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Catholic Vancouver Nov. 5, 2018

Archbishop preparing response to clerical abuse crisis

By Agnieszka Ruck

Archbishop Miller, in his annual “state of the archdiocese” address, updated the faithful on the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s response to the sex abuse crisis at the annual Archbishop’s Dinner. He also shared successes of the years 2017 and 2018 and ongoing initiatives in local churches. (Photos by Elijah Bautista / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, did not shy from addressing the sexual abuse crisis as he took the podium before more than 900 of the archdiocese’s biggest supporters, donors, and friends Oct. 3. 

Archbishop Miller began what has become known as his annual “state of thearchdiocese” address by stating his concerns were for the victims of abuse by priests.

“I would like to begin my conversation with you by calling attention to the grave situation of clerical sexual abuse and coverup by bishops which has recently come to light,” he said at the annual Archbishop’s dinner as a banquet hall of donors sipping wine and enjoying dessert quickly hushed.

(For the full text of the speech, click here.)

While no large-scale exposé of sexual abuse has come to light in Vancouver as it did in Pennsylvania this August, Archbishop Miller said he’s chosen to look into the archdiocese’s past himself.

“My first responsibility is toward the victims of these horrific crimes, those who have been so severely harmed by members of the clergy. It has been an extraordinarily trying time for victims and families who have been forced yet again to revisit injustices they have suffered.”

He announced the Archdiocese of Vancouver is “taking steps to address this scourge.” Three attorneys (one from inside the archdiocese and two from without) have recently begun reviewing the archdiocese’s confidential files on past abuse cases that happened here.

A 12-member committee of lay men, women, and abuse survivors was also struck to discuss how to improve local protocols and support for victims. Once the archives have been reviewed and the committee has come up with recommendations, Archbishop Miller promises a full, public pastoral plan.

“Like you, I have been deeply angered and saddened,” by news of the crisis, he said. “As St. Paul reminds us: Whenever one member of the body suffers, we all suffer, because altogether we form the one Body of Christ.”

The dinner, Vancouver’s biggest Catholic event of the year, took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Now in its seventh year, the event regularly sells out over 900 tickets and raises funds for a cause of the archbishop’s choosing. This year it is the permanent diaconate program.

After sharing his response to the crisis, Archbishop Miller spent the remainder of his speech highlighting many successes in the local Church in the last year. He said participation in evangelization and faith formation groups has grown considerably, local men’s and women’s retreats have been sell-out successes, and 225 couples celebrated a combined 6,700 years of marriage at a first annual Marriage Anniversary Mass in May.

Archbishop Miller with permanent deacons and their wives at the Archbishop’s Dinner Oct. 30.

He also announced planned ministries for grandparents and for divorced Catholics, and the purchase of a 40-acre plot of land that could soon become the site of a new archdiocesan retreat centre.

To date, the archdiocese has 1,500 teachers and assistants educating more than 16,000 students in 40 Catholic elementary and 11 secondary schools. St. Mark’s and Corpus Christi Colleges have seen a 100 per cent growth in enrollment over the last five years, now up to 500 students. (See sidebars below for more highlights).

Funds raised at the 2018 banquet will go toward the formation programs and continuing education of local permanent deacons.

“Since the program was established in 2011, following the recommendation of the archdiocesan synod, it has been an extraordinary blessing to our local Church,” said Archbishop Miller.

Twenty-four men (after four or five years of spiritual and pastoral study) have been ordained to serve Catholics in the Lower Mainland as permanent deacons. They fill various roles of service including aiding priests at the altar; bringing the Eucharist to and visiting the sick or imprisoned; assisting refugees and sailors in Vancouver ports; praying at gravesides and funerals; and serving in First Nations, Hispanic, Filipino, Eritrean, and other ministries.

Ten more men are currently studying to become permanent deacons and may be ordained in about three years.

“Historically, the deacons were the bishop’s eyes and ears, arms and legs, who could meet difficult challenges where the priests, perhaps, were rooted in caring for the local community,” said the director of the permanent diaconate program, Msgr. Gregory Smith, in a video message (above).

“Their purpose is to show the compassionate care of Christ to those who need Christ’s care, particularly the poor, particularly the marginalized.”

He added that the archdiocese is “not even close” to having enough deacons to fill all the requests he receives for service at parishes and various ministries.


Archdiocese of Vancouver Firsts in 2018:

Saint John Paul II Academy
The Archdiocese of Vancouver opens a high school for the first time in 20 years.

Vanspec
Catechism program for people with special needs breaks records with 60 volunteers and 6 centres.

Tilma
29 parishes joined a new digital platform that helps them better reach parishioners and surfers on the world wide web.

New religious community
Three Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians (also known as the Salesians) moved in to a convent in Surrey.


Highlights:

A new retreat centre?
The Archdiocese bought 40 acres of land west of Abbotsford in hopes of building retreat centre, pending approval of the Agricultural Land Commission.

Seminarians
27 men are locally studying for the priesthood. Five signed up this year alone.

Third mass wedding
30 couples said their “I dos” in a single ceremony at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish.

Celebrating anniversaries
225 couples celebrated a total of 6,700 years of marriage at the first annual Marriage Anniversary Mass.

Refugees
More than 300 refugees from Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Syria were sponsored by 8 churches and 2 missions in 2017.

Education
There are more than 16,000 students enrolled in the 40 Catholic elementary and 11 Catholic high schools of the archdiocese and 1,500 teachers and educational assistants. 6,500 children are enrolled in PREP, taught by 2,000 catechists.