Confirmation Conundrum

Since August, I’ve heard from parents who were concerned about their children being confirmed by Bishop Malone this fall. One mother told me she was thinking of having her child take the necessary classes at a parish that normally has their Confirmation in the spring – in the hopes that Bishop Malone won’t be here then. Another parent told me that they weren’t looking forward to their son’s Confirmation and felt bad about it. Still another dad told me he and his wife were going to have their child confirmed as a senior and not a junior to avoid Bishop Malone as the confirming prelate.

While these comments made complete sense to me, they also made me very sad. Confirmation season used to be a joyful experience. How well do I recall the Confirmation scheduling that Fr. Ryszard and I used to do in the Chancery. Father was such a marvel at fitting them all in somehow! And, to top it off, he would coordinate all of the details for each ceremony and masterfully guide everyone through each Confirmation Mass. The fall and especially spring Confirmation seasons were very busy for the Chancery, but it was a “good busy” because of the importance of this sacrament.

The Sacrament of Confirmation is not a “coming of age” ritual or a graduation from religious education. Rather, Confirmation completes the graces of Baptism. Together, Baptism, the Eucharist, and Confirmation constitute the sacraments of Christian initiation. As the Catechism explains: “by the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.” The Catechism further notes that “Like, Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the ‘character,’ which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.”

Simply put, Confirmation is a big deal. It is a special outpouring of gifts by the Holy Spirit which seal or “confirm” the baptized in union with Christ and equips them for active participation in worship and apostolic life of the Church (from the Glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church). The significance of this sacrament is also made known by its celebrant: a bishop. Anyone can (technically) baptize while priests give us the Eucharist, Reconciliation and the Sacrament of the Sick. Brides and grooms confer upon each other the Sacrament of Matrimony. Bishops are the primary ministers for only two sacraments: Holy Orders and Confirmation. Both sacraments involve a bishop anointing the confirmands or ordinands with chrism oil.

Because of their significance, Confirmation ceremonies were always included in Bishop Malone’s public calendar, which used to be published monthly online and in print. But since October, the Bishop’s public calendar has not been published. I assumed these special ceremonies were taking place as usual, but had no idea when and where they were happening.

So you can imagine my surprise when I read the following message, which was sent at approximately 9 pm last night to the Confirmation families of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Williamsville:

We would like to let you know that we have received word from Bishop Malone that he will not be with us at the Confirmation Mass. So here are the details that we want to share with you. As you know from our earlier emails, we have tried to be transparent through a difficult time in our diocese.

Originally, Bishop Malone wanted to be with us to help work towards unity and healing with us and all the parishes where he was scheduled to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. However, recently, several people have alerted us that there were plans for protesters to assemble outside our church to protest the Bishop’s role in the handling of the victims’ cases of sexual abuse. We gave word to the Bishop’s office of this possibility.

The Bishop decided he would step down as celebrant of the Confirmation ceremony. He asked us to let everyone know that this decision was out of his concern that the students are not subjected to any disruptions on their special and holy day. 

Canon law allows the Bishop to give authority to a priest to confer the sacrament of Confirmation. So Fr. Ron has been given that permission and will confirm our students.

The sacrament of Confirmation is effected by and through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bishop or priest is given authority to act in the person of Jesus to bring down the Holy Spirit so that each person will be sealed with the Holy Spirit. This is an act of God, not of man. 

Also, I want to share with you that the clergy and staff at Nativity are committed to outreach to the victims of clerical abuse. We continue to speak with and lift up the victims that we have met. We want to be a part of their healing. We want to work to heal our parish and our diocese. We will continue to work with you to bring unity and affirm each one of us in our Baptismal roles in the Body of Christ.

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish

My immediate tradition was one of shock. I didn’t even know there WAS a Confirmation scheduled today so I certainly wasn’t planning to assemble outside their church to protest Bishop Malone. Yet even if I HAD known of this ceremony, I would never have made plans to protest it.

Since I began participating in and coordinating protests, I have been very discerning about which events to protest. My focus has been on Bishop Malone’s meetings with important groups particularly the Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Pastoral Council. The only time I have protested a Mass, it was at the Seminary where we were standing by the side of the main driveway – not right by the chapel. And in all three cases, the Masses in question included relevant elements such as the Apostolic Nuncio’s attendance or the installation of the new Seminary Rector.*

Please know that I’ve done a lot of thinking about the protests I’ve called. I’ve thoughtfully assessed the following elements: purpose, impact, location, timing, safety, signage, parking, media involvement (if deemed appropriate), and even weather. I would never dream of protesting a Mass let alone a Confirmation Mass. The Mass is the primary celebration of the Church – the sacrificial memorial of Christ’s Passover. It is Catholicism’s greatest treasure for it gives us Christ Himself present in the Eucharist. For the reasons outlined earlier, a Mass of Confirmation has tremendous significance. On a personal note, I remember my own Confirmation with fondness and gratitude. I would not want to take away from other confirmands’ celebration of this great sacrament.

So we’ve established that I did not plan to protest today’s Confirmation or any other such ceremony. Then who are these mysterious people who were “planning to assemble outside (the) church to protest the Bishop’s role in the handling of the victims’ cases of sexual abuse”? I contacted the only other people I know who have organized their own protests – the aforementioned Stephen Parisi and his fellow former Seminarian and Whistleblower, Matthew Bojanowski. When I inquired, I received an immediate response: no such plans whatsoever!

As far as I know there have been only three active protest groups in the Diocese this year:

  • Bob Hoatson, who called a press conference and protest at the Seminary twice this past spring
  • Stephen and Matthew, who have protested at the Seminary, the Catholic Center and the Bishop’s Residence
  • Me and my crew, as it were, who have protested at the Seminary, the Catholic Center and the airport

None of these three groups had anything planned for today’s Confirmation Mass.

This left me wondering…

  • Were Nativity staff members concerned that some of us protesters might be there and acted out of an abundance of caution?
  • Were there rumors of a protest since our airport protest was in the news just last weekend?
  • Were there assumptions made that we would be showing up because it’s a Diocesan event?

As it turns out, the answer is much more interesting:

The people who intended to protest were Nativity parishioners! In fact, some of the confirmand families themselves were considering joining in the protest at today’s Confirmation. 

That’s right – a new group of protesters was organizing itself! Wow!

As you may recall, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish has had a difficult history. Three of their recent priests/pastors have been accused of sexual abuse: Maryanski, Leising and Sadjak. Leising and Sajdak were cleared by the Diocesan Review Board and Sajdak was returned as the pastor late last year. Maryanski’s case is hauntingly horrible and can be read about via this link. Suffice it to say that the people of this parish have suffered over the past 18 months as they’ve learned about the abuse history of a former priest-in-ministry and dealt with the removal and reinstatement of their current pastor, which is a very unsettling experience for a parish family.

To the folks who were going to protest today I say two things: Thank you and Bravo! Thank you for having the fortitude and conviction to protest Bishop Malone. Bravo for having the strength to stand up to this shepherd who does not care for his sheep! He put your parish family at risk by allowing an abusive priest to minister among you for years despite Bishop Malone and the Diocese “having full knowledge” of his abuse history. Bishop Malone pulled your current pastor from ministry right before a Vigil Mass last November with no thought of the turmoil and distress that would cause you all. Bishop Malone pulled Father Ron to protect himself and save face – not out of genuine concern for any of you.

Please note that my praise of the would-be protesters is not intended as a commentary on those who were not planning to protest. I’m certainly not saying that non-protesting parishioners at Nativity are not good people or do not possess fortitude or conviction. Far from it. This is an extremely difficult time for our diocese and everyone has to do what is best for them and their family. It can be very hard to decide what is best to do in each particular instance. Unfortunately Bishop Malone continues to cause this difficulty and distress for people. Parents should not feel conflicted about their child’s Confirmation and confirmands should not be dismayed about who’s going to confirm them.

According to my source, Bishop Malone was told earlier this week that protesters might be at the Nativity Confirmation. At the time, he was determined to still celebrate the Confirmation. It was only much later in the week that he learned about the protesters being Nativity parishioners. This change in the identity of the protesters is what lead him to remove himself as the Confirmation celebrant.** 

This is a very interesting and important development.

Remember – the Bishop “asked us to let everyone know that this decision was out of his concern that the students are not subjected to any disruptions on their special and holy day.”

But wait! Earlier this week, Bishop Malone was okay with run-of-the-mill protesters being there. He wasn’t suddenly concerned about Confirmands and their families being “subjected to disruptions.” Rather, he was suddenly concerned about HIMSELF. He didn’t want to be protested by members of the very parish he’s visiting, which would be a very new and embarrassing development. Worse still, he did not want it to get out that members of the Confirmation class (and their families) were among those who were protesting! He didn’t want to subject HIMSELF to embarrassment and the latest episcopal low. So he did what he always does when a situation become difficult: he made his exit.

While it’s disheartening and discouraging to be reminded of Bishop Malone’s narcissistic cowardice, I am very happy for the people of Nativity! Their protest efforts were so successful that they didn’t have to actually protest! And now they can enjoy the Confirmation ceremony this evening at 7 pm. Their parish bulletin indicates that they have over 80 confirmation candidates – how awesome! I pray that they will have a blessed and beautiful celebration of this tremendous Sacrament.

Final thought… this situation really demonstrates the power of the people! Let’s continue to speak up and take a stand.

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Light & Love

BSG Logo_Final

The Buffalo Survivors Group (BSG) held their first public event a week ago today. The days since then have been busy ones, but I wanted to be sure and document this historic event on my blog.

The BSG was formed by Kevin Koscielniak, Gary Astridge, Angelo Ervolina, Christ Szuflita and Michael Whalen after they met on August 13th when preparing to file their CVA cases the next day. It was eminently appropriate that their first event would take place on November 14th since it was exactly 3 months prior – August 14th – that these men were able to file their CVA claims right after the stroke of midnight. You can learn more about that experience via this link.

“The Guys,” as I affectionately refer to them, began getting to know each other better in the days and weeks that followed that historic August evening. They began to discuss the possibility of holding a public event that would provide support for fellow survivors while educating the public about sexual abuse and its effects on survivors. Soon they had a formal name, a logo and a motto: To Enlighten and Empower. They hope to enlighten the public while empowering their fellow survivors. Their logo symbolizes the survivors’ journey from the darkness of abuse into the light of healing.

As one of The Guys explained the logo: “We have traveled a long road being silent. The sun began rising when we came forward and told someone about our abuse, but the road continues because we still have a long journey ahead of us. And this road is not just for survivors – it is for everyone who travels with us, people from the past like our families and friends… and the people who are now with us moving forward…. and for the people we will one day meet and connect with.” The logo is triangular in shape to symbolize the mountain that survivors are climbing as they overcome so many challenges in their lives.

The event was entitled Enlighten & Empower: An Evening with Survivors and the goal was to “educate and enlighten the public about sexual abuse and the symptoms and effects that survivors endure – all done through stories from survivors along with open, honest and transparent conversations with the audience.” The event was held in the Parish Center at St. Mary’s Church in Swormville. This location was chosen for a very specific reason – the pastor there, Fr. Bob Zilliox, is a clerical abuse survivor and has been an outspoken critic of Bishop Malone and the manner in which the abuse scandal has been handled in our diocese.

Fr. Bob

Fr. Bob got the evening started with a warm welcome and a particularly moving prayer that touched on the many sufferings survivors endure. After that, a touching letter was read from Chris Szuflita, one of the founding members, who lives at a distance and wasn’t able to attend the event. Then each of the 4 remaining founding members shared their stories.


Gary Astridge went first followed by Angelo Ervolina


Followed by Michael Whalen:

Mike Kevin Bill

And finally Kevin Koscielniak:


As you can imagine, the stories these four shared were devastating and heartrending. The old saying “there wasn’t a dry eye in the room” was certainly proven true that evening. The Guys showed pictures of themselves at the time of their abuse, which made their testimonies even more powerful. Gary commented that his current fight for justice is really a fight for his younger self, who suffered so horribly at such an innocent age. As so many attendees noted afterwards, it was an honor and a privilege to hear The Guys share their stories.

Sarah at home
Sarah Ann Shiley

After The Guys shared their stories, they opened the floor to questions, discussion and conversation. During that time, another survivor was able to share her story – Sarah Ann Shiley. Readers of this blog may remember Sarah’s story from this post back in June when Sarah was not permitted to share her testimony at one of Bishop Malone’s infamous Listening Sessions. WKBW-Channel 7 also did a story on Sarah’s situation, which can be viewed below:

It was really incredible to witness Sarah share her story in such a supportive environment to a clearly engaged audience. Everyone was extremely moved by her compelling, heartbreaking words.What a powerful juxtaposition to the “listening” session this past June! I’d especially like to thank Sarah for representing the many female victims of clerical sexual abuse.

It’s important to note that the Buffalo Survivors Group is not intended solely for victims of clerical sexual abuse. Rather, it is open to anyone who has suffered abuse no matter who the perpetrator or associated institution may be. As the BSG has noted: “Sexual abuse has lifelong effects. Survivors of sexual abuse suffer in silence from many symptoms. We want to educate and inform the community about the psychological, emotional and physical harm sexual abuse causes, as well as provide support and help with resources that are available to survivors and the community.” As you can see, there are no distinctions made regarding abuse or the perpetrators of that abuse.

The evening concluded with a brief presentation from Rebecca Stevens, Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) here in Buffalo. She was assisted in her presentation by Janine Tramont, Director of Development. Together, they explained the mission of the Child Advocacy Center: “to integrate and coordinate services to meet the needs of child victims of sexual and serious physical abuse and their families at a single, child friendly facility. Such response is intended to reduce trauma, promote accountability and facilitate healing.” Their vision is that children in their homes and in our community would be healthy, safe, and free from harm. 

The mission and vision of the CAC is very close to the hearts of the BSG Founders. As Michael Whalen has said, “There wasn’t a CAC to help me when I was a kid, so I want to make sure kids now a days get the help they need and that’s what the CAC does!” The CAC presentation provided the right note on which to end the evening – hopeful, optimistic and action-oriented. Many attendees spoke with the CAC representatives after the event to learn more about their work and to ask about opportunities for volunteering or other collaboration.

Although the event ended at 9 pm, quite a few people stayed for a while to talk with the survivor speakers and to connect with other attendees. Everyone I spoke with had a very favorable reaction to the evening. An attendee of the event told me that the evening represented a “leap over barriers” – the barriers of secrecy and shame, the aversion to discussing topics that are consider off-limits or taboo, the tendency to turn away from painful things rather than embrace them. This attendee and quite a few others were eager to know when the next event would take place. I told The Guys that it’s always a good sign when people ask about a second event right after your first one has concluded!

Because of the positive reaction to this first event and the desire to “enlighten and empower” as many people as possible, the Buffalo Survivors Group is planning a second event sometime in mid-January at a to-be-determined location. Please stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!

On a personal note, I found the evening to be very cathartic. Listening to the survivors’ stories brought on strong emotions, but it was a relief to express those emotions freely and openly. It is indescribably powerful to listen to such raw, painful truths being shared by such strong, resilient people. While the sorrow in the room was almost palpable, so was the loving support within the room. We cannot see or touch sorrow or love, but sometimes we can feel them to such an extent that they almost achieve tangibility. There was a great deal of light and love in that room: the light that comes from truths being shared and stories told… and the love with which those truths and stories were received.


One thing I particularly valued about the set up of the event was that everyone was in a large circle. There was no “head table” or podium or anything like that, which was just as The Guys wanted it. They wanted the logistics to foster an open, honest conversation among friends and advocates. Another neat element of the evening: because the survivors who spoke were not introduced beforehand, attendees didn’t know they were sitting next to a survivor until he or she began to speak*.  It was a powerful reminder that we often don’t know that a survivor is in our midst. They are our family members, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors, our acquaintances. Let us strive to always be someone they can turn to if they need our help or support.

Gary Me Bill
Thanks to Bill Ogilvie (right) for joining me as a Moderator for this event

As you may have surmised, I forgot to take any pictures during the event, which means I have relied completely on WKBW reporter, Nikki DeMentri, for screen grabs from her story about the event. I’d like to thank Nikki and WKBW, Fadia Patterson and Spectrum News, and the WIVB team (I didn’t catch their names) for attending this event and spreading the word about it. Nikki’s full story can be viewed below:

Please stay tuned for more information about Enlighten & Empower: An Evening With Survivors #2!


* Michael Whalen being the exception here

Reflections on All Survivors Day

All Survivors Day is “an international day to recognize survivors of sexual abuse, bring their stories into the light, raise awareness of the widespread nature of the issue and organize for change in the culture that allows sexual abuse to continue,” according to their website. For me, it is also a day to reflect on what I’ve learned from survivors and how knowing them has so powerfully influenced my life.

Talking to survivors at the Chancery during the spring of 2018 was a truly transformative experience for me. I often say that I’m not the same person I was before that time. Those conversations with survivors opened my eyes to the reality of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in a raw, powerful and lasting way. I vividly recall the emotions I felt as I took those calls or spoke to survivors in person. It was a “no turning back now” experience. Once you know, you know…. and there is no retreating to the Land of Before.

How grateful I am to no longer need to speak to survivors in hushed tones on a Chancery phone. I vividly recall modulating my voice when a survivor would call during a time when the Bishop or other Chancery officials were afoot. The hallway behind my desk led to Bishop Grosz and Steve Timmel’s offices, so I had to be careful. I knew I’d be in quite a predicament if one of the bishops or Steve heard me urging a survivor to get a lawyer and not sign anything without legal counsel. Likewise, I tried to hide my tears as best I could because otherwise there would be talk about “Siobhan having a tough day” or “Siobhan not being able to handle it.” Why, I thought, is the emphasis on me? Shouldn’t they be worried about the survivors and their plight, which was what brought those stinging tears to my eyes in the first place? Why were they treating survivor calls and visits to the Chancery as a nuisance rather than as a plea for help and a call to action? Why was Bishop Malone more worried about “isolating” me from survivor calls than addressing the issues the survivors were raising?!

zero abuse logo

These days, I no longer have to modulate my voice or hold in my tears. Through my job as a Victim Assistance Civil Specialist with the Zero Abuse Project (ZAP), I am able to spend my entire workday helping survivors. It used to be that I would work during the day and then devote my evenings and weekends to survivor-related efforts. But now my side passion has become my full-time focus and it’s AMAZING! How deeply grateful I am to be working for this awesome non-profit organization whose mission is to protect children from abuse and sexual assault, by engaging people and resources through a trauma-informed approach of education, research, advocacy, and advanced technology. The ZAP vision is “a world where every child is free from abuse.” Every ZAP employee is zealous about making this vision a reality.

Gone are the days when I had no place to bring a survivor visitor so we ended up in an unused storage room on the 4th floor. Now I can invite survivors into a conference room where they’ll share their story in a safe, secure and comfortable environment. Gone are the days of lowering my voice to tell a survivor what I really think. Now I share my thoughts and advice freely. And even though I don’t need to hold my tears in anymore, I find that I don’t cry nearly as much as I did back in my Chancery days. Why? I believe it is because now I can actually DO SOMETHING for survivors and that makes all the difference. During my Chancery days, I was crying for a lot of reasons: the suffering of survivors, most of all, but also my inability to help them plus the moral quandary of working for the Diocese. Basically, there was a lot to cry about.

Do I still cry? Absolutely. The sorrow is still there. It always will be. It’s impossible to hear survivor stories and not be moved by them. But now, sorrow isn’t my only response. I can take action and assist survivors. I can encourage them, support them, guide them, and help them. It’s sorrow that can roll up its sleeves and get to work: tears transformed.

My work with the Zero Abuse Project has taught me so much about what “all survivors” really means. In my new role, I speak to survivors of clerical sexual abuse, but also survivors of teachers, counselors, troop leaders and others. Talking to “all survivors” has taught me two very important lessons:

  1. Predators are frighteningly similar in their strategies and techniques
  2. Survivors are amazingly similar in their strength and resiliency

Of course, every survivor has a very different path to navigate. Some are struggling more than others due to circumstances over which they have little control. Others are just coming to grips with what happened to them and the experience is overwhelming them. One survivor told me recently that, “I always thought I was okay and that was in the past, but now I realize it never went away and it’s almost harder now than it was back then.” No matter where a survivor is at on their healing journey, they are dealing with daily challenges that non-survivors cannot truly fathom.


As a non-survivor, I’ve been pondering the fact that survivorhood is somewhat like a country with its own language, customs and culture. It is a land that no one wants to enter, but once you are there, you see, hear and feel everything differently from those who are not citizens of Survivorhood. For non-survivors, the word “trauma” might bring to mind blunt force trauma or a traumatic brain injury. For survivors, that word is deeply personal and painful. Likewise, the word “flashback” might make a non-survivor think of a narrative technique in movies or books. For survivors, flashbacks are disturbing and often daily elements of their lives.

I’ve learned to appreciate these new definitions for familiar terms and to respect the culture of Survivorhood. I now choose my words carefully and am determined to always act in a survivor-friendly and trauma-informed manner. Whenever I’m not sure of what to do or say, I pray to God for guidance and I reach out to a survivor for advice. They are always more than happy to help! I have learned so much from them, but I know that I will always have more to learn.

On All Survivors Day, I want to recommit myself to helping all survivors in every way I can. I am fortunate that my job allows me to do this on a regular basis. But no matter what your circumstances may be, you can help survivors!

anne frank.png

The first step is to be the sort of person you’d want to turn to if you were a survivor yourself. If you were dealing with the immense pain and trauma of sexual abuse, what kind of person would you turn to for help or support? Most likely you’d be looking for someone who would believe you, listen to you and show you compassion.

“I believe you.” Just knowing you believe them is a tremendous gift to survivors. Survivors have many burdens to bear – they should not also bear the burden of proof.

Listen. Listen more than you talk. Listen more than you tell. Just listen. Don’t judge, don’t analyze, don’t criticize… treat the survivor as you’d want to be treated.

You may never know how much you’ve helped a survivor just by believing them and listening to them.

From there, compassionately assist them as you’re able. Express your support for them and encourage them to find help if they need it. Maybe you’re able to check in with them occasionally to see how they’re doing. You could invite them to an event they’d benefit from or include them in an activity they’d enjoy. Perhaps you have or know of a therapist who might be a good fit for them. If you’re of the prayerful persuasion, you can keep them in your daily prayers by name. If you have compassion, it will show and it will make a difference. It will help more than you know.

Robert Shelton
Infographic created by Robert Shelton

This helpful infographic shows the progression of engagement from pity to compassion. Compassion comes from Latin and means “suffering with another.” That is what we are called to do to the extent we are able: to suffer with survivors so that they are not alone as they have so often been. We cannot actually experience their suffering, but may we do all we can to relieve it.

Sometimes survivors are told to “move on” or “get on” with their lives. These are not a survivor-friendly or trauma-informed phrases yet they are frequently used. I believe that “carry on” is a much better and more accurate way to look at it. Survivors can’t leave their abuse behind and just “move on.” They will carry their abuse and its effects with them for the rest of their lives. Yes, survivors will continue their journey toward hope and healing, but they may end up taking two steps forward and falling back three. They will have to get back up and try it one more time. Why? Because what they are carrying is extremely hard and heavy:

  • pain
  • trauma
  • fear
  • isolation
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • PTSD
  • estrangement
  • flashbacks
  • nightmares
  • trust issues
  • emotional distress
  • loss of faith
  • separation from God
  • loss of family support
  • financial difficulties
  • drug or alcohol dependency
  • self-esteem issues
  • problems with authority
  • anger
  • sorrow
  • physical ailments
  • self harm
  • panic attacks
  • self-blame and shame
  • relationship challenges
  • inability to concentrate
  • insomnia
  • suicidal thoughts

They are carrying on as best they can, but they are bearing burdens heavier and harder than we non-survivors can even comprehend. Let us be there to lift them up and help them as they carry on.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

The last item on the list above is a tragic but important one to remember. Many survivors are no longer with us because the burdens they carried became overwhelming. Let us remember and pray for them in a special way today. May we also pray for those who mourn them.

Before I close, I want to mention and salute survivors’ spouses, children and loved ones, who are victims of the residual effect of abuse. The ripple effects of abuse know no bounds and impact so many people. Please remember that a survivors’ family members may need support and encouragement just as the survivor themself does.

To all of my survivor friends: thank you for changing my life, helping me to become a better person, and teaching me what strength and resilience mean. Those are no longer mere words to me – they are real people with names and faces.

As you carry on, know that you are not alone. You are believed, respected and loved.


Those We Cannot See

[This is a two-part reflection… the first half focuses on the living – the second concerns the dead.]

A great deal of the work of life goes on behind the scenes and is accomplished by people who are not often seen or always acknowledged for it. These behind-the-scene folks are so often extremely humble and hard-working. Please allow me to introduce you to two such people. 

Yesterday was a difficult day for the I-Team at WKBW-Channel 7 as it marked the last day for Jeff “The Wizard” Wick. Jeff has been an integral part of the I-Team investigation into the Diocese of Buffalo as well as the other award-wining investigations they’ve conducted over the past several years. You may never have seen Jeff’s face since he’s always behind the camera – not in front of it, but you’ve certainly seen his work. The stellar graphic design and impeccable production value of the I-Team’s reports are all a credit to Jeff’s skillful talent. As a Catholic and former altar boy, Jeff shared Charlie’s commitment to the Diocesean investigation as well as the sorrow of covering such a dreadful story. Charlie and Jeff have something else in common: humility. Despite being enormously talented, Jeff never made a big deal about it. He and Charlie were always focused on getting the truth out and, in particular, sharing survivors’ stories. It was never about them – collectively or individually.

Although I didn’t work with Jeff as directly or frequently as I have with Charlie, I certainly came to appreciate his talents and his temperament. If you could define an adjective with a person, Jeff would be in the dictionary under “chill.” He remains calm and easy going no matter what time constraints or deadlines he may be facing. “Yeah, sure – yep, I can get that done” would be his relaxed response and then he’d work his magic and make it happen. I so enjoyed watching Jeff and Charlie work together. Theirs was a collaboration marked by congenial, harmonious camaraderie. Jeff was a true teammate to Charlie – keeping up with the Diocesan doings while also covering completely different stories for WKBW. It’s really a wonder that he was able to do it all and do it all so well.

When Jeff mic’d me up yesterday morning for my interview with Charlie, it was a bittersweet moment to know he’d be behind the camera for the last time. I was deeply grateful that I could do one last interview with the two of them, but it saddened me so much to think of Jeff making his departure. Ultimately, gratitude got the upper hand as I considered how fortunate we were to have Jeff on the I-Team especially for these last 18 months. His contributions were extremely significant and made a lasting impact on our diocese and community. It was a privilege and a pleasure to work with Jeff. I know that he will be successful in his next endeavor because talent, skill and humility are always a winning combination. Please join me in thanking Jeff for his amazing work and in wishing him well as he heads off to DC to work for Newsy!

I can’t talk about Charlie’s behind-the-scenes guy without highlighting his behind-the-scenes girl… his wonderful wife, Shannon. In fact, I’ve been waiting for just such an opportunity to express my gratitude and respect for her. During the course of Charlie’s work on the DOB story, Shannon has made truly innumerable sacrifices while her husband has been devoted to this difficult and time-consuming work. Especially last summer and fall, Charlie’s I-Team responsibilities resulted in a lot of late nights and weekend work. I remember thinking of Shannon so much during those tumultuous months. A year ago, I wrote this to her in an email: “It’s almost as if you’re a military wife whose husband is engaged in a very unusual battle that keeps him away for extended periods of time. Charlie has the greatest work ethic I’ve ever witnessed, which is awesome and so crucial for our cause, but a real sacrifice for you. Thank you for making that sacrifice for the greater good. You are one of my heroes!” I certainly feel exactly the same way a year later.

Thank you, Shannon, for sacrificing you and your family’s time with Charlie so that he could complete the investigations and reports that have had such a seismic effect on our diocese. Thank you for your crucial input on the stories especially #3 last fall! Thank you for being selfless when it would have been quite easy (and very understandable) for you to have a different reaction. Thank you for helping your three sweet children to understand why Daddy was working so much even though you couldn’t explain the substance of his work due to its dark nature. Thank you for enduring the frustrations, challenges and even harassment that have come your family’s way over the past 18 months. The Mom is like the flight attendant of the family – if she remains calm and composed, everyone takes comfort in knowing that it’s going to be okay. Thank you, Shannon, for keeping it all together through all of the turbulence of this past year. You are the definition of a behind-the-scenes hero and we all owe you more than we realize!

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