Fr. Hans Zollner presenting Windsor’s Deborah Kloos’s painting to Pope Francis. Photo courtesy of Deborah Kloos

Abuse victim finds healing in prayer, art

By  Ron Stang, Catholic Register Special
  • November 28, 2015

WINDSOR, ONT. - Deborah Kloos believes that healing can come not just through prayer but art.

More than three decades ago the Windsor woman experienced abuse by a parish priest in southwestern Ontario, a man who is now deceased and whose name she doesn’t want to disclose so as not to embarrass his family.

“I didn’t put his name out there because he was elderly. He’s passed away now. I don’t want to have his family hurt,” she said.

Kloos has been seeking, first through the Diocese of London, and eventually all the way to the Vatican, a worldwide day of prayer to be established for victims of abuse.

“There’s a lot of negativity with abuse and I just wanted to bring something positive, like to promote the Church to pray together for people wounded by abuse,” said Kloos.

As part of her campaign she had one of her paintings recently presented to Pope Francis. It’s an example of how Kloos believes taking a positive attitude transcends the pain of abuse and seeks a positive solution. She was told the Pope put it in a sanctuary where he prays.

The painting measures about 20 by 15 cm and has a black background with a picture of Christ being crucified. Christ, however, is not crucified on a cross but on a tree flourished with green leaves. A white dove emerges from the tree and flies upward. The painting is not on canvas but on burnt wood. Lines are engraved giving the image texture.

Why the tree instead of a cross? “It’s the tree of life,” she said. ”Because He represents life for everybody.”

Kloos sent the painting to Pope Francis, as well as a rosary, through her connection with Fr. Hans Zollner, who chairs the steering committee for the Centre for Child Protection of the Institute of Psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and through whom she has been lobbying for the day of prayer.

She has been having regular correspondence with Zollner, as well as abuse survivor Marie Collins of Ireland, both members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was formed last year. The commission has endorsed the day of prayer.

Kloos has been creating art all her life and has often donated her work to religious and non-profit organizations for installation or as gifts to be auctioned at fundraisers. She just donated three wreaths to Children’s Hospital of Michigan, affiliated with the Detroit Medical Centre, where she’s a nurse at Hutzel Women’s Hospital.

“I like doing stained glass,” she said. “I donated rosaries and they auctioned them off to help Our Lady of Guadalupe Home of Windsor, and for Right to Life.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe provides shelter for pregnant women who don’t want to abort their child, as well as care for up to a year after they give birth.

Kloos’ art often features nature — paintings of flowers, landscapes. Art, she said, relaxes her. It doesn’t always have to be related to abuse.
And while Kloos understands the trauma of abuse she seeks a positive catharsis.

“There’s no amount of money that the Church can give a person through lawsuits that can heal any kind of abuse,” she said. “Everybody does what they want to do or what’s best for them. I just feel that the only way to heal is for everybody to get together and to pray.”

(Stang is a freelance writer in Windsor, Ont.)

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