Masses held to pray for those harmed by clergy sexual abuse

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Masses held to pray for those harmed by clergy sexual abuse

Representing Vicariates I and II, Auxiliary Bishops Mark Bartosic and Jeffrey Grob concelebrated a Mass for Hope and Healing to pray for victim-survivors of abuse at St. Edna Church in Arlington Heights on June 1, 2023. Vicariates lII, IV, V, and VI also had Masses on different nights with Bishops Kevin Birmingham, Robert Lombardo, Andrew Wypych and Joseph Perry. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Priests from surrounding parishes and beyond concelebrated the Mass with both bishops. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Grob gives the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of the music ministry lead the congregation is song. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Bartosic accepts the gifts from Jim Binnall and Marybeth Casty. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mayra Flores, director of the Office of Assistance Ministry and coordinator of the Safe Environment Office for the archdiocese, and Michael Hoffman, chairman of the archdiocese’s Hope and Healing Committee, victim-survivor and parishioner of Chicago’s St. Mary of the Woods Parish, share the Sign Of Peace with Kathy Minneci during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The bishops and priests celebrate the Eucharist. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Michael Hoffman, chairman of the archdiocese’s Hope and Healing Committee, victim-survivor and parishioner of Chicago’s St. Mary of the Woods Parish, shares a his experience of healing with the congregation following Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Catholics from across the Archdiocese of Chicago gathered at three Masses to pray for healing for those harmed by clergy sex abuse of minors.

The Masses were celebrated by auxiliary bishops between May 30 and June 1 in response to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s May 23 “Report on Catholic Clergy Child Sex Abuse in Illinois.”

The report resulted from a 4½-year investigation. It includes accusations that 451 Catholic priests, deacons and brothers sexually abused 1,997 children over at least seven decades in Illinois’ six Catholic dioceses. (See Cardinal Cupich’s statement in response to the report at

The Masses of Hope and Healing were a response to the report, said Auxiliary Bishop Robert Casey, the archdiocese’s vicar general, and were in addition to the annual Mass of Hope and Healing for survivors.

“With the attorney general’s report coming out, we wanted to give people an opportunity to come together in prayer,” Bishop Casey said. “For victims and survivors, it could have reopened old wounds. For our church, it calls us to take another look at ourselves. As we do that, we do that in union with Jesus. It just makes sense that we would invite our people in our vicariates to come together for Mass, as a way of recognizing our truth — the truth of our past, and the truth of where we are now and the truth of where we can go in the future.”

It was important to gather at Mass, Bishop Casey said.

“We find our identity in Eucharist: we are one with God and one with neighbor, and we come together as a community, around Communion, centered in prayer,” he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Mark Bartosic, episcopal vicar for Vicariate II, was the main celebrant of the June 1 Mass at St. Edna Church in Arlington Heights, while Auxiliary Bishop Jeffrey Grob, episcopal vicar for Vicariate I, was the homilist.

Bishop Grob used the 2018 Willie Nelson song “Something You Get Through” as inspiration. The song, Bishop Grob said, speaks about the loss of a person, whether through death or the end of a relationship. Such a loss, the song says, is not something you get over, but something you get through.

That’s the case with all kinds of loss, Bishop Grob said, including the many losses caused by the abuse of children, especially by clergy: the loss of innocence, of trust, of credibility, of dignity, of direction and purpose, among others.

The question for those gathered at the Mass was not “How did we get here?” Bishop Grob said. “It’s where do we go from here? There is no magic wand, no quick fix. … This is not something we get over, but hopefully it’s something we get through.”

The other Masses were celebrated May 30 at St. Walter Church, 11722 S. Oakley Ave., and May 31 at St. Frances of Rome Church in Cicero.

Michael Hoffman, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a priest, attended all three Masses with Mayra Flores, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Assistance Ministry.

Hoffman, who chairs the archdiocese’s Hope and Healing Committee, talked about his anxiety before telling first his wife — a disclosure he identifies as his primary act of recovery — and then his pastor about his experience. It was his pastor, Father Gregory Sakowicz, now rector of Holy Name Cathedral, who encouraged him to report his abuse to the archdiocese, which was when he first met Flores.

“Mayra literally opened the door for me,” Hoffman said, encouraging other victim-survivors to walk through the same door. “I believe healing is possible, and she is someone who makes the process easy.”

Hoffman and Flores both expressed gratitude to the parishes that opened their church doors for the Masses and to the people who came to pray with and for victim-survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

Flores said she admires Hoffman and others who have disclosed that they were abused by members of the clergy.

“I’m humbled by people like Mike, and by other victim-survivors who have come forward in such a brave way,” she said. “When they are ready to disclose it, I hope they are accepted and welcomed with open arms.”


  • clergy sexual abuse

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