Survivor of clergy abuse urges Catholic church to pray together

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The Windsor Star

Published on: November 10, 2015 | Last Updated: November 10, 2015 7:00 PM EST

Sarah Sacheli

Deborah Kloos believes in the power of prayer.

The Windsor woman was abused by her parish priest more three decades ago. She left the church for years, but with counselling and reflection, returned. Now she wants Catholics around the world to pray together once a year for people wounded by abuse.

“The only real hope is to pray together for healing to help restore a person’s broken spirit and give them hope,” Kloos said. “We can’t undo that pain, but we can at least show that we care by praying for them.”

Survivors of all kinds of abuse, not just those preyed on by clergy, should be included in the church’s intentions, Kloos said. Prayers should also be offered for all the good priests tainted by the scandal.

Kloos has been lobbying for a day of prayer for more than two years.

She started by calling staff and clergy at the Diocese of London. They were polite and kind, hearing her out, she said. But nothing happened.

Then she read about a new committee struck by Pope Francis to address the issue of abuse. Kloos started sending emails to members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, sharing her story and idea for healing. She made them each a rosary, and sent them along with her request for a day of prayer. Kloos developed a friendly relationship with two — Rev. Hans Zollner, chairman of the steering committee of the Center for Child Protection of the Institute of Psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and Marie Collins, an abuse survivor from Ireland.

They’ve told her the commission has endorsed her idea.

“Your wish for a day of prayer for people affected by abuse is being worked on and will happen,” Collins told Kloos in a recent email.

But it’s unknown when an announcement will come. The commission meets only twice a year. “Things in the church move slowly,” Collins said.

Kloos made a special gift for the Pope to mark the commission’s most recent meeting in September. It’s a painting on wood, carved and burned, of the crucifixion. But instead of being nailed to a cross, Jesus is nailed to a tree, its branches full of life.

“The tree is the church and Jesus is at the centre of it,” Kloos explained.

Zollner presented the painting to Pope Francis, and sent Kloos a snapshot of the event.

It represents how Jesus can heal us, Kloos said.

Kloos doesn’t like to dwell on the abuse she suffered, saying only it began when she was 16 and continued for two years. She still gets angry about it from time to time, but takes solace in that her abuser died long ago and can hurt no one else.

“Being a Christian means we must forgive — not forget, not make people less accountable for their actions — but not give up on our faith because one person hurt us.”

Kloos, a nurse in the neo-natal ward of Hutzel Women’s Hospital in Detroit who cares for sick babies born to crack-addicted mothers, sees pain every day. It puts the pain of her abuse in perspective.

“We can take our healed scars and use them to give other people hope.”

Kloos, 49, is a happily married mom and parishioner at Corpus Christi. She sings in the choir. All her friends at church know she was abused, she says.

“It happened a long time ago. I just want to promote prayer and peace.”

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