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Monument for Victims of Clergy Abuse

This article was posted on: April 1, 2022

Recently a monument for victims of clergy abuse has been created for Holy Ghost Parish in Chippewa Falls. In November 2020, local artist Mark Blaskey was commissioned for the work. The sculpture represents hope, while being honest about the pain. One survivor of abuse said that they were “grateful for [the parish] recognizing the need to be transparent [about] the pain suffered.”

Father Justin Kizewski, former pastor, explained the origin of the project, which followed the release of the names of clergy who have had a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse. Father Kizewski said, “In particular, one family had come to Mass the day of the release. I am extremely grateful to them for sitting down with me to share their story. Their story made it real for me. As part of ongoing discussions, several family members proposed the idea of some sort of monument by which we might remember victims and their families.” The diocese gave approval and sponsored the project. Mark Blaskey was contacted about the memorial idea. He did some research and developed a vision for the project.

“We both felt it had the makings of something significant,” said Father Kizewski. “He drew up the plans and, first and foremost, I presented the plans to the family. After their approval, we pitched it to the leadership groups of the parish.” A lot of input was given by many individuals, and the monument that now stands silently for victims, their families and other concerned persons is located in front of Holy Ghost Church.

“I hope the monument validates those who have suffered as victims of abuse.” —Father Jesse Burish

Interestingly, another survivor of abuse whom Father Kizewski was working with showed him a drawing that she had made during her healing process. This drawing was created quite some time before Mark’s vision and yet, remarkably, it closely resembled his concept for the monument. Father Kizewski said, “I think it is safe to say that we have all been moved by this ‘coincidence.’”

Father Jesse Burish, pastor of Holy Ghost, Notre Dame and St. Bridget parishes said, “I hope that it validates those who have suffered as victims of abuse. I think part of the struggle is that victims have not felt they were acknowledged or believed.”

In the 2021 progress report to the bishops, the National Review Board (NRB) of lay professionals indicated substantial progress has been made but more change is needed. Many dioceses have implemented safe-environment training, background checks, letters of suitability and codes of conduct, but “the change of culture cannot be complete unless everyone follows the rules.” In the report, further necessary steps were put forward by the NRB and experienced individuals such as Monsignor Steven J. Rosetti, a psychologist and faculty member of Catholic University of America. He explained that reconciliation is a slow process, and bishops, clergy and laity need to listen compassionately to victims and survivors of abuse and their families. Monsignor Rosetti pointed out that “we have not yet fulfilled our gospel mandate until we, the Church, become the voice of the voiceless victims.” (NRB 2021 Progress Report to the Body of Bishops)

While it is not possible to reverse the actions done by clergy in the past, it is with great hope and care that the monument and subsequent thoughts and prayers will help to bring healing to the victims and survivors of abuse, their families and the greater community.

Story and photography by Jim M. Valois
Published in the April 2022 Issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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