The Goal Preventing More Horror Stories
Area Catholic Parishes Join Training to Stop Abuse

By Amanda Krupkoski
Lowell Sun
Downloaded June 11, 2003

DRACUT More than a year after the abuse crisis in the Catholic church first came to light, the Archdiocese of Boston has implemented a new program in hopes of eradicating child abuse in the church.

The program, called Protecting God's Children, was initiated last fall and is now being taught across the state, said Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese.

The program, which is required of parish pastoral and administrative staff, parish employees and volunteers at parishes in Massachusetts, ensures that all who work with children, in any capacity, receive child-abuse prevention training.

The three- to four-hour training sessions encompass a wide variety of techniques, including presentations, videos and discussions. The sessions are intended to help people identify and prevent child abuse.

"Attendees learn what child abuse is, and what it isn't, and how to identify it," Coyne said. "They learn how to watch for potential clues and what to do when they have identified abuse."

Thousands of people have completed the program since it was started, said Coyne, including those who do not interact with children in the parish but want a better knowledge of abuse prevention.

Almost every church in the state has taken part in the program, Coyne said, and the archdiocese hopes to have training completed at all parishes by this summer. The program will be repeated every year to train new volunteers.

St. Francis Church in Dracut began the program in March and has since trained between 200 and 300 volunteers, said Anne Frazier, who serves on the parish's five-member abuse-prevention team. There have been between 12 and 16 training sessions, of which she has led six.

When the child-abuse crisis became public last year, Frazier asked her pastor, Rev. Robert Blaney, what she could do. When he approached her earlier this year about joining the team, she immediately accepted.

"I'm excited the archdiocese is taking such an active role," she said. "It's probably one of the most rewarding things I've ever done because it's making a safe environment for the kids."

Frazier, a mother of two and lifelong parish member, said she hopes trainees take what they learn out of the church and into the community, noticing the warning signs and preventing abuse before it can occur.

"This program raises our awareness to the reality of this horrible crime," Blaney said. "It's going to help us, as a church and as a community, recognize the signs of child abuse and address it immediately."

St. Francis parishioners have responded well to the program, says Blaney, and many people have volunteered to attend future sessions. He says the parish plans to run another training session before the fall, then two or three sessions a year to train new volunteers to the church.

Coyne believes the program is a good response to the priest-abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic church.

"The archdiocese responded appropriately to identify (child abuse) and to stop it," he said. "Any time you can educate a significant number of people as to the causes, signs and prevention of child abuse, it is a good thing, both for the parish and the community as a whole.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.