Our Parish Response

August 23, 2018

Dear Beloved in Christ,

I share in your shock and anger when we hear of the harm caused as a result of clergy abuse.   Our sorrow is intensified when we find those whom we have trusted as priests, bishops, and those in authority are the perpetrators of such evil.  Others have been responsible for covering-up such sins instead of reporting it immediately.  Surely, Jesus must share in our frustration, our rage, and our tears.

Your parish priests and staff, along with some parishioners have met to discuss and plan how we are to begin to address and acknowledge this moral catastrophe. Already, the scandal was acknowledged last Wednesday at my Holy Day Masses.  My brother priests and myself also agreed to address this in last weekend’s homilies rather than remain complicitly silent. We will schedule a “parish-town hall meeting” for further assistance in listening, praying, and looking for ways to change the institution. This will be an opportunity to share feelings and frustration in hopes of moving towards healing.  Of course, we will be inviting laity to be leaders in that discussion.  To help in healing, we are looking to make available counseling times, by lay and clergy, for those affected by this horror. Our parish priests are always ready to walk with you, not only in the moments of sacramental light but also in the darkness of times such as these.

This is certainly not enough, but it is a start.  My hope is this will be an historic time for reformation in the Church.  I believe that this is not only possible but attainable because it will be demanded from so many of our Spirit-led faithful just like you.

On our website, you will find a page dedicated to homilies, pastoral statements, and additional resources. Starting on this Sunday, August 26, we will be offering an hour of Eucharistic Adoration following the 12:15 masses and each of the weekday Noon masses for a novena period of nine days. This will be also be offered at Wilde Lake during weekday evenings from 7 – 8 pm.  A Holy Hour will conclude the nine days after the 10am Labor Day Mass.   Further, I humbly invite you to join me in this novena of reparation as well as in a Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse. (You will also find it below.)


Rev. Gerry Bowen

Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse

More Resources

Archbishop Lori’s Response following Vatican Meeting – February 26, 2019

Vatican Meeting on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church.” February 21-24, 2019

In Anticipation of Vatican Meeting – February 13, 2019

Archdiocese of Baltimore Response – January 15, 2019

  • From cruxnow.com: The Catholic archdiocese in Baltimore has delivered over 50,000 internal files to Maryland’s top law enforcement official amid an investigation into child sex abuse and are in the process of handing over more.
  •  From the Catholic Review: Bishops in the Archdiocese of Baltimore will be subject to a policy approved in December by the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board.
  • From the Catholic Review: The Independent Review Board that assists the Archdiocese of Baltimore with child protection efforts issued the first of what will be annual reports regarding the archdiocese’s response to child sexual abuse within the church.

Pope Francis Letter to US Bishops January 2019

The US Bishops participate in a weeklong retreat is taking place at the invitation of Pope Francis who has asked all bishops in the United States to pause in prayer as the Church seeks to respond to the signs of the times.  As they gathered, Pope Francis sent a letter to them.

Baltimore Sun Op-Ed from Archbishop Lori November 9, 2018

Letter from Archbishop Lori October 31, 2018

About Listening Sessions October 17, 2018

Letter from the Parish September 27, 2018

Homily from Mass before Rededication of Wilde Lake Space

From the Pastor’s Desk

Homily from the Weekend of August 18 – 19

Homily from August 22: Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Church Responses

Other Resources

  • The Virtues of Catholic Anger – Father James Martin, SJ (New York Times)
  • The Clerical Sex Abuse Scandal: What Parents Can Do & How to Talk to Your Kids
  • The Darkness of Scandal and the Light of Christ  – Leah Murphy (LifeTeen)
  • Why Am I Still Catholic? – Karen Tumulty (Washington Post)

More letters from the parish

Pastor’s Cover Letter – September 24, 2018

September 24, 2018

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

A parishioner last week, reflecting on this tragic moment in the life of our Church, called to mind an event in St. Francis of Assisi’s life. It is worth retelling:

“One day when Francis went out to meditate in the fields he was passing by the church of San Damiano which was threatening to collapse because of extreme age. Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray. Kneeling before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with great fervor and consolation as he prayed. While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord’s cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times: ‘Francisgo and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.‘ Trembling with fear, Francis was amazed at the sound of this astonishing voice, since he was alone in the church; and as he received in his heart the power of the divine words, he fell into a state of ecstasy. Returning finally to his senses, he prepared to put his whole heart into obeying the command he had received. He began zealously to repair the church materially, although the principle intention of the words referred to that Church which Christ purchased with his own blood, as the Holy Spirit afterward made him realize….” From Bonaventure’s Life of Francis

A spiritual commentator reflecting on this, said: “For the record, the moment recounted above took place in 1204… and then as now, the call of the Cross remains the challenge of our time.” This was said in 2010, more than 800 years since the time of Francis. It especially speaks to us today. Christ Himself speaks to us today, again from His cross, this time, one made by the Church: “Repair my house.”

The purpose of my writing this letter is to update your awareness of how our local Church, here at St. John’s, has been actively engaged in meeting this crisis and in seeking to insist on justice for its victims and healing and repair for them.  We also must acknowledge their hurt, and our hurt, before we can seek to heal, or else how can we know where our wounds are… wounds of the Church, wounds of Christ? In doing so, we seek repair to our Church. Repair of trust, repair of our sense of belonging, repair of our faith. We know we can only seek to do this together, and to do it openly and honestly.

On the back of this page is a copy of a letter which I sent to members of our parish who gathered on August 30th to plan the format of a parish “town hall” meeting. The letter speaks for itself and describes what we forcefully learned from that initial meeting. Please do read it. That meeting has given us an insight and a direction to follow in our way forward. As more than one participant insisted at that meeting and in follow up conferences with parish lay professionals guiding us in this: “First, do no harm.”

My guiding intention in our parish responses to this crisis has been two-fold. One, have our parishioners decide on our process rather than have it presented to them. Two, do this in the most informed and responsible way possible seeking professional consultation and guidance. It has taken us some time to attempt to honor these principles, however busy we have been in seeking to create this process. I also acknowledge that this was going to be a long-term effort, for it to be successful. We are only just beginning to uncover the depth of this crisis, but I trust that openness is the beginning of healing and repair.

Included with this mailing are two letters, one from St. John’s Pastoral Council, and a recent letter from the Archbishop. I encourage you to engage yourself in responding to both.

Today, I saw a large, freshly painted tugboat guiding an older ship to safe anchorage. The tugboat was emblazoned with bright white letters against the red hull. It was appropriately named “FAITHFUL’”.

In the love of Christ,

Rev. Gerard J Bowen


Parish Council Letter

Columbia, Maryland

September 27, 2018

Dear Fellow Parishioners:

Five weeks ago, we were shocked and deeply saddened when a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released “revealing a pattern of institutional failure on the part of six dioceses related to the sexual abuse of children by clergy and other representatives of our beloved Church.”  Upon hearing the news, nearly every member of our church felt a betrayal of trust by our Church leadership and for some of us, old wounds were reopened.  All of us felt a need to vent and to share our profound hurt.  Individually and collectively, we have asked, what can the leaders of my parish do to help me to heal and to move forward with renewed faith and trust.

We want you to know that the members of the Pastoral Council share your concerns and frustrations. And we believe it’s important for you to know that during the past five weeks, Fr. Gerry Bowen and Fr. Ferdinand have been seeking appropriate ways to address for our parish to come together at this time of crisis. They’ve attended listening sessions at several churches in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and along with Scott Miller, they met with many of those who volunteered to work on planning our future, and the lay professionals in our parish. As a result of their efforts, a process is now in place for our parish first, to share, listen, and learn from each other; second, to express our hopes for the Church; and third, to discuss how to frame the next step(s) for the parish.

To continue this process, a hundred of our parishioners who answered the requests to form a “task force” to assist our pastor, parish and staff to respond to this crisis are having their second meeting on October 4, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm at Wilde Lake. The original meeting on August 30 taught us a lot, and informed the basis for this present meeting, which will be a first step at forming other listening sessions, that focus on the big concerns/issues that our parish should consider addressing as we move forward seeking justice, healing, and change for our beloved Church.

Fr. Bowen is planning to lay out the work that he’s been doing with Fr. Ferdinand and the team of lay parishioners and professionals since mid-August to develop, what they hope will be, an effective approach to helping our parish. While there’s no proven model for responding effectively to this crisis, we assure you that our leaders have conducted very thoughtful and prayerful research to identify what works and what doesn’t work. Now it’s time to listen and for us to learn from each other. Keep in mind, the October 4th meeting and future meetings will not be equipped, nor are they intended, to provide therapy. The meetings will be led by the professionals of our church who are skilled in facilitating discussions.

The members of our parish council also stand ready to listen, and invite anyone wishing to do so, to not hesitate to call. Our numbers are below.

In the Peace of Christ,


Archbishop’s Virtual Town Hall

Dear Friend in Christ,

With the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, which came on the heels of the revelations into the “double life” of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and now, allegations against Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., I have felt it necessary and important to be with the people of the Archdiocese to pray with you and to process this with you. To that end, the auxiliary bishops and I have been celebrating Masses throughout the Archdiocese these past weeks and meeting with people as they leave church.

We’ve had meetings with the priests and deacons of the Archdiocese, with our school leaders and their teachers, and we also asked principals and pastors to bring some of their staff or parishioners to a series of regional discussions, so that the faithful, too, have a chance to engage in these difficult but necessary conversations about how together we can make the Church a better, safer and more holy institution.

Many Catholics, you among them, may be bewildered and angry. As this crisis has deepened, people are demanding action, and action now. You rightly ask what will be done, what will be different, and what is in place to prevent such terrible things from happening again. Unfortunately, it will take time for the Bishops of the United States and the Vatican to get to the bottom of troubling questions and to agree on a plan of action – but just like you, I want to get it done right and done quickly. And just last week that process began with a meeting between Pope Francis and the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I expect the fruits of those conversations will be the subject of our deliberations in November when the bishops of the United States gather in Baltimore to vote on the reforms we so badly need. And your wisdom and input, be assured, will be represented during those discussions.

I vow to continue cooperating – fully and transparently – with all levels of law enforcement in Maryland. I shall always reach out to victims of abuse, and offer them assistance, whether or not it is mandated by law. I pledge also to continue the longstanding practice of updating the list of offending priests that was first posted on the Archdiocesan website beginning in 2002. I shall also continue taking direction from the Independent Lay Review Board in the ongoing work of strengthening Archdiocesan policies and practices designed to protect young people and to root out from our midst any representative of the Church – cleric or lay – who may pose a threat to the innocent and vulnerable.

That said, we have a long way to go. I have dealt with the painfully ugly specter of sexual abuse for a quarter-century. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that no policy, procedure or outreach undoes the pain of the victims of sexual abuse. And while no one can undo the past, neither can anyone in the Church ignore the tsunami of sexual abuse that harmed so many innocent victims.

So, how do we in this local Church respond? How do we help the Church to heal and move forward?

Because we were not able to invite everyone to the regional conversations we have already held, we are using MyParish app and Flocknote to facilitate conversations and solicit input from the wider archdiocesan community surrounding specific issues related to the abuse crisis. It is my hope that these tools will be useful beyond just the present crisis.

The plan is to have these ideas    and suggestions flow up to a soon-to-be-formed lay Archdiocesan Pastoral Council which, I pray, will give the laity a greater voice and thus greater investment and confidence in the management of the diocese.

But conversation can’t be just one-way. You have heard enough from me. I want to hear from you. We want to hear from you. That’s why we are reaching out to you via this “virtual town hall.” We want your wisdom and your best thinking. It’s time for a new Church of Baltimore, guided by a collegial movement focused on an increased role for laity and greater accountability of bishops.

We have four questions upon which we want you to reflect. Each question will be sent in a separate message so that we can better organize the comments.

If you want to join the discussion and share your questions and concerns, click the blue Reply button below. If you wish for your comments to be private, check the «Private» box to leave a private reply; otherwise, your comment will be public for others to view.

Comments will be moderated. We won’t delete a comment simply because it might be something that is hard for us to hear. But we will delete comments that are vulgar or that attack a specific person. Please stay on topic and respond to the specific question asked.

We ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom in this process at a time of healing and redemption for our church. May God bless you.

Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore

  • Question 1 of 4:  In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what are you most worried about? Reply
  • Question 2 of 4: In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what are you hopeful about? Reply
  • Question 3 of 4: In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, What is the main issue we are dealing with now?  Reply
  • Question 4 of 4: In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what is your best advice for practical steps to move forward?  Reply

Follow up to August 30, 2018 Meeting

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church
10431 Twin Rivers Road
Columbia, Maryland 21044

September 14, 2018

To:      All those who volunteered to work on planning our future parish “Town Hall” meeting, and/or who met on Thursday, August 30th, at Wilde Lake with myself and Fr. Ferdinand and Scott Miller.
From:  Fr. Gerry Bowen, St. John, Columbia, Maryland
Re:      Our follow-up to this first meeting

Dear Friends in Christ,

First, I want to thank each of you for your commitment to helping our parish, and our larger Church engage in the work of healing and reformation at this time of Crisis. At the August 30th meeting, we intended to gather to plan the format for our future “town hall” meeting with parishioners. What you taught us, and we learned from that meeting of more than 50 people, our first time to come together over the abuse crisis, was that we needed not first to plan, but to listen.

It was the first-time people came together in a group, and we all needed to vent, to ask questions, and to share our shock at finding our beloved Church in such a betrayal of trust. We understood, upon better reflection, that so many of us were traumatized, and needed first a chance to be heard. That realization will also help us as we in seek to plan ways in which our parish may also have time to be heard, and to put forth whatever actions we may propose as being appropriate, as we go forward seeking justice and healing and change for our beloved Church.

To that end, after consultation with lay professionals in our parish last evening, we are inviting all task force members to another meeting, October 4, from 7:30 – 9:00 pm again at Wilde Lake, to do what we should have done in the first place, and which we learned many of you wanted to occur at that first meeting on the 30th, namely to give time for people to ask questions, and to share concerns, thoughts, and frustrations, as we take time to listen and to learn from each other. We will first be present to one another, and with one another. That will be the entire purpose of that rejoined meeting. At conclusion, we will set a time to plan the format and shape of what other meetings may follow for our larger parish, consistent with what may come out of this next meeting. Since this group is so large, it will essentially be a trial run of how to conduct a “town hall” meeting for our wider parish community.

You have already shown your willingness to care about your parish, and to be part of your Church’s future directions in responding effectively to this crisis. I am counting on you to again return. This session is not equipped nor intended to provide therapy, but it will be led by the professionals of our church who are skilled in facilitation of discussions.

May I ask you to please rsvp, so that we may plan appropriately? I look forward to our being together, this time, with expectation of our taking the time to hear from one another.

In the Peace of Christ,

Fr. Gerry Bowen

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