As you know, for the past ten years, the Catholic Church has worked to foster a safe environment for our children, in our school, parishes, churches and any venue where we interact with minors. The Safe Environment Program (SEP) is one of many responses to the issue of the abuse of minors by adults/clergy. Background checks for volunteers, ongoing training for anyone interacting with our children, and guidelines for establishing boundaries and environments that are safe for minors have all helped to address this problem that seems to cut across all classes and mixes of society.
Each year, our parish is audited for compliance with the ‘best practices’ in creating and monitoring safe environments. Today (Wed.) was the audit for St. Ann. Angie Vorholt, Coordinator for Compliance for the Safe Environment Program commended Pat Marstall our parish coordinator for her exemplary work. I was not surprised. Pat does such a good job on so many levels as secretary here at St. Ann. In your name, let me say to Pat: “Thank You!”
Since a lot of attention in the SEP is about increasing awareness in the minds of caring adults to take action when warning signs and potentially dangerous situations arise, let me bring to your attention a potential hazard which I observe nearly every Sunday, but which I had not given much thought to – namely the bathrooms in back of church and in the church hall.
It comes as no surprise to anyone attending mass at St. Ann that there is a steady stream (pardon the pun) of kids to make use of the restrooms in the church. Besides being a distraction to the celebration of the Eucharist (the moving body always gets the attention), when a child goes to the bathroom alone and unescorted, they are put at risk. Ideally speaking, no one should have to use the restrooms during the less than one hour that they are in church. A minute or two of ‘prevention’ at home before leaving for church would serve everyone well. Practically speaking, accompanying them yourself provides the safest environment. Sending a sibling along is the next alternative. Thank you for your attention in this matter. It is my fervent prayer that we will never have to deal with the aftermath of event where a minor is abused. On our part, vigilance continues to be the watchword…