Dec. 16, 2004
Hope and Healing
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
Bishop Moynihan Leads Prayer and Healing Service in Cortland
CORTLAND — A prayer service for hope and healing was held at St. Mary’s Church on Dec. 4. Bishop James Moynihan presided at the service, which was intended for those who have been affected in any way by the issue of child sexual abuse. Father John Fenlon, Father Andrew Baranski, Father Mark Kaminski, Father Daniel De Lorme as well as Father Michael Minehan were all in attendance. The service was well attended and the crowd was somber as they gathered for reconciliation on that afternoon. The people who came to the service had come to pray and to find peace.
Bishop Moynihan began the service by reading a Gospel passage from St. Matthew. “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift,” said the bishop. The bishop said that each day, as he stands at that altar, he can’t help but remember that his brothers and his sisters have something against him, so he came to bring gifts to the altar and to be reconciled. Bishop Moynihan said, “We are here this evening in a prayerful, reconciling, healing spirit. We are here to ask God’s forgiveness of our sins and we are here to seek reconciliation with Him and with one another.” Annette Bardsley was doing just that. As she listened to the bishop’s message, she was moved to tears. “I’m here to look at my conscience and to forgive,” said Bardsley.
Bishop Moynihan said he was conscious of the fact that the people of the region had been hurt and their faith has been tested by the sins of priests and bishops. At least two of St. Mary’s pastors have been involved in the sex abuse scandal. “St. Paul tells us that we are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and that when one member of the body suffers, everyone suffers,” Bishop Moynihan said. “When one of our priests or bishops sins, all of us suffer as a result. My friends, in the names of those who have sinned, and to those who have been sinned against, I am here to say that I repent in the name of the former for the sins that have been committed against God and against you.”
Many of the worshippers were visibly moved by the bishop’s words. The bishop continued, “There is no doubt in my mind about the great harm that has been done to victims by priests and bishops who have abused their trust and brought disgrace upon themselves, upon the priesthood and upon the Church. In the name of those priests and bishops, I stand before you tonight and tell you that I repent of the sins that have been committed and I repent of the damage that has been caused. I also know that I can hardly begin to make things right. For the victims, some things will never be right. The important thing this evening is that we carefully attend to the words of Jesus that I quoted previously from St. Matthew: ‘It’s not the person bringing the gifts to the altar who has something against another, but rather it’s the other who has something against the worshiper and it is the worshiper who is bound to straighten things out before presenting his gifts.’”
A reception following the service was held in the church hall. Many worshippers remained after the service to meet with Bishop Moynihan. John Bardsley, a parishioner of St. Mary’s for 15 years, raised some questions and concerns about the process that the diocese is using to make right the wrong that has been done. One of the questions included how much time will be involved in the process of making things right. “I’m troubled by this issue and want very much for there to be a reconciliation,” said Bardsley.
Father John Fenlon, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, was glad the bishop visited his parish and was able to have face-to-face conversations with the worshippers at the reception after the service. “He displayed his pastor’s heart,” said Father Fenlon. Carol Ann Foster, a parishioner of St. Lawrence Mission in De Ruyter, was anxious to see the bishop. “The service was very moving and absolutely beautiful,” said Foster.“It’s always a blessing for us to participate in a service with the bishop.” The bishop felt that the service went well. “I thought it was helpful to the people who probably need the healing,” said Bishop Moynihan. “It was helpful to me. I welcome the opportunity to visit with some of the victims and families. Our conversations were held in the spirit of reconciliation.”
He feels the matter of forgiveness is always a difficult subject. “I’m glad we were able to at least advance the possibility of being able to forgive those who have offended, but I know that this is never easy, and it only may happen over time,” Bishop Moynihan said.