2019 Annual of Assembly

Letter from Bishop Walkowiak on the 2019 Annual Assembly. At the top of our agenda was discussion and voting on several measures relating to our ongoing response to the Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal. During the four days of the meeting, we dedicated our discussion and work almost entirely to the issue of our responsibility in handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse against minors.

USCCB Annual Spring Assembly – Bishop Walkowiak

Reflection from Bishop Walkowiak on Vos estis lux mundi

May 20, 2019

The Diocese of Grand Rapids’ Office of Communications shares the following reflection from Bishop Walkowiak on Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” Mt 5:14). The new Motu Proprio released by Pope Francis orders a worldwide response by the Church to the evil of sexual abuse:

“I join my brother bishops in welcoming the directives of Vos estis lux mundi as a framework for empowering the global Church in responding to and reporting abuse. Especially important are its directives for reporting and dealing with allegations of abuse against cardinals, bishops, patriarchs, and heads of religious institutes, and holding accountable anyone who covers-up or fails to adequately respond to allegations of abuse. In addition, it requires reporting to and compliance with local law enforcement, establishes whistle-blower protections for those who come forward, and protects the rights of all persons involved.

The release of this Motu Proprio just two months after the meeting of episcopal conference presidents in Rome, shows the Holy Father’s expectation for swift and far-reaching action to eliminate the crime and sin of sexual abuse from the Church. It also reflects his deep pastoral concern for victim-survivors, their families and the faithful throughout the world.

Many elements of the Motu Proprio are already being followed in the United States through the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its essential norms, established in 2002. As an expansion of that work, the Diocese of Grand Rapids and other U.S. dioceses stand ready to take steps to implement Vos estis lux mundi, following the U.S. bishops’ general assembly this June.

We will continue to care for and support every victim-survivor who courageously comes forward. Through prayer, vigilance and the action of the Holy Spirit, let us continue to work together toward healing and holiness for our Church.”

Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or another representative of the Church are urged to contact local law enforcement and the Michigan Attorney General’s office which can be reached at 844-324-3374. Individuals may also contact the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator at 616-243-0491. For additional information, visit grdiocese.org and click “Protecting God’s Children.” 

Attacks on Houses of Worship

The Diocese of Grand Rapids’ Office of Communications issues the following statement from Bishop Walkowiak regarding the bombing attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter and the shooting at the Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, on April 27, during Passover:
 
“Recent occurrences of violent attacks on people of faith gathered in prayer are an affront to humanity. The coordinated series of bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter that killed hundreds of innocent worshippers in Catholic Churches, and others of all faiths in nearby hotels, is a great evil. We join with people of goodwill throughout the world in condemning these acts of terrorism.
 
Further, as we absorb the news that another house of worship has been the target of violence, I join with my brother bishops in expressing sadness for the victims and their families and deep concern over this most recent attack on people of faith. We must continue to denounce acts of hatred and violence carried out against innocent people, people of any faith, as they gather to pray and worship.
 
Calling on the Lord, who is our refuge and strength in times of trial, I ask you to join me in praying for those who were killed and injured during these violent acts in Sri Lanka and California and for their families and communities. May the God of hope, who has raised his son Jesus from the dead, instill peace in the hearts of all people.”

Congratulations Bishop Walkowiak

Bishop Walkowiak honored with National Catholic Educational Association award  

CHICAGO – Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak, bishop of Grand Rapids, has received a national award recognizing his contributions to Catholic education. The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) honored Bishop Walkowiak with the Monsignor John F. Meyers Award during an April 22 ceremony at the association’s convention in Chicago.

According to the NCEA, “The Monsignor John F. Meyers Award is presented to an individual who has provided substantial support for Catholic education through contributions in areas of development, public relations, scholarship programs, financial management, or government relations. This award seeks to recognize a person whose work has national significance.”

Through Bishop Walkowiak’s bold leadership, the Bishop’s Catholic Schools Initiative led to enrollment growth among Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids in three of the last four years. The initiative also facilitated the development of the five-year “Catholic Schools: Bridging Faith and Future” strategic plan, which began guiding Catholic education in the diocese this school year. Already, the strategic plan has borne fruit through the opening of the new St. Robert Catholic School in Ada; the implementation of new, original curriculum standards; and enrolling the largest preschool class in 21 years and the largest kindergarten class in six years.

“Bishop Walkowiak’s faithful leadership and undying support have launched our Catholic schools onto a trajectory of vitality and, more importantly, missionary discipleship which will impact our students and the Church for years to come,” said David Faber, superintendent of Catholic schools in the diocese.

Visit CatholicSchools4U.org for more information about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, including the “Catholic Schools: Bridging Faith and Future” strategic plan.

Update on Statewide Investigation

The Diocese of Grand Rapids’ Office of Communications has issued the following statement following a press conference by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to update the public on the statewide investigation into the Catholic Church.

As we have said since the investigation began, the Diocese of Grand Rapids is and will continue to cooperate with the Michigan Department of the Attorney General in its statewide investigation into the Catholic Church.

The Diocese of Grand Rapids’ policy is to report to law enforcement all allegations of sexual abuse against children or vulnerable adults – no matter when they occurred – which are brought to the diocese’s attention. The diocese continues its pledge to help victim-survivors in their healing process through both prayers and practical means, such as counseling. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, we encourage you to call the hotline for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at 844-324-3374.

The Diocese of Grand Rapids has not been notified by the Attorney General’s Office of any credible accusations against any of our priests. The diocese will take immediate action if so notified.

Bishop Walkowiak has published a video ahead of the worldwide meeting currently taking place at the Vatican addressing the prevention of clergy sexual abuse.
His video can be Bishop Walkowiak Video.

Resources pertaining to the safe environment policies and procedures of the Diocese of Grand Rapids can be found at grdiocese.org, click ‘Protecting God’s Children’ in the menu.

Archbishop McCarrick Dismissed

The Diocese of Grand Rapids’ Office of Communications has issued the following statement from Bishop David J. Walkowiak in response to the Holy See’s announcement that former Archbishop McCarrick has been dismissed from the clerical state.

I stand in solidarity with our Holy Father in his decision to dismiss former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick from the clerical state based on the former Archbishop’s actions.

Cardinals and bishops, like priests and deacons, must be held accountable for any actions that cause harm to the most vulnerable in our communities. I encourage all individuals to report such instances to both the Church and civil authorities so that the appropriate steps toward justice and healing may be taken.

The Church must continue to seek forgiveness for its previous actions and I pray that this decision will provide a source of healing to the former Archbishop’s victim-survivors. I, along with the Catholic faithful, will continue to pray for all survivors of sexual abuse and provide assistance to promote healing.

As the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences meet in Rome this week, I pray that the meeting will bear fruit to help cleanse the Catholic Church and restore the trust of the faithful.

Video Message from Bishop Walkowiak

Video Message from Bishop Walkowiak

From Feb. 21 – 24, presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world will meet at the Vatican to discuss the clergy sexual abuse scandal and our global response as a Catholic Church. In a continuing effort to be as transparent as possible, Bishop Walkowiak would like to share an update on this topic and answer some of the questions he has received from parishioners. You can watch his video response at http://bit.ly/DJWmessagefeb2019

Talking to Children about difficult subjects

Tips for talking to children about difficult subjects/news reports

The topic of sex abuse, particularly child sex abuse, is a daunting one for parents. Every parent must consider many factors including the best age-appropriate way to discuss the topic. Below are some points to consider adapted from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, and First Things First.

1. Make sure you are composed before you talk with your child.

2. If you believe your child is aware of news concerning abuse in the diocese, start the conversation. Not talking about a difficult event can make the event even more threatening in your child’s mind.

3. Listen carefully to what your child is asking or talking about.

4. Clarify just what any concerns are before you answer. Sometimes we make assumptions and give far more information than what the child needs.

5. Keep your answers simple and brief. Don’t answer questions that have not been asked. Do not overload your child with information that is beyond his/her level of understanding.

6. Assure your child that you and other adults that are in charge are doing everything possible to make sure they will be safe. This will give them a sense that adults are actively taking steps to protect those who are currently suffering.

7. Don’t make guarantees that such a thing can never happen again. Words like “never” and “always” should be used very carefully because small children trust that this is a promise from you.

8. Explain that we do not know why people treat other people badly.

9. Try to limit your child’s exposure to media coverage. A child believes what he or she sees on television, or in the newspapers is always true.

10. Let your children know about successful community efforts. You may want to share positive media images, such as reports of individuals helping those in need.