist Center ministry. (That is not true of many
parishes, where, unfortunately VOTF is held suspect.)
Furthermore, the laity is already actively involved
in the guidance and governance of the Center.
Because of our acceptance, and since many of our members
are already very involved in the existing groups and
ministries at the Center, we feel that the role of our
VOTF affiliate is to inspire ALL community members to
find their voices and use them, and to deepen their
involvement in ministries such as the Worship Committee,
Pastoral Council, Adult Education, social action groups,
etc. In addition, affiliate members are also encouraged
to expand their participation in Archdiocesan committees,
and VOTF regional, diocesan and national working groups.
To further those efforts, VOTF members participated
in the Paulist Center's annual Community Festival (Communifest)
on Sept. 27/28. Communifest is an opportunity for all
community members to learn more about the many lay ministries
offered at the Center. The theme this year is "Nourishing
the Body of Christ." It is clear that lay people will
continue to play an ever more significant role in the
leadership of the Church in the years ahead -- it is
we who must be about nourishing the Body of Christ.
Affiliate member (and VOTF Council Representative)
Ron DuBois described several VOTF and related events
scheduled for September and October. Of special note
was the presentation on Sept. 23 by Father Walter Cuenin,
pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians parish in Newton.
Fr. Cuenin was invited by the Center's Adult Education
Committee to speak on "The Laity and the Governance
of the Church." In his remarks, Fr. Cuenin spoke of
how Vatican II had emphasized the role of the baptized
and changed the way we pray; for example, turning the
altar around to face the people in a dialog; using vernacular
language so that the words are understood and prayed
by all; and identifying the Baptized and our roles within
the Church. "The way we pray affects the way we believe,"
Fr. Cuenin noted. One result has been that the people
expect to be participants in the Church, not just observers.
We expect to have a voice in the community.
In the coming months, the Paulist Center will host
a VOTF Discussion Series, beginning with Paul Lakeland's
book, "The Liberation of the Laity: In Search of an
Accountable Church." Ron DuBois will lead the discussions.
A list of the recommended chapters to read for each
meeting is being circulated. If you are interested,
please contact Ron DuBois at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOTF Bridgeport, CT
Submitted by Jim Alvord
Reflections on a Day of Giving
Actually, it was for only a few hours. But it was an
exhilarating exercise on behalf of the one hundred donors
to Voice of Compassion - Bridgeport Fund. All 250 members
of Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport
can be deeply gratified by the simple act of philanthropy
that took place on Monday morning, September 8, 2003.
Mary Jane Range, Affiliate Treasurer and Fund Chair,
Joe O'Callaghan, Affiliate Chair, and Jim Alvord, Fund
Committee member and VOTF Regional Coordinator were
exceedingly proud to represent the VOC of VOTF and submit
financial support to two groups aligned with Catholic
Charities of Fairfield County, Inc.
Not accustomed to distributing thousand dollar checks
(let alone those to the amount of $2,500.00 each), the
meetings with the charitable organizations were humbling
experiences. The recipient for The Thomas Merton Center
was Director Maryann Furlong. Accepting for Family Stages
was Director Maria Reyes-Medina. Both organizations
are located in Bridgeport and both exhibited dire need
and grateful appreciation for the donations.
The Thomas Merton Center was founded in 1974 by a group
of concerned individuals who saw a need for services
to the economically disadvantaged people in the city
of Bridgeport. The Center is located in a former church
with other services available in adjacent or nearby
buildings. "Feed the hungry" was the initial effort
but time and circumstance have demanded other concerns,
such as a medical clinic affiliated with St. Vincent's
Hospital, women's groups, men's groups, family support,
after school programs, prayer groups, shower facilities,
and literacy volunteers. Housing support has been a
continuing effort and job opportunity and preparation
are ongoing concerns. A paid chef augmented by 200 volunteers
oversees weekday breakfast and lunch. There is a paid
staff of about seventeen for all services. In the course
of the tour, it appeared that the VOC monies would be
very well spent.
Family Stages is located in the building that houses
the city's Health Department and provides housing and
support services to pregnant and post-partum women with
substance abuse and mental health problems in the greater
Bridgeport area. The agency is funded by grants awarded
by the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA) to a partnership of Catholic
Charities, the City of Bridgeport and the Department
of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The Director
indicated that the check presented was significant.
Most monies are achieved through the efforts of a New
York grants consultant contracted for that purpose.
The agency has approximately ten paid staff in a rent-free
The Merton Center has a budget of $800,000 per year.
The diocese through Catholic Charities supports The
Center to the amount of $100,000 (or 12 1/2%). St. Stephen's
Food Pantry, claimed as a separate charity of Catholic
Charities, is actually under the umbrella of The Merton
Center. Family Stages is not in any way (or 0%) financially
supported by Catholic Charities of Fairfield County,
Inc. The chart on the diocesan website does not offer
percentages of monetary distribution to the individual
charities it supports other than income and expense
percentages. These are indicated by asterisk (*) below
for the most recent fiscal year from July 1, 2001 to
June 30, 2002. Full financial disclosure is important
if the principles of transparency and accountability,
enunciated by the bishops at their conference last year,
are to be observed.
The third check for $2,500.00 is slated for the Queen
of Clergy home for retired priests but has yet to be
delivered due to communications problems. The "joy of
giving" will continue with the distribution of this
check from Voice of Compassion - Bridgeport Fund. The
outcome of this gift will be made known when it happens.
The Voice of Compassion - Bridgeport Fund balance presently
stands at approximately $2,620.00 and is open to donations
from members whenever the Spirit moves with loving compassion
for the less advantaged.
Keep the Faith. Change the Church. Be attentive to
the Spirit. www.ccfc-ct.org/annualreport.htm.
(*) Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Inc. FY
VOTF Winchester, MA
Submitted by Bob Morris
Our group held meetings on September 8, 15 and 22.
On September 8, we welcomed Dan Burns and Mary Keefe,
who blessed us with an evening of sacred song and reflection.
Dan is a Deacon and Mary is the Choir Director at Holy
Family Parish in Duxbury. Their talent, warmth and spirituality
made for a very special evening for our group.
On September 22, Penny Kirk joined us. One of Penny's
sons was abused by John Geoghan. Penny described for
us how she only learned of the abuse in January 2002,
as a result of which the cause of a whole series of
misfortunes in her son's life became clear. Penny provided
us with a different and valuable perspective on the
unspeakable horror of clergy abuse. It was an unforgettable
evening for all present.
On September 15, our working groups met. There are
two projects currently under way in our group. First,
the production of four VOTF Christmas cards. All proceeds
from their sale will go to the Lighthouse, the resource
center in Boston for survivors of clergy abuse. Second,
on November 8 we will host our second pot-luck supper
for priests, as part of our ongoing effort to support
priests in a tangible manner.
As we look forward to October, two events stand out.
On October 20, Professor Stephen Pope of Boston College
will speak to us on, "The Church in Boston: Where Should
We Go From Here?" The next week, on October 27, Revs.
Robert Bullock, John McGinty, Austin Fleming and Thomas
Mahoney of the Boston Priests' Forum will join us.
VOTF Joliet, IL
Submitted by Deirdre O'Neal
Approximately 30 persons from a dozen different parishes
attended the inaugural meeting of VOTF in the Joliet
Diocese. This first meeting was fittingly held in the
"Lighthouse" gathering room on Thursday, Sept. 25th
at St. Thomas Apostle parish in Naperville, Illinois.
We were able to hold this VOTF meeting on parish premises
thanks to the hospitality extended to us by STA's pastor,
Fr. Joel Fortier. We truly appreciate Fr. Joel's willingness
to trust the Holy Spirit to guide him in making this
The meeting was chaired by Jack Bartz who has assembled
a group of six parishes to form their cluster. Jack
is from St. Raphael parish in Naperville and is assisted
in the Joliet diocese by Dee O'Neal, also a parishioner
at St. Raphael, and Hugh Kelly, a parishioner at Ascension
of Our Lord parish in Oak Brook Terrace. The keynote
speaker for our inaugural Joliet Diocesan VOTF meeting
was Terrence O'Connor, the Chicago-metro area regional
coordinator for VOTF. Terry, a retired businessman,
has been the regional coordinator for all Chicago-area
VOTF groups since October of 2002. He is a member of
Holy Family parish in northwest suburban Inverness.
Terry told the group briefly about his background and
how he first became involved with VOTF. He then described
what has been accomplished in just one year by the other
VOTF groups in the Chicago area. Chief among the accomplishments
of the other groups in the region was a meeting held
in April 2003 at which VOTF co-founder Dr. Jim Muller
spoke to about 200 VOTF members and interested others.
One day after that meeting, Dr. Muller had a two-hour
meeting with Cardinal George at which time he relayed
many of the concerns of the Chicago-area membership
to Cardinal George. Terry O'Connor told the group that,
in line with VOTF's commitment to supporting "priests
of integrity," VOTF-Chicago is most supportive of actions
that will bring about dialogue between our priests and
After Terry O'Connor spoke, the meeting continued with
questions from the floor. One of the questions that
seemed to stir the most interest was whether the VOTF
national office has issued any statement in support
of the 163 Milwaukee priests who recently sent a letter
to Bishop Wilton Gregory, the head of the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops. The letter/petition asked that
the U.S. Bishops Conference hold a session at their
next meeting in which the question of optional priestly
celibacy would be discussed. Bishop Gregory has so far
declined to present that motion.
Those in attendance then broke into three groups to
discuss the three planks of the VOTF platform: support
for victims of abuse; support for priests of integrity;
and working for structural change in the Roman Catholic
Church. At the end of these 20-minute discussion sessions,
each group reported back to the whole assembly. A report
will be sent to Bishop Imesch with a summary of their
It was decided that the second meeting of our Joliet
Diocese VOTF group will be held in approximately four
weeks. The meeting ended at 9 p.m. with a prayer. The
general consensus seemed to be that, through the grace
and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we had a very successful
"first ever" meeting of VOTF in the Joliet Diocese.
VOTF On the Road - Arizona
VOTF president Jim Post comments on his September
2003 trip to Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona
IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY
I recently visited our VOTF affiliates in Phoenix and
Tucson (September 17-18, 2003). The reception from Arizonans
was as warm as the weather itself (102 in Phoenix; only
96 in Tucson). Both dioceses have a sad history of clergy
sexual abuse cases, and each is now under new leadership.
This situation exists in too many dioceses and parishes.
But meaningful change can come to the Catholic Church.
To VOTF members who live in dioceses where bishops refuse
to openly address the challenges of justice and healing,
these Western dioceses offer a message of hope: "It
doesn't have to be that way."
A Diocese in Transition
Our VOTF leaders in Phoenix arranged for us to meet
with Sr. Mary Ann Winters, Chancellor of the Diocese.
Sr. Mary Ann has served under Bishop Thomas O'Brien
and Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who is currently doing
double duty as bishop of both Santa Fe and Phoenix.
She is likely to serve during the transition to the
next bishop of Phoenix (expected later this year).
VOTF leaders Sandy Simonson, Chris Long, Jim Lawler,
and I discussed the situation in Phoenix with Sr. Mary
Ann. We focused on the challenge of being a "diocese
in transition" and the steps being taken to respond
to survivors and facilitate healing (there are 18 cases
pending). Sr. Mary Ann also wanted to discuss how VOTF
affiliates will be "integrated" with existing parish
structures (parish councils, finance councils, and diocesan
structures). We finished up on a positive note, stressing
the readiness of VOTF to work with the new bishop who
will face a complex agenda of problems. LINK to Rausch
A Model of Openness
The Diocese of Tucson had serious problems when Bishop
Gerald F. Kicanis arrived from Chicago. His arrival
signaled the beginning of a turnaround. I knew that
important steps were being taken in Tucson, but was
still a bit surprised.
The meeting with Bishop Kicanis was very constructive.
The Diocese of Tucson has taken some path-breaking steps
to reach survivors, operate openly, and open the doors
to laity involvement. It's not Nirvana (to mix metaphors),
but Tucson may be providing important lessons to the
nation on these matters. Bishop Kicanis has implemented
a code of conduct, new personnel policies, training,
and public disclosure (see www.diocesetucson.org), including
the summary report of the USCCB-National Review Board
Bishop Kicanis concluded by saying that he was pleased
to be "in dialogue" with VOTF and is supportive of what
we are doing for the Church. As in Phoenix, we discussed
how VOTF can relate to parish structures and encourage
active lay involvement. I believe the bishop sees us
as faithful Catholics whose efforts are good for the
Church. He specifically asked for ideas to improve "structures
of communication" and "structures of laity involvement".
Our local VOTF members will continue the dialogue, perhaps
drawing ideas from our national Structural Change Working
We have wonderful people in Phoenix and Tucson. They
have been working to promote VOTF and to address serious
problems in each diocese. Phoenix will be "in transition"
for several years to come. There is the heavy legacy
of problems from Bishop O'Brien's era.
Sandy Simonson, our VOTF coordinator, has been a clear,
eloquent voice for young Catholics who want the Church
to serve their children and adults. While in Phoenix,
I also had the pleasure of speaking at the Newman Center
at Arizona State University and meeting dozens of VOTF
members and supporters. This is the nucleus of an affiliate
we hope will be effective in encouraging positive change.
Tucson's group is in dialogue with the bishop and has
knowledgeable leaders. Terry Carden is a retired physician
from Chicago who once served on accreditation teams
that evaluated and certified large hospital systems.
Terry is savvy about how institutions work and what
it takes to effect change happen in large bureaucratic
systems: persistence; responsiveness; and consistency.
That's who we are and that's why the trip to Arizona
was so encouraging. As in other dioceses, there is a
"can do" attitude toward shaping change. If you become
discouraged at the slow pace of change in your own parish
or diocese, take heart from the experience of VOTF members
in Phoenix and Tucson. And remind your bishop or pastor,
"It does NOT have to be that way!"
of the Faithful, VOTF, "Keep the Faith, Change the Church,"
Voice of Compassion, VOTF logo(s), Parish Voice, and
Prayerful Voice are trademarks of Voice of the Faithful,
of the Faithful is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt organization.