Chicagoland

Growing domestic-violence outreach celebrated

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
October 11, 2017

Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach

One in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines in the United States receive more than 20,000 calls, an average of close to 15 calls every minute.
Representatives from their parishes that have an active Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness ministry carry signs as Father Louis Cameli, Cardinal Cupich's delegate for Formation and Mission, was the main celebrant and preached at an archdiocesan-wide Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach on Sept. 30 at Holy Name Cathedral. The Mass is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago's Domestic Violence Outreach office, led by Dominican Father Charles Dahm, who has preached on domestic violence at Masses in 100 parishes throughout the Chicago area since 2008. More than 80 parishes in the archdiocese have developed local ministries serving victims of domestic violence. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People pray at a Sept. 30 Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Louis Cameli, Cardinal Cupich's delegate for formation and mission, was the main celebrant and preached at an archdiocesan-wide Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach on Sept. 30 at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Louis Cameli, Cardinal Cupich's delegate for formation and mission, was the main celebrant and preached at an archdiocesan-wide Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach on Sept. 30 at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Louis Cameli receives the gifts during a Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach on Sept. 30 at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People pray at a Sept. 30 Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People pray at a Sept. 30 Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Representatives from their parishes that have an active Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness ministry carry signs as Father Louis Cameli, Cardinal Cupich's delegate for Formation and Mission, was the main celebrant and preached at an archdiocesan-wide Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach on Sept. 30 at Holy Name Cathedral. More than 80 parishes in the archdiocese have developed local ministries serving victims of domestic violence. (Ariane Moya/Chicago Catholic)
Representatives from their parishes that have an active Domestic Violence Abuse Awareness ministry carry signs as Father Louis Cameli, Cardinal Cupich's delegate for Formation and Mission, was the main celebrant and preached at an archdiocesan-wide Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach on Sept. 30 at Holy Name Cathedral. More than 80 parishes in the archdiocese have developed local ministries serving victims of domestic violence. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People pray at a Sept. 30 Mass for Domestic Violence Awareness and Outreach at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

One in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines in the United States receive more than 20,000 calls, an average of close to 15 calls every minute. 

These are just two statistics reported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and why Dominican Father Chuck Dahm has led the charge to raise awareness of domestic violence in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago. 

Organizers celebrated that effort Sept. 30 during a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, at State and Superior streets, where representatives from 80 parishes with domestic-violence awareness ministries processed into the church with signs bearing the parishes’ names. Dahm has preached on the topic to more than 100 of the archdiocese’s 344 parishes. 

“During the Vietnam War, there were 58,000 Americans who died in that war. But in that very same period of time, 54,000 women were murdered by their partners right here in the United States,” Dahm says in a homily on YouTube. (see youtu.be/yxPEreSlq_c).

Men are also victims of domestic violence, but the majority of those abused are women, Dahm said, and the abuse doesn’t discriminate by race, social status or geography. 

“Domestic violence is much broader than any physical violence. Its definition is any behavior which seeks control over another person,” Dahm said. That power can be physical, emotional, sexual or economic. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops addressed the issue in 1992 and 2002 with the pastoral letter “When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women,” saying that “we emphasize that no person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage. Some abused women believe that church teaching on the permanence of marriage requires them to stay in an abusive relationship. They may hesitate to seek a separation or divorce. They may fear that they cannot re-marry in the Church. Violence and abuse, not divorce, break up a marriage.”

The letter (see www.usccb.org) also addresses the use of Scripture by some abusers to keep their victims in the relationship.

“As bishops, we condemn the use of the Bible to support abusive behavior in any form. A correct reading of Scripture leads people to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and to relationships based on mutuality and love,” it reads.

The letter also encourages efforts like the archdiocese’s Domestic Violence Outreach that seeks to raise awareness of the issue, connect victims to services and promote prevention efforts. The parish-based ministries that participated in the Mass don’t counsel victims but refer them to Catholic Charities for help. 

St. Ailbe Parish, 9015 S. Harper Ave., started its ministry in 2015, following a visit from Dahm. 

It holds forums, puts information on domestic violence in the bulletin monthly, screens films for the parish and also does outreach to college and high school students.

The parish and local community have responded well to the ministry, said Legertha Barner, a member of the committee who attended the Mass.  

“There’s a need. It’s real,” said Barner. “It affects all families. It may not be me personally but I would know someone.”

Sacred Heart Parish in Palos Hills began its ministry five years ago. Like St. Ailbe, it focuses on raising awareness of domestic violence and acknowledging that it exists. Diane O’Brien is part of a  core of five people involved in the ministry. 

O’Brien had a “mini” domestic violence ministry of her own at St. Joseph in Homewood, where she served as a parish nurse. When Dahm came to speak at her parish, Sacred Heart, she felt that the wider church could talk about the issue. 

O’Brien is part of the archdiocesan outreach’s steering committee and said that each year more parishes establish ministries on domestic violence. 

Topics:

  • domestic violence

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