Bishop leads an evening of prayer for victims of abuse

People pray during an evening prayer service for victims of abuse and for reparation of the sins of the church. It was held Sept. 28 at Saint Agnes Church, Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood.
Photo by James A. McBride

BLACKWOOD — The prayer service began in silence, with the Bishop of Camden making his way past his flock here at Saint Agnes Church, Our Lady of Hope Parish, before lying prostrate on the altar in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

It was a stark contrast to the usual celebratory gatherings Bishop Dennis Sullivan leads with the faithful, but reflective of the sadness, anger and shame that has rocked the Catholic world the last few months amidst the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report of clergy sex abuse, the allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other stories.

The Evening of Prayer for the Victims of Abuse and Reparation for the Sins of the Church, the first of its kind in the diocese, took place here last Friday, Sept. 28, with Bishop Sullivan, diocesan clergy and religious, and the laity joining in humble prayer. Other evenings like it were scheduled to take place this Friday in each of the five diocesan deaneries.

In a service that included Scripture, prayer and silence before the Blessed Sacrament, Bishop Sullivan begged forgiveness for the sins of the church, and asked that the congregation’s intentions “move us into action for the purification of our church and for the healing of the pain of the victims of abuse,” adding that “not just words, but actions, are needed.” (See full text on page 3.)

Acknowledging that, “Our faith is shaken,” he urged all to “let this not become a crisis of faith,” and to only put trust “in Jesus Christ who calls us into action.”

Calling on the laity to hold the church hierarchy accountable, he urged them to “insist that we change how we do business.”

To his brother priests, Bishop Sullivan said, “This scandal not only embarrasses us but it challenges you and me to strengthen our resolve to grow in priestly holiness.” Encouraging them in their work, he asked them to “stand in solidarity with all those who have been wounded either by bishops or priests.”

Although the light of Christ “has been dimmed” by the actions of bishops and priests, Bishop Sullivan said, it can never fully be extinguished.

“Now is the time for us to fan that Light back into flame.”

The Evening of Prayer for the Victims of Abuse and Reparation for the Sins of the Church will continue this Friday, Oct. 5, at the following parishes, all beginning at 7 p.m.: Saint Joseph the Worker, 901 Hopkins Road, Haddonfield; Church of the Incarnation, 240 Main Street, Mantua; Saint Andrew the Apostle, 27 Kresson-Gibbsboro Road, Gibbsboro; Christ the Good Shepherd, 1655 Magnolia Road, Vineland; Saint Katharine Drexel, 6075 W. Jersey Avenue, Egg Harbor Township; and Our Lady Star of the Sea, 525 Washington Mall, Cape May.