Diocese Begins Abuse Outreach
Laura F. Reilly Is Organizing a Program on Cleric Abuse That Will Be Taken Parish to Parish

By Bill Zajac
Springfield Union-News [Springfield MA]
February 25, 2003

SPRINGFIELD - The person responsible for outreach to victims of sexual abuse by clerics in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has started providing education programs in the diocese.

After spending the first several months on the job devising programs and working on administrative matters, Laura F. Reilly offered her first workshop Sunday at St. Jude Parish in the Indian Orchard section, training youth ministers and Christian Confraternity Doctrine instructors on abuse issues.

"I'm still devising a program that I will be taking parish to parish," said Reilly.

Reilly will be back on the road tonight as a guest speaker at a meeting of the Springfield diocese's Voice of the Faithful affiliate at St. Mary's Parish in Northampton at 7. Voice of the Faithful is an international reform group begun after the priest sex abuse scandal in Boston.

Reilly replaces the deceased Rev. John J. Johnson in a newly reorganized position.

"It used to be the Marriage Counseling Office. We have broadened the scope to include individual counseling," said Reilly, who supervises four part-time counselors.

Besides counseling, Reilly is responsible for implementing some of the mandated policies created in June in the U.S. Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children.

Those responsibilities include diocesan education about abuse and functioning as an outreach counselor to anyone bringing an abuse accusation against a diocesan worker or volunteer.

"In many cases the victim isn't from the area, so I'm a contact with a therapist to make sure the bills are paid," said Reilly.

When someone brings an accusation to the diocesan Misconduct Commission, Reilly receives a copy of the referral.

"The victim is assigned to one of the nine members of the commission who informs the person about counseling services and gives them the option of contacting us," Reilly said.

All counseling is confidential and conducted by licensed therapists, Reilly said.

Reilly has helped prepare brochures that explain the services offered to abuse victims. She also put together information about services for the diocesan Web site.

"My main goal is education. If we are ever going to break the code of silence, we must keep talking about this," said Reilly.

She said she will also make herself available to priests who want her to speak with parishioners.

Reilly said the position allows her to combine her social work background and faith.

"I feel blessed that I can bring my beliefs in the dignity in all human life to a job," said Reilly.

Reilly is a parishioner of St. Michael's Parish in East Longmeadow, the parish that is protesting the diocese's financial support of sexually abusive priests by withholding money from weekly collections from the bishop.

Reilly, who grew up near Hartford, is a 45-year-old mother of two teen-agers.

She worked 10 years as head of the crisis team and the outpatient services at the Mount Tom Mental Heath Center in Holyoke, three years in a domestic violence program and six years for the Department of Social Services in San Diego. Bill Zajac can be reached at

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