Creating a safe environment for all in the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau

Even in this time of uncertainty that individuals, communities and the world face, we have been given hope in a new Archdiocese. I am thankful for what the people of the Archdiocese of Anchorage and the Diocese of Juneau have been able to celebrate. We have become a new community of faith. The worldwide Catholic Church will now acknowledge the people of Southeast and southcentral Alaska as the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.
And we all look to our appointed shepherd, Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M., to continue to guide and accompany us toward the path of Christ. Within all of this, there is so much to be grateful!

There will continue to be a significant amount of work to do as we unify two former dioceses and transition into one. As with most growth and transitions, there will be adjustments, patience and cooperation needed. But with the gift of becoming one Archdiocese and in gratitude for our newly united brothers and sisters in their many varied roles and locations, we will find great joy in working together to bring the message of the Gospel to each other and the people of Alaska.

As the people of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau, we will continue to work together for the safety and security of all within our churches, which has always been the focus of the ministry of safe environment. This ministry recognizes the importance of the role of each parishioner, cleric, religious, lay employee and volunteer to cooperate in the mission of ensuring a safe environment for everyone in the church, especially our most vulnerable.

As the director for the office of safe environment for the former Anchorage Archdiocese, for the past ten years, I continue to learn better ways to promote safe environments, renew trust in our church and support healing for all who have been impacted by abuse from someone representing the church. The role that the Office of Safe Environment seeks to provide emphasizes that the mission of safe environment is that every person in the church, from our youth to our oldest members, has a role to play. I hope this message has been heard, but in a new archdiocese, I want to continue to reiterate the importance of each person recognizing that they can make a difference in the lives of one another and for the life of our church community.

Now that our new archdiocesan family has been established and is larger than ever, this message of responsibility of all is even more relevant. We will continue to develop clear and effective policies and procedures for the whole of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau and support the unique needs of each community. We will continue to promote confidence in our ministers, clerics, and the laity, with background checks and training. And we will give our young and vulnerable members the faith to recognize their dignity and the tools to seek help if ever feeling disrespected or harmed in any way by anyone.

For each of us to begin understanding our role requires taking the time and initiative to learn what is expected. You can do this by reading our pastoral policies, contacting your parish office, safe environment coordinator or pastor, or contacting me directly. I would appreciate hearing from parishioners to answer any questions or hear about suggestions or concerns. The Office of Safe Environment contact information is on the Archdiocesan website or by calling 907-297-7736.

In the words of Pope Francis during his September 2015 visit to New York City, “Joy springs from a grateful heart.”

May our gratitude for our newly founded Archdiocese spring forth the Joy of Christ. And may our joy lead us to recognize and protect one another’s dignity in our homes, churches, communities, and the world, especially the most vulnerable.

The writer is the director of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau Office of Safe Environment.

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