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Ignite ministry group talks about crisis in Catholic Church

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Ignite, a Marquette University Campus Ministry group, hosted a meeting last Wednesday in the Alumni Memorial Union to discuss the sexual abuse and leadership crisis within the Catholic Church.

The group discussed topics in small groups, then as a large group. They stressed transparency and confidentiality and shared questions and emotions regarding the sexual abuse and leadership crisis.

Due to recent events, like the removal of Rev. Robert A. Wild’s name from The Commons, students said they realized the issue of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is not only national and international, but local as well.

Stephanie Wissing, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and a student coordinator for Ignite, said the issue hit close to home when Wild’s name was removed from The Commons residence hall.

“I think there have been a lot of questions,” Wissing said. She said she hoped the meeting would answer the questions from people who were confused about the name removal.

“Each week we really dive into some aspect of student life or topic that’s important for students that is really pertinent to what’s going on, for and with them,” Steve Blaha, assistant director of Campus Ministry, said.

Wissing and Blaha said Ignite talked during the last several weeks about the best way to address the issue.

Wissing said Ignite student coordinators decided on the topic during a Campus Ministry leadership retreat when they spoke about the issue.

Blaha said there is a particular need for the conversation because it is a heavy topic.

“There’s a lot of pain associated with the topic, sexual abuse and the leadership crisis as well that perpetuated those abuses — something we as a Catholic community and certainly as an Ignite community … want to bring into the light as much as we can,” Blaha said.

Blaha said students had many questions they wanted answered, from “How did the crisis begin?” to “Where to go from here?”

“It’s heavy on people’s hearts and they’re kind of confused about it, and we want a space to talk about it,” Wissing said. “It had occurred to us that there weren’t really other options or spaces for this, so as a team we had decided we want to create this space for dialogue.”

Several Catholic priests and personnel from the Counseling Center were at the meeting to provide support to students who may need it.

“I thought it important to go as a representative of the clergy and the Jesuit community,” Rev. Aaron Pidel said. “I want people to know that the clergy does listen and grieves over the sins of sexual abuse.”  

Pidel said he wants students to know that most clergy are sincerely upset about this topic and find sexual abuse horrifying and are committed to preventing it.

Brian Bottei, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he is going to write his senior thesis for his  theology major on the crisis.

“I hoped to be able to articulate some of that information to people who might not necessarily know it because I think it’s really important that people understand,” Bottei said.

“I hoped to gain some perspective of other people on the issue and then also answer the questions I had,” Brian Coe, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said. Coe said he does not  have control over the politics of the Church, so he came to learn how to respond to others on a personal level to help them understand.

“I just hope that students get a renewed sense of hope in what we can do as a Church together to move forward from this crisis,” Wissing said. “I think that amidst the confusion and the anger, just remembering that we together as a Church are the people who need to build it back up.”

She said she hopes students become more comfortable with the topic so they can stop avoiding it.

“I hope that (the students), throughout the experience, that they’re able to find a stronger grounding in their faith, and really encourage and help the Catholic community, and really all communities to rid ourselves as much as is humanly possible of sexual abuse and any abuse or violence towards anyone,” Blaha said.

Blaha and Wissing said Ignite hopes to inspire change within the Church and the Marquette community.

“If folks leave with a greater hope and grounding in God, if they leave with a sense of stronger agency and connectedness to one another to combat abuse here at Marquette, and also in our local and worldwide Church, that would be marvelous,” Blaha said.

Blaha said even if Ignite creates small steps, those small steps can grow into strength and empowerment so students’ voices may be heard.

Ignite meets every Wednesday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Chapel of the Holy Family to discuss topics regarding Catholic faith and student life.  

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