May 28, 2013

Letters to the editor: Trappists a model for addressing abuse

Stunned by Paul Kendrick's revealing commentary ("Maine Voices: New pope must stand up for sexual abuse victims, survivors," May 13), detailing the Jesuits' abysmal nonresponse to these issues, I was reminded of a very different experience some years ago.

In 2006, I visited the Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery in Kentucky.

At that time, parish priests and church employees were under direction by diocesan officials to avoid all discussion of sexual abuse and cover-ups; even simple questions or well-meaning expressions of concern were to be ignored.

The monks at Gethsemani took a different approach.

A special Sunday Mass just before Thanksgiving was held for these victims of sexual abuse. This Mass was publicized beforehand; all church officials, clergy and parishioners were invited to attend. During the Mass, special prayers were offered, apologies tendered and select victims invited to speak.

The Mass was followed by a traditional Thanksgiving dinner/reception, where the camaraderie and fellowship continued into the afternoon.

It was a day filled with love, compassion and healing. As the victims explained, it was the first time the Catholic Church had reached out to them and acknowledged their painful suffering.

I don't know if Kentucky diocesan officials still adhere to the avoidance/denial policies of 2006, but I do know these Trappist monks, unlike the Jesuits, taught an important lesson that day. By offering food for both body and soul, they demonstrated the need for us to be catholic to one another, whether we call ourselves Catholic or not.

The spiraling complexities of continued denial and cover-up are no longer acceptable.

While we wait to see if Pope Francis follows the example of these American Trappist monks in dealing with this festering sore, let us be mindful of the Prayer to St. Francis, which begins: "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace."

Ruth R. Covell

Teacher's success tied to that of her many 'workers'

The measured success of my job as supervisor of approximately 70 workers is dependent on their productivity.

I have no choice in which workers are assigned to me, but I am held accountable for the motivation, training, competency and output of each worker.

If they do not show up for work, it is my responsibility to make sure that they make up all missed work and training. In fact, if they show no interest in producing any meaningful output, I am held accountable.

It does not matter how many absences accumulate, what little regard is shown for completing required tasks, whether they display poor attitude, blatant disrespect, or counterproductive behavior -- I cannot fire them.

If they are unprepared to tackle the high expectations required for their work, I cannot dismiss them or reassign them to a more appropriate setting.

Although I give honest feedback when I evaluate them, unfavorable reports cannot result in termination; I own the failure.

Some arrive hungry, some improperly dressed and some are just learning English. Others have mental illness, social problems or addictions.

Our building and furniture are old and overused, the budget is tight and many of my essential supplies come from my own wages. What I cannot afford, we do without.

High productivity is still expected. I spend many extra hours, without added pay, trying to structure for success.

I tolerate these working conditions because I care deeply about each of my workers and want to help them thrive. I am a public school teacher, and I love teaching.

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