National Child Abuse Prevention Month
In an effort to raise awareness of the suffering caused by child abuse and neglect, Congress and the President designated April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in 1983. Since that time religious, public service, philanthropic and other organizations that care deeply for the welfare of children have marked April as a special time for highlighting and renewing their commitments to the care and protection of children and young people.
As your Bishop nothing is more integral the Diocesan Bishop’s mission of teaching, governing, and sanctifying in the name of Christ than to provide the utmost care for those who need it most. From counseling the needy to extending financial aid to caregivers, our Church and Diocese are committed to the physical, spiritual and social well-being of everyone we encounter. This is particularly true for the children we seek to support, guide and care for, and in fact who are entrusted to us by the Lord Himself, who in St. Mark’s Gospel (Mark 10:13-16) says “let the children come unto me and do not hinder them.”
It is important to me and our diocese that we mark this national observance again this year by recalling and reinforcing our steadfast commitment to creating and maintaining safe environments for children in our schools, parishes and other facilities. The Diocese of Orange takes this task very seriously, as does the wider Church. We employ a comprehensive background screening for all adults likely to be in contact with children – already over 60,000 have been vetted. This process allows for the collection of a wide variety of past screening data, including extensive backgrounds checks and fingerprinting, and is designed to enhance already in-place diocesan policies. We recently had another session on safe environment training on our Christ Cathedral campus for our parish staff and volunteers. Later on this summer we will undergo our annual audit by the Stonebridge firm.
Our diocese additionally requires all clergy, employees, and volunteers to undergo Safe Environment Training. In 2011 alone, the Diocese trained 288 priests, 101 deacons, 1,630 teachers, 2,311 school employees and more than 19,000 volunteers. Our schools and Religious Education classes at parishes and diocesan centers also provide Safe Environment education for children. This procedure is suited to their age and level of understanding. In 2011, nearly 64,000 children participated in this critically important awareness program.
Please join me in recognizing the tireless efforts put forth by those involved in the development and implementation of all initiatives for the protection of children and young people. This vital aspect of life and ministry is often in addition to other ministerial and apostolic duties. Keep them in your prayers and remember that care for others is a duty and a gift. By sharing our concern and becoming responsible for the safety and well-being of those who come into our care is a spiritual act we can be proud of, every day. And, above all, if you know that they are engaged in this work, please thank them personally, and pray for them and support them.
The Church has committed herself to protect children and remains vigilant in protecting and caring for our most cherished resource as an integral and necessary part of our mission of proclaiming the Gospel. Much has been done, but more needs to be done. Until abuse is no longer a part of society, I and our Church will continue these efforts to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults.