April 1, 2024 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Candles are lit and participants sing together during the Diocese of Owensboro’s April 21, 2022 prayer service for protection and healing from sexual abuse. The service was held at St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

People of all faiths invited to pray for protection, healing, of victims of sexual abuse


In April, an ecumenical prayer service will be held at St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro for protection and healing of victims of sexual abuse.

This prayer service is sponsored annually by the Diocese of Owensboro, and it previously consisted of the Catholic Church’s tradition of praying vespers, also known as evening prayer, led by Bishop William F. Medley.

This year, however, organizers decided to change the format a bit. The prayer service, which will take place on April 16 from 6-6:45 p.m., will instead utilize the Taizé prayer style.

Taizé prayer – used in different Christian traditions, including Catholic – was formed by the ecumenical, monastic Taizé community in France, whose vows are focused on an apostolate of reconciliation. (Popular Taizé chants include “Jesus, Remember Me,” often sung at liturgies on Good Friday, and “Stay Here,” commonly chanted on Holy Thursday.)

“I hope other Christians will consider joining us for prayer,” said Michael Bogdan, director of the diocese’s Office of Music, who helped coordinate the prayer service. “This is a chance to acknowledge and pray for an end to the abuse that has plagued all of our churches. And an opportunity to come together to ask Christ to bring healing and peace to those who have suffered abuse.”

Terri Congleton is the chair of the Diocesan Review Board, which assists the bishop in reviewing and handling cases of alleged sexual abuse against persons acting in the name of the Catholic Church.

She said that in offering annual prayer opportunities like these, the Church is “recognizing an injury – really, a travesty – and bringing us together in prayer that it won’t separate us as the Body of Christ.”

Congleton, who has served as chair since August 2023, said it is important that “the Church still sees this as part of our history.”

Continuing to pray through, and talk about this issue, “helps not just the victims but also (reminds) the members of the community that these things did happen,” she said. In other words, “not to just close that door and forget. Because the victims won’t forget; they never do.”

Congleton said sexual abuse in the Church is “a very divisive topic” especially when “victims aren’t seen as victims” and are instead viewed as trying to ruin someone’s reputation.

She emphasized that as a Church, “our job is to be that community” for those suffering the lingering effects of abuse, and to seek to lessen the burden or help it feel “not so heavy” for survivors.

“Knowing that their brothers and sisters in Christ love and support them, and don’t want them to feel alone,” she said.

Originally printed in the April 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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