Northbrook parish holds penance service for clergy abuse

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Parish holds penance service for clergy abuse

Our Lady of the Brook in Northbrook held a prayer service for repentance and healing for clergy sexual abuse on Aug. 22, 2018. Associate pastor Dan Folwaczny led the service, which included prayers for victims, abusers and the church. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
With tears in his eyes, Father Folwaczny gives his homily during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mariana Hernandez prays during the Aug. 22 service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Brad Zamora, Deacon and seminarian Michael Lewis, Father Dan Folwaczny, and Father Robert Heinz kneel waiting for those attending to administer ashes on their foreheads. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants pray during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants pray over priests. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When Father Dan Folwaczny first learned the news detailing sexual abuse allegations against the Archdiocese of Washington’s retired archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, he felt called to gather parishioners to pray and repent. Then the grand jury report in Pennsylvania was released detailing decades of abuse,  and that call grew.

On the evening of Aug. 22, more than 40 people joined Folwaczny at Our Lady of the Brook Church in Northbrook for a somber service praying for abuse victims, abusers and the church. 

Wearing purple stoles symbolizing penance, he and Father Robert Heinz, pastor, laid prostrate before the altar at the beginning of the service, in a gesture of sorrow, repentance and surrender to God. 

At the end of the service, the two were joined by Father Brad Zamora, who was cantoring for the service, and Deacon Michael Lewis, a seminarian studying at Mundelein University, in kneeling before the congregation while the people sprinkled ashes on their heads. 

“It just came to me from so many examples in Scripture where we talk about how we pray and we fast, and we put on our sackcloth and our ashes,” Folwaczny said after the service. “We just decided we had to talk about it because not talking about it isn’t doing anybody any good.”

While the sins of the priest-abusers aren’t those of Folwaczny or his pastor, they are the sins of their fellow priests, he said, so “we have to do something on their behalf” to repent. 

Folwaczny, 33, wasn’t a priest when the last abuse scandal broke in 2002, and wasn’t tuned into the church at that time, so the general reaction to priests now, which at times can be hostile, is new for him.

“I feel the effects in a way in which I hadn’t before, which I imagine the guys in 2002 did,” he said. “I walk through a park because I’m going to meet somebody and I wonder, how are the parents of these children playing looking at me? I wonder when I go into the school because I work there is that something that’s in the back of people’s minds?”

During his homily, Folwaczny questioned how an abuser could stand up on the day of his ordination and make promises to God and “not feel the gravity and sacredness of his charge.”

“How could he possibly dare to stand and promise to pray for his people when he meant only to prey on them?” Folwaczny asked. 

God will not be mocked in this way and demands purification and repentance for sins, which is where prayer and fasting enter in, he said, adding that he refuses to give up hope.

“I cannot leave behind the priesthood that I know he has called me to,” he said. “I cannot abandon the people that he has asked me to feed with his body and blood.”

Folwaczny told those gathered that for the next 40 days, he would abstain from meat and offer a rosary daily to Our Lady of Sorrows.

Mariana Hernandez attended the service at the invitation of a friend and said it is important for laypeople to respond. 

“As part of the church, we have to take responsibility and pray,” she said.

The somber, penitential actions by the priests during the service were appropriate to the issue, she said.

“I felt like it was the priests asking us to help them. As we are the church, it is part of our responsibility to support them in their path.”

Paul Villanueva attends Our Lady of the Brook and said he prayed for the entire church during the service, not just for clergy. 

“It’s not only for our clergy but for us,” Villanueva said. “It is so heartening that the love of the Lord is there for us.”

He was disheartened when the issue of clergy abuse resurfaced.

“It was something that I thought was done,” he said. “It has opened the wound again. For us members of the church, we should pray.”



  • clergy sexual abuse

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