The native of Nigeria who ministers at St. John the Evangelist Parish of Nairobi Archdiocese added, “We are living in a society whereby the abused person lives with trauma thinking that they have done something wrong. This program has given me the skills to counsel and journey with them, and to let them know that an abused person is not guilty.”
Fr. Ernest said that with the gains from the conference, he had become more skilled in helping victims of abuse to be more vocal about their experiences, and not to suffer silently following abuse.
The 36 Spiritans serving in Kenya who participated in the training workshop were warned that certain actions in their Priestly ministry could also easily be interpreted as abuse.
Fr. Dominic Gathurithu, the Superior of the Spiritans in Kenya and South Sudan, said that the training was aimed at helping, especially, those in the houses of formation, “to be able to deal with a situation in which they are accused falsely of abuse.”
Fr. Gathirithu told ACI Africa that false accusations are usually likely to happen when actions of those in religious life are misinterpreted “and they end up being accused of abusing children.”
(Story continues below)
Facilitators of the conference that was organized under the theme, “Safeguarding and Care of Self” said that the sessions were aimed at raising awareness on issues related to safeguarding behavior in ministry “and also how Priests need to care for themselves as part of their work.”
Br. Geary and Fr. O’Sullivan who have facilitated safeguarding conferences for the last 25 years highlighted some commonalities in such conferences.
“One of the things that struck me amongst the priests and the religious is that there is a common fear amongst the priests throughout the world where we have been facilitating workshops. There's a common fear about false allegations, there's a lack of confidence about institutional handling of the crisis of child sexual abuse,” Br. Geary said.
Br. Geary, however, noted that of reported cases of abuse involving Priests and the Religious, only 5 percent emerge as false accusations. The rest, he said, are unfortunately true.
“The number of false allegations is very small. Every one of them is painful. It's a pity that happens, but 95 percent are true. So that's the first thing to reassure Priests that the likelihood (of false allegations) is very, very small,” the Marist Brother said during the February 15 interview.
Br. Geary and Fr. O’Sullivan told ACI Africa that they have already conducted safeguarding workshops in the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Spain.
In Africa, they have been to six countries, including Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana.
“We are hoping over the next few years to expand that to other parts. We're going to do some work, hopefully, in India and Pakistan,” Br. Geary said.
Highlighting the impact of the safeguarding conference for the Spiritans in Kenya, Fr. O’Sullivan said, “One of the things that I find reassuring and gives me hope for the future is how well this has been received from the men and the women who've been present at the workshops.”
Those who had participated in the workshops before, the Catholic Priest from Manchester said, had been receptive and responsive.
Credit: ACI Africa
In another February 15 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Philip Akansighe acknowledged that Priesthood involves taking a lot of risks.
The Ghanaian-born Spiritan Priest said that with the training from the conference, he had learned about the need to observe boundaries when dealing with minors and vulnerable groups.
“This training has told us that although we are in a world of increasing secularization, we are equipped as Priests to be able to enforce and practice our ministry even with the increase of risks involved in it,” Fr. Akansighe said.
The Parish Priest of Sultan Hamud Parish of Kenya’s Machakos Diocese added, “We have learned that we are vulnerable but we should remain resilient and also know the boundaries of those who are vulnerable to know how to engage them in ministry.”
On his part, Fr. Respicius Kweyamba reiterated his confreres’ observations, saying, “I have learned to be careful in my ministry in how I deal with different groups of the people of God.”
Credit: ACI Africa
The Tanzanian-born Spiritan Priest ministering in Kenya’s Malindi Diocese said that he had participated in another safeguarding workshop in Arusha in his native country, and that from the two workshops, he had gained skills to know his limits in interacting with people and in helping victims of abuse to ensure that justice is served.
ACI Africa was founded in 2019. We provide free, up-to-the-minute news affecting the Catholic Church in Africa, giving particular emphasis to the words of the Holy Father and happenings of the Holy See, to any person with access to the internet. ACI Africa is proud to offer free access to its news items to Catholic dioceses, parishes, and websites, in order to increase awareness of the activities of the universal Church and to foster a sense of Catholic thought and culture in the life of every Catholic.