At the Sorrowful Mother Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood have dedicated The Healing Place, an area in the shrine where victims of abuse and their friends and family members can come to pray, meditate and heal. The project was led by Fr. Leon Flaherty, C.PP.S., who with Companion Margaret Saliga, of Whiting, Ind., and other volunteers worked to make the Healing Place a reality.
It’s in keeping with the Missionaries’ “spirituality of healing and reconciliation,” said Fr. Flaherty, who traveled from his home in Superior, Wisc., to Ohio for the June 2 dedication. Originally conceived as a place for victims of clergy sexual abuse, the idea quickly expanded to include all abuse survivors.
The planners worked with victims’ groups and with the Diocese of Toledo, in which the shrine is located. The labyrinth that resulted, in the midst of a peaceful corner of the shrine, is outlined in red, signifying the Blood of Christ poured out for his people. Those who pray at The Healing Place will be “walking through a river of Christ’s Blood, which we hope will bring them to healing,” Fr. Flaherty said. The Healing Place is situated at the foot of the crucifix, so that Christ remains the focal point.
Fr. Larry Hemmelgarn, C.PP.S., provincial director, presided at the liturgy in the shrine’s chapel that preceded the dedication. During his homily, he said, “Just like the relationship between God and Jesus, there is a relationship between the broken and the Church, and when I say ‘Church,’ I mean the community of believers. All of us as brothers and sisters want to love the way Jesus and the Father love. All of us in the community of believers want that for our children of every age, ourselves and every person who hurts. It is only by our reaching out to one another that we begin to heal the brokenness of the past. That is why this Healing Place was created, so as hurting people, we can walk the walk of Jesus realizing and knowing that there is resurrection.
“Let’s all of us pray this day that as we dedicate The Healing Place, it may become a place for people to do whatever kind of walk necessary to bring them to healing. Whether they walk the labyrinth alone or with a trusted friend, a spouse or some other loved one. We pray that victims–no, not victims, but survivors–may once again discover the love and trust that Jesus offers and be healed. That survivors might marvel in the strength that God placed within them, that they are able to live and breathe and take a step forward toward healing. That they could choose to despair, but instead come out of the darkness into God’s light, choosing to ask for God to heal them—saying yes to life in abundance.”
Also present for the dedication was Frank DiLallo, victim assistance coordinator of the Diocese of Toledo. “On behalf of Bishop Daniel Thomas and the Diocese of Toledo, I am honored and blessed to be here,” he said. “For over 20 years, it has been my honor and privilege to offer pastoral care to many individuals and families who have been affected by abuse of many kinds. There’s never a quick fix. Healing takes time and tremendous courage.”