February 1, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Children from Adrian who suffer abuse will no longer have to bear the added trauma of repeating their story countless times to law enforcement officials and counselors, thanks to the new Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of Catholic Charities of Jackson, Lenawee, and Hillsdale County.
Catholic Charities showcased its new facility and hosted an official ribbon-cutting ceremony January 26. Attending were Catholic Charities staff and board members, as well as interested and concerned community members – including Sister Pam Millenbach, OP, who ministers at the facility, and several other Adrian Dominican Sisters. Before and after the formal ceremony, community members had the opportunity to tour the new facility.
The Adrian-based CAC serves as a base where professionals – law enforcement officers, representatives from the prosecutor’s office, counselors, and public health officials – can coordinate their efforts so traumatized children only have to tell their story once. Meetings between the child and a forensic interviewer are videotaped so other concerned agencies have access to the information revealed in the interview. The multi-disciplined team can then work together to decide on the most effective ways to help the child and his or her family, and to proceed with investigations and legal action against the abuser.
The CAC is a collaborative effort of the Lenawee County law enforcement agencies, the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office, Child Protective Services, ProMedica, the University of Michigan Child Protective Team, and Catholic Charities. The CAC also received financial support from local organizations, including the Adrian Dominican Sisters, in the form of a Ministry Trust grant.
Sister Pam, who ministers in foster care for Catholic Charities in Adrian, affirmed the need to limit the trauma that children often face when repeating the story of their abuse. The CAC facility is designed not only to streamline the process of informing professionals of the child’s experience, but also to help the child and family members feel safe. The building includes a sunny, brightly colored playroom where children can relax and feel safe, Sister Pam explained.
Sister Pam noted that children have already made use of the new CAC facility.
Sister Barbara Jean Quincey, OP, a member of the Board of Catholic Charities and a resident of Jackson, Michigan, spoke of the effectiveness of the CAC program, which has been in place in Jackson for about two years. CAC “has made it easier for the kids because they haven’t had to tell their story to six different people,” Sister Barbara explained. “[The professionals] all watch one interview. It’s wonderful that they can do this as a seamless garment,” she said.
Sister Barbara estimated that about 250 abused children and their families are served by the CAC in Jackson every year. “Jackson and Adrian are both full of abused children,” she said. “It breaks my heart and I’m so glad that Catholic Charities is able to do something about that and that the community is able to help them.” Retired after 46 years as a teacher, she said she is very dedicated to children and is appalled by the way they are so often treated.
As a member of the Board, Sister Barbara is involved in many of Catholic Charities’ programs, most notably its fundraising efforts. Events such as the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day lunch box sale raise money to offset the many services that the organization provides for free to those who can’t afford them.
“We don’t ask what their religion is,” Sister Barbara said. “It’s Catholic Charities, but it’s for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, if you can afford our services or can’t. If you need them, we will help you.”
Clockwise, from top: From left, Sisters Tarianne DeYonker, OP, Attracta Kelly, OP, and Jacqueline Phillips, OP, enjoy the view from the porch of the new Child Advocacy Center facility. The playroom at the new Child Advocacy Center gives children a cheerful place to relax and have fun. State Representative Bronna Kahle (R-Dist. 57) presents a certificate recognizing the new Child Advocacy Center.
By Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP
July 13, 2017, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – “I’m learning the art of listening: to the person I accompany, to God in the person, and to myself!”
“I was deeply moved as I engaged in spiritual companioning and experienced sacred ground.”
“It was such a liberating experience, full of joy and surprises!”
These are a few of comments by 12 cloistered nuns from six monasteries and traditions as they completed four weeks of Introduction to Spiritual Companioning. The course was sponsored by the nine-member spirituality team of the Conference of Religious of the Dominican Republic (CONDOR) and coordinated by Sister Carol Ann Gross, OP, and Dr. Angela Lopez, a lay psychologist.
Visitandines, Franciscan Capuchins, Clarissas, and Discalced Carmelites from across the country gathered in the Carmelite Monastery of St. Teresa of Jesus in Santo Domingo for the month-long course. They came to take instruction and to learn the tools and skills they needed to accompany others in their attentive and personal responses to God.
During the first week, they received an overview of Spiritual Companioning, listening skills, and personality types, and shared their own history of spirituality. The team demonstrated modes of accompaniment, after which the nuns practiced with each other. The week also included follow-up and supervision of the new companions by the coordinating team.
The second week dealt with the area of psychology and personal growth, and a retreat workshop on a review of personal history. Applications of the Exercises of St. Ignatius followed, with models of discernment and specific practices of accompaniment. Special cases such as group accompaniment and areas of affectivity, sexuality, and forgiveness were covered in the fourth week. Throughout the month the nuns delighted in presenting their own monastic traditions and in learning about the traditions of the others.
After the formal course, the team offered follow-up and supervision of the nuns in their settings, as well as group supervision. The group gathered again in May for a personal directed retreat and follow-up in the practice of accompaniment.
“Beginning the course with the contemplatives, we of the team were a little nervous,” Sister Carol said. “We know these women are dedicated to prayer and silence and to God in a very special vocation. But within two days we started to relax and give to them what we had learned from our experience and study while they received us with exemplary openness. We laughed and cried together and we all learned about the presence of God in our lives: contemplatives, laity, priests, and sisters in active congregations. The course has been a gift of grace and growth for all!”
The course, a unique ministry in the Dominican Republic, already has a long history. Sister Ana Feliz, OP, with the support of Sister Nancy Jurecki, OP, launched the program in 2002 as a course in Spiritual Companioning, sponsored by the CONDOR. Sister Carol and Sister Eneida Santiago, OP, were participants.
Others contributed in specific areas of input. Sister Arlene Kosmatka, OP, accompanied the groups with her expertise during the summer courses for several years. This Adrian Dominican-launched ministry in spirituality found fertile ground in the Dominican Republic – and the mission continues!
Top: Students prepare for class. Bottom: The 12 participants represent six monasteries and six traditions.