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A culture of safeguarding

A culture of safeguarding

On 6th November 2023, 133 members of 90 religious congregations gathered at Fraterna Domus north of Rome, Italy, for a one-week workshop on Safeguarding. There were 78 female religious from 51 congregations and 55 male religious from 39 congregations. This important gathering of religious with responsibility for safeguarding was organized by the Care and Safeguarding Commission of the Unions of Superiors General (UISG / USG) in Rome.

Among these participants, we were two Daughters of Wisdom delegated by the congregational leader, Sr Rani Kurian, and her Council. They are Sr Doris Mary John, from the Province of India, and Sr Sandrale Thomas from the Province of Haiti.  The presence of the Spirit who animated and guided this great assembly is clear proof of the vitality and richness of the Church characterized by its cultural diversity. There are many sexual scandals and allegations from the church, therefore, creating a culture of protection and safeguarding of children, minors, and vulnerable adults is at the heart of concerns. The responses of the Religious Congregations and Institutes of Consecrated Life to this formation were also very strong.

Building a Culture of Safeguarding and Abuse Prevention

During the various sessions attended, we were provided with essential information on the abuse of children, minors, and vulnerable adults, including religious and formers in formation. We also learned that the prevention of abuse is of paramount importance, starting with training and recruitment. We also sought to identify opportunities and places where abuse could occur.  Hence the importance of developing policies to combat abuse, and protect and safeguard children. It is not only necessary to design these documents but also to ensure their implementation, and therefore their application, and their revision, considering the reality of each Entity, each mission, or each work. A session was given to explore ways to answer questions related to abuse, including responding to allegations, emphasizing the importance of civil and canon law, and the care and support to be given to those affected by these abuses.

Echoes of Deep Pain

Among all the interventions or training sessions, the most touching for us was listening to the victims, especially a woman, a former nun. This listening session of this woman telling her story makes us understand the depth of the wounds inflicted on her by her abuser which extinguished all her dreams, tipping her whole life into suffering to such an extent that she says she is inhabited by a sense of loss. One of the strongest sentences in her story that we will never forget is this one because it describes the hell that the victim goes through even after the death of the aggressor:

“The power of the abusers does not disappear even when they die.”

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank Sr Rani and her Council for entrusting us with this great responsibility and mission to work together with her and her councilors so that the Congregation makes the protection and safeguarding of Children, Minors, and Vulnerable Adults one of its priorities by elaborating in all its entities a code of conduct that responds in a specific and adequate way to each type of mission or ministry or pastoral activity in which we are involved.

Sr. Sandrale Thomas DW
Sr. Doris Mary John DW