Child Protection Sunday

This weekend, the Catholic Church in Australia marks Child Protection Sunday, on which we pray for those who have been abused, their families and supporters. We recognise the harm done by priests, religious and lay people in Church settings. We recommit to practices that support survivors and make the Catholic Church and its ministries the safest possible place for children and vulnerable adults. You can find out more about the Church’s work in this area at: www.catholic.org.au/responseandprevention.

A Prayer for Stronger Communities, Safer Children:

Gracious God, you said “Let the children come to me”.

The hurt felt by those wounded by abuse weighs heavily upon us. Trust has been eroded when institutions failed to appropriately respond to their needs. Lord, we as your Church stand in need of your healing and help.

We ask you, God, to strengthen and guide all in our Catholic communities. Grant us wisdom in our time to make decisions that protect children and the vulnerable.

May our families and communities, through love, generosity, commitment and patience, build stronger communities safe for children.

Let your grace and love fall gently upon our children giving them the inner strength, peace and resilience they will need for their life’s journey.

We ask you, God, to help our Catholic communities to be resolute in building a community where our children flourish and are safe. Amen

 

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With the delivery of the final report we move as a Church to the next stage of the painful process of atoning for the sins of the past. We continue to hold in our thoughts and prayers all those who have suffered abuse at the hands of clergy, religious, teachers and volunteers in our Catholic schools and homes. It is for these children, women and men that we offer our humble prayers for their healing and health as they, too, move to this next stage in their journey of their story. If you would like time to reflect and speak about this, you are welcome to meet Fr Jude or to contact Geralyn, our Child Safety officer, on 0416 059 673.

 

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This year, the Australian Catholic Church’s Child Protection Sunday again falls at the end of the National Child Protection Week campaign, stressing the importance of primary prevention to reduce child abuse and neglect in Australia. The focus this year is: ‘Stronger Communities, Safer Children’.

The images of child sexual abuse have continued to affect our entire community and diminish the trust that many have placed in our Church. Sadly, that trust has been further eroded when institutions fail to appropriately respond to the needs of victims.

Despite her many failings, the Catholic Church is in a unique position to offer much within this focus of creating stronger communities, and safer children and young people. One such example can be seen in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in which families and consequently communities are encouraged through love, and are strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience to become stronger more capable and more resilient.

Stronger families and Church communities can help to keep our children and young people safe. As parishioners of St James the Apostle parish, we must all play our part in ensuring that our children and young people are safe from harm.

As we await the imminent findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse later this year, we take this opportunity on Child Protection Sunday to humbly reflect on the work that our parish has done in ensuring that our children and young people are able to feel safe and be safe within our community.

The introduction of the Victorian Child Safe Standards has provided the parish with an invaluable and rare opportunity to embark on an appraisal of its culture of child-safety. Since then, the work that has been undertaken in this arena has purposefully centred on the principle that a culture of child-safety needs to be embedded and assigned a prominent and central role within all aspects of our parish life and organisation. Since this process of appraisal in 2017, St James the Apostle parish:

  • has developed a Parish Commitment Statement to Child Safety which encapsulates our explicit and steadfast commitment to a culture of child safety;
  • has developed a St James Child Safe Policy which articulates an overarching set of principles that guide how the parish honours this commitment;
  • has developed a St James Code of Conduct which articulates clear behavioural expectations and boundaries for all adults in the parish in their interaction with children and young people;
  • is continuing to consolidate processes to ensure that all volunteers in ministry have Working with Children Checks and, where required, National Police checks in accordance with legislative requirements;
  • has developed an induction process for all new staff and volunteers in ministry to ensure that they are familiar with our child safe policies and processes;
  • continues to provide ongoing annual training for Parish staff and all coordinators and volunteers in ministry, aimed at providing guidance about and developing awareness of child safe standards and professional conduct. These workshops are based on the Victorian Child Safe Standards, and the Church’s “Integrity in the Service of the Church”, “Integrity in Ministry” and “May our Children Flourish Code of Conduct.” These workshops ensure that all adults in our parish are able to appropriately care for children and young people, to positively promote their wellbeing and to protect them from any kind of harm and abuse;
  • has developed a Child Safety Risk Committee which works with the Fr Jude and the Parish Pastoral Council to identify potential risks to child safety within our community and ways of mitigating or removing these risks;
  • has appointed a Child Safety Officer (Geralyn McCarthy) to ensure that child safety continues to be a priority for our parish.

All parishioners and visitors are encouraged to read our policies which are available on our website.

St James the Apostle Parish holds the care, safety and wellbeing of children and young people as a central and fundamental responsibility of everyone. This commitment is drawn from and inherent to the teaching and mission of Jesus Christ, with love, justice and the sanctity of each human person at the heart of the Gospel.

We strive to create a nurturing Church environment where children and young people are respected, their voices are heard and where they are safe and feel safe.

 

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At all masses this weekend (09/10 Sept), we focus on the important role that everyone within the parish plays in ensuring that our faith community is a safe place for children and young people. Please read the article on the back of this week’s newsletter to learn more about how the parish of St James the Apostle is working to ensure a culture of child safety. All parishioners are encouraged to become familiar with our Child Safe policies, processes and other child safe resources by referring to our parish website.

For more information, please speak with Fr Jude or our Parish’s Child Safety Officer, Mrs Geralyn McCarthy.

 

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