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History of the Victim Assistance Office

The Diocese of Arlington was first established on August 13, 1974.  The Diocese comprises the 7 cities and 21 counties in the northern part of the Commonwealth.   During the years between 1974 and 2002, calls from victims/survivors of sexual abuse were directed to diocesan officials for response. 

In 2002, the Bishops of the Catholic Church met in Dallas and approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People calls for a commitment to creating a safe environment for children and youth within the Catholic Church.  It also requires dioceses to reach out to victims/survivors of sexual abuse and their families and to provide a program for their healing.   As Church, we must apologize for the pain and harm caused to victims and offer help for the future.  But, just what did this mean?  The Charter states, “As bishops, we have acknowledged our mistakes and our roles in that suffering, and we apologize and take responsibility again for too often failing victims and the Catholic people in the past.  From the depths of our hearts, we bishops express great sorrow and profound regret for what the Catholic people have endured. ” (P. 3 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.)  In the Diocese of Arlington, we decided that our priorities should be prayer and spiritual guidance, faith, emotional healing and support for those who have been abused and their families.      

Each Diocese had to struggle with these issues and determine how best to adopt a plan to bring about the necessary healing.   In 2002, Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde was the Bishop of Arlington.   Rev. Mark S. Mealey, O.S.F.S . was the Vicar General for Administration.   When Bishop Loverde returned from Dallas, he and Father Mealey had many discussions about what this program might look like in the Diocese of Arlington.   One day, I received a call from Father Mealey asking Dave Cavanaugh and I to attend a meeting with him to discuss this new task before the diocese.  My recollection is that we had several meetings with Father to discuss the Charter and how we might meet its requirements.  We began to identify lay people and religious in the Diocese of Arlington and neighboring dioceses who had expertise in this subject.   Our quest took us to interviews with Rev. Stephen Rossetti, Director of  St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, a treatment center for men and women accused of abusing children and adults;  Childhelp in Fairfax, Virginia, a facility where children who were abused were brought to receive medical care, therapy and other needed services; various physicians, attorneys, therapists; social workers serving in various agencies such as Child Protective Services, to whom our staff might eventually be making reports; members of the Virginia state legislature responsible for the laws of our Commonwealth as well as therapists who provided care for abused children.  We visited some other dioceses, namely the Archdiocese of Washington and the Dioceses of Richmond and Wilmington.   The focus of our questions was what should this program look like; what components should it contain and how can we help our vulnerable children and adults.   

After much discussion, we began with Mass.   On June 30, 2004, Bishop Loverde offered the first Mass to Pray for Healing for Victims Survivors of Sexual Abuse at St. Thomas More Cathedral.  The Mass was attended by numerous priests and several hundred lay people.  To date, Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde, Rev. Mark Mealey, O.S.F.S. and Rev. Thomas Ferguson have offered 46 Masses for this intention around the diocese with over 3,000 people in attendance.  Father Mealey and Father Ferguson have offered 35 Prayer Services with over 595 people attending.   The Diocese has also sponsored 35 Support Groups with 719 people in attendance.   At the request of our Survivors Planning Group, the Diocese of Arlington began to host a yearly Retreat for Victims/Survivors.  To date, we have held 9 Retreats with 189 people in attendance.  

In addition, our program consists of referrals for therapy and spiritual direction.   We have a list of therapists around the diocese who work with victims/survivors of sexual abuse.  In addition, we have provided training sessions for priests and sisters providing spiritual assistance for victims/survivors of sexual abuse.  The Diocese of Arlington is very grateful for the victims/survivors who have become a part of our Survivors Planning Group.  These members of our program have met with us periodically and helped us by suggesting various new programs for our consideration.  We are most grateful for their suggestions and support.  

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires that each Diocese have a Diocesan Review Board.  This Board is composed of priests, a religious sister and lay people who offer guidance to the Bishop, Safe Environment Coordinator and Victim Assistance Coordinator. 

Over the years since 2002, the Diocese of Arlington has been very blessed to have the following Victim Assistance Coordinators serve our victims/survivors.  We would like to thank:

Catherine Nolan

 Jennifer Alvaro

 Evelyn  Cochis

 Kathryn Kramer

 Adlin deCardi

 Rosa Colello

 Aneliz Sipe

 Patricia Mudd

  Please pray for healing for our victims/survivors and for those suffering from the pain of sexual abuse.