By Debbie Shelley
The Catholic Commentator
Anger, pain, confusion and heartbreak over abuse and broken trust surface through tears and cries for help. These were among the feelings expressed, especially among parents, regarding the clergy sexual abuse scandal according to Becky Eldredge and Stephanie Clouatre Davis, retreat facilitators and co-founders of Women at the Well.
As parents, they struggled themselves to come to terms with last summer’s revelations of clergy abuse at the national level and most recently with the release of names of priest offenders in the Diocese of Baton Rouge on Jan. 31.
“The ripple affect of this news has been dispersed throughout the church and the world,” said Eldredge, who is also an author. “My heart aches over the reopening and deepening of the wounds of the abused and their families.”
After news of the scandal broke out, Davis and Eldredge were inundated with emails, phone calls and encounters with people during retreats and spiritual direction who were heartbroken and wondering “What do we do as parents?” and “How can we help?”
“I had these feelings and we found that people had the same feelings,” said Davis, an associate with the Domincan Sisters of Peace and a youth/young adult ministry expert.
With so many “voices” clamoring for attention on this issue, Eldredge and Davis said they felt God calling them to create a prayerful response to help people clearly hear God’s voice during such disturbing times. They began talking individually and collectively about ways to begin the healing process.
“We both sought a response to the pain we see, to the pain of those abused, to the betrayal of some of our (former) clergy, and the ripple impact of this sin throughout our church and our world,” said Eldredge. “What stirred for us as a response was to provide a guided framework for prayer.”
And their search brought them to St. Ignatius.
“With all this stuff, it was a matter of turning to the rich tradition of St. Ignatius,” said Davis.
Their four-part audio series, “Let Us Cry Together: A Response to the Sexual Abuse Scandal,” found at beckyeldredge.com/let-us-cry-together/, is a way for people to pray together, cry out and discern what their response is to the abuse scandal.
Week one of the series features prayers for those who have been abused. The second week is for loved ones of those who have been abused, followed by the church, and the final session focuses on the body of Christ.
The presentations feature Ignatian meditations, prayers and readings. As a reminder of God’s faithfulness, each session ends with Psalm 136, which includes the response, “For his love endures forever.”
The psalm, which talks about God’s love in creating the world, releasing the Jewish people from captivity in Egypt, accompanying them in the wilderness and restoring them, confirms that he will not abandon anyone and there is always “a way out.”
“God is helping us and walking with us through this,” said Eldredge. “We are coming to the light and remembering that God’s love and mercy is still available.”
They said experiencing the love of the father should prompt people to bring their burdens to him.
“To bring all of our life, the pain we feel, the sorrow to him,” said Eldredge.
Davis said it is unfortunate that when people grieve, over the death of a loved one or some other loss, they turn to prayer as a last resort because, “there’s nothing else I can do,” when it should actually be the first response because it is the most powerful.
Prayer is the best response to allow God to put the broken parts of one’s life back together, Eldredge and Davis agreed.
“In your brokenness, you may be angry, frustrated and say ‘I’m done.’ Bring this to God’s son and let him deal with it,” said Davis. “The only person who can fix and address this personally is Jesus.”
The response to “Let Us Cry Together,” has been positive. One person told Davis and Eldredge she learned to pray in a way she never had before and another said she is only one person, but she is one person who can make a difference.
And from that moment of healing, people should ask God what their response to the crisis should be, the two ladies agreed.
“Love and mercy call us to action. Especially with both of us as moms and ministers in the church,” said Eldredge. “It hurt us tremendously to see the children exploited and unprotected. But by grace we brought it back to God.”
“I see the hand of God even in the darkest moments of this time,” said Davis.