St. Bernadette Catholic Parish in Ajax. Photo from Google Maps

Ajax parish putting words into action against sex abuse

  • November 2, 2018

When the shocking news broke of the coverup of sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania in August, word spread far and fast, with a wave of anger following in its wake.

The Catholic Church has long been scandalized with stories of abuse over the past decades, but the grand jury report detailing credible accounts of 300 predator priest abusing more than 1,000 children seemed to really open a wound for everyday Catholics, said Fr. Keith Wallace, pastor at St. Bernadette’s Parish in Ajax, Ont.

“I was surprised here by the visceral reaction of the people saying this has always been horrible, it’s been going on for decades, but this one’s really horrible,” said Wallace. “For some reason, the Pennsylvania one really touched a lot of people and brought out a lot of anger.”

It was the talk of the parish, but his parishioners wanted to go beyond simple words.

The question became, what do we do? “The response from the people was: We do prayer and we also do action,” said Wallace.

That action will be a Walk of Reparation, Hope and Healing for Victims of Abuse on Nov. 10. A group of parishioners will join Wallace at St. Paul’s Basilica in downtown Toronto where a walk will begin at 10:30 and take them along Queen Street East to St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica for an 11 a.m. Mass at the crypt of Archbishop Michael Power, Toronto’s first archbishop.

“As Catholics, a big part of our tradition is some kind of reparation,” he said.

Wallace said his flock understands that a part of the Church is hurting and wants to be a visible and spiritual presence in showing its disgust for what some in the Church have perpetrated upon children. 

The walk, however, is not meant as a form of protest, demonstration or outcry against the Church and the evil some of its members have committed, said Wallace. Far from it. To that end, he has been in contact with Toronto’s archbishop, Cardinal Thomas Collins, and Bishop Vincent Nguyen who is charge of the Eastern Pastoral Region of the archdiocese, and has gained their blessing for the event. 

“We’re also the Church too, so we’re doing our part in conjunction with the hierarchy.”

Wallace said he has been impressed with the message Collins sent soon after the Pennsylvania grand jury exposed the scandal in Pennsylvania. The cardinal released a statement Aug. 23 that called for a “culture of accountability” for Catholic clergy and bishops and the rooting out of the evil of abuse. He also praised the new guidelines on abuse released by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Wallace has a small group from his parish committed to the reparation walk and has spread the word to other parishes, particularly in the downtown, hoping for more people to join. Beyond Nov. 10, Wallace said St. Bernadette’s is planning on keeping the light shining on the issue and will host monthly Holy Hours of reparation for those suffering from clerical abuse.

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