A LOUDfence at St Chad’s Cathedral may have come to an end but there is much to be gained from the experience.
Brightly coloured ribbons and messages of support adorned the railings inside and outside St Chad’s Cathedral last week as many people contributed to the survivor-led initiative.
Support for all those who have suffered abuse was evident with messages coming from across the Archdiocese and as far afield as France and the USA.
The visible LOUDfence ended on Saturday 13 May, but the legacy it has left behind is just the beginning.
The Diocesan Safeguarding Team organised the event together with the cathedral team, Antonia Sobocki, the UK Project Manager for LOUDfence UK, friends at St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham and members of the Survivor Engagement Panel.
They will now review the event and consider next steps as part of the Archdiocese’s ongoing commitment to safeguarding.
One follow-up event already taking place is a day of creativity in September, where the ribbons from St Chad’s LOUDfence, together with those from a LOUDfence at St Philip’s last year, will be used to create a memorable piece of art.
A survivor who attended last week’s LOUDfence said: “It has been very encouraging to see the Archdiocese host a LOUDfence.
“The ribbons tied to the cathedral railings are a moving testament to the suffering of those who have been abused by the Church and it is an important step in making sure that survivors’ voices are heard by all parts of the Church. What happens next, as a result of LOUDfence, is what will really count.
“It is good to see the Safeguarding Team building bridges with some survivors but there is still a long way to go in the Church to build trust and repair the damage that has been done to so many.”
Another survivor spoke at last Tuesday’s Mass, on the National Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse.
Words written quickly before Mass, and spoken by a woman, originally from Birmingham, who struggles decades later to fully connect with the Church after experiencing, as a child, spiritually damaging teaching from clergy and religious, and sexual misconduct from a priest in the context of confession as a teenager. Distressed and angry at how the Church continues in so many ways to turn away from truths about abusive relationships of power within it. Longing for more honesty, more justice, more equity and more transparency to build a Church in which all those who have been hurt can feel safer. Acutely conscious of serious forms of abuse happening across the Global Church family today. Searching for more honest, open dialogue in order to learn together. The sorrow and humility expressed by Archbishop Bernard Longley to his congregation on 7th May and ability to make some space for the voice of LOUDfence and a survivor was much appreciated; and that of Mgr Tim Menezes, who listened. Also appreciated was the acknowledgement that we need very actively to learn and do more.
Said at St Chad’s Birmingham – the Day of Prayer for Victim/Survivors of Abuse – acknowledging especially those abused within the Church, 9th May 2023.
Some words from ..survivors of abuse within the Church – thinking particularly of those among us here today. Some who have come a long way to be able to join us here today – some who really .. struggle .. to come within the Church.
An Empty Chair
A gift from Catholics
True to Jesus, following Him.
Struggling to enter the Church
Struggling to be ..in .. Communion, Participation or Mission, With a Church… that continues ..to deny Justice
To Those it hurts so badly.
A Church when it fails to Listen
To those it continues to hurt.
A Church when it is blind …to how …it hampers its own Mission
A Church that turns away from Christ
When it fails to learn by listening.
Lord, bind us together
Help us have the courageous conversations,
The radical conversations we need to have.
Lord in your Mercy
Hear Our Prayer.
Visitors during last week also included parishioners from parishes in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire and Oxford, clergy, members of the Franciscan Order, members of the Diocesan Safeguarding Trustee sub-committee and colleagues from various partner agencies.
As part of the event the Diocesan Safeguarding Team also ran a ‘Safeguarding in Action’ event in the Grimshaw Room, appreciating not everyone would want to go inside the cathedral.
This included a two-day mindfulness craft workshop with Cal Thomas, who made crochet crosses for visitors and is going to make an embroidered angel into a banner.
Following the LOUDfence at St Chad’s Cathedral one is being hosted in the Diocese of Northampton from Wednesday 17 to Saturday 20 May at St Teresa’s Church, Beaconsfield.
You can view last week’s messages in our online photo albums