Diocese will host healing services for abuse victims
FARMINGTON — About three years after the Diocese of Gallup declared bankruptcy to address a growing number of clergy sexual-abuse lawsuits, Bishop James Wall has announced plans to officiate healing services at many affected New Mexico and Arizona churches.
Starting next month, Wall will lead healing services at parishes that employed a priest or lay person who has been "credibly accused" of sexual assault during any point of his career. A total of 36 hour-long services are scheduled through early 2018. The first local service is expected to take place in January in Farmington.
"A healing service is a prayer service with the intention of offering healing and comfort to survivors of sexual abuse," Wall said in an email to The Daily Times. "It’s a time of prayer, reflection and an opportunity to open oneself up to the healing power of God."
Wall said the services allow him "to personally apologize to survivors of sexual abuse and to unite in prayer with them to our loving God."
The services are part of the Chapter 11 settlement the diocese reached earlier this year. Wall said the diocese and plaintiffs in the sexual assault lawsuits mutually agreed on the healing services, and many dioceses that have faced accusations of abuse have offered healing services.
"This is one of the things that we wanted to do to help," said Suzanne Hammons, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Gallup.
A total of 57 people have filed lawsuits against the diocese alleging sexual abuse, according to the diocese website. The Diocese of Gallup reviewed the claims and in late 2014 released a list of 31 priests or church employees identified as "credibly accused."
The online list names eight diocese employees who at some point in their career served a parish in Farmington, Bloomfield, Blanco, Flora Vista or Shiprock. The list does not state at which parish the alleged abuse took place.
Hammons said the healing services aim to address the anger many abuse survivors feel and help them move forward in a spirit of love and forgiveness. But she acknowledged that for many survivors, going into a church can be painful.
"I don’t know if you can ever 100 percent heal from something like that," she said.
Hammons said Wall will be available to meet with people one on one after the services. Diocese victims' assistance coordinator Elizabeth Terrill can set up those meetings. She can be reached at 505-906-7357 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a press release, Wall said he wanted to express "sincere apologies, profound sorrow, and deepest gratitude" to the survivors.
"I am sorry, first and foremost, that you were abused and betrayed by members of the church, and that the Diocese betrayed your trust," he said in the prepared statement. "I am also grateful to you, for your courage in coming forward, in continuing to seek justice, even when justice was not given for many years."
Father Tim Farrell of Farmington's Sacred Heart Parish declined to answer questions about the healing services and referred questions to Father Frank Chacon, who leads Saint Mary's Parish in Farmington. Chacon said he was not aware of any instances of abuse at his church and referred all other questions to Hammons.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.
Local healing services
- 6:30 p.m. Jan. 20, 2017, at Sacred Heart Church, 414 N. Allen Ave. in Farmington
- 6 p.m. April 28, 2017, at Holy Trinity Church, 42 County Road 3520 in Flora Vista
- 6 p.m. June 2, 2017, at St. Mary Church, 307 N. Church St. in Bloomfield
- 6 p.m. Sept. 15, 2017, at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 307 N. U.S. Highway 64 in Blanco
- 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28, 2017, at St. Paul and Risen Savior Church, 268 Crownpoint Drive in Crownpoint
- 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1, 2017, at Christ the King Catholic Church, U.S. Highway 64 in Shiprock
- 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19, 2018, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 2100 E. 20th St. in Farmington