Lucia Furgiuele

Family services to kickstart conversation on ‘terrible evil’

  • October 26, 2012

Cardinal Thomas Collins will meet and pray with faith leaders from across Toronto to start a more public conversation about violence against women in the spring of 2013.

Catholic Family Services is organizing the interfaith service, which Collins committed to attending in a message to the third annual Mass to End Woman Abuse celebrated at Blessed Trinity Church in Toronto Oct. 16.

Collins called violence against women a “terrible evil.”

“Often this happens out of the sight of the world, but those who experience it experience enormous grief and pain,” Collins wrote.

The idea that faith leaders are ready to publicly talk and pray about how women suffer at the hands of men is “a very good thing,” said Canadian Women’s Foundation president and CEO Bev Wybrow.

“What we would like to see come out of it is looking at the most effective ways to address violence in the context of faith communities,” Wybrow said. “That is very, very important to some women in particular and it hasn’t always been as appropriate as it should be.”

This year’s Mass to End Woman Abuse, organized by Catholic Family Service of Toronto, attracted about 200.

“I would want it to be standing room only,” said Kelly Bourke, who directs the Faith Connections youth program for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto. “I find it challenging that it’s not.”

Though the Church may not be full, the annual event is giving a higher profile to the issue, said Virginia Koehler, director of Catholic Family Services woman abuse programs. With each Mass Catholic Family Services has seen an increase in referrals and volunteers.

“Priests are calling — priests we haven’t heard from,” she said.

The Mass particularly concentrates on thanking and honouring survivors of spousal abuse who volunteer as mentors in Catholic Family Services’ Women Helping Women program.

The impulse to keep silent about violence within marriages is exactly the cover abusers need, said Lucia Furgiuele, Catholic Family Services of Toronto executive director.

“We stand united in breaking the silence that accompanies this issue,” she said.

Women should never be told to be obedient and pray in the face of violence, said Furgiuele.

“Our Church teaches that women should leave abusive situations that persist,” she said.

Prayer is not irrelevant, said Wybrow.

“Prayer can be accompanied by concrete action as well and help make sure action is appropriate as possible,” she said.

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