Tuesday, April 02, 2019 - Updated: 12:38 pm
Following up on the promise in his recent pastoral letter, “The Church Healing,” Bishop David Zubik has appointed four key staff members for the new Secretariat for the Protection of Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults, which goes into effect April 1.
All four currently hold other leadership positions in diocesan administration, in some cases doing the same work that they will continue in the new secretariat. The new secretariat brings together all diocesan services directly related to prevention of and response to sexual abuse. A secretariat is the highest structure of diocesan government beneath the bishop’s office, and the secretariat heads work closely with the bishop.
“This new secretariat guarantees that the concerns of victims and our efforts to prevent abuse will be considered at every top-level meeting of diocesan leadership,” Bishop Zubik said. “People who once responded to child sexual abuse in different departments will now work together, and their collaboration will further strengthen efforts that have been vigorous for many years. We will also add new services to assist victim-survivors in spiritual recovery and to keep our communities safe.”
The head of the new secretariat will be Jane Sarra. She has a clinical background, including an early career as a nurse practitioner, and has served in various executive health care leadership positions locally and nationally. A major focus of her work has been developing effective compliance training and educational programs, which involved working with government investigations and law enforcement officials. She joined the diocese in 2016 as the director of mission integration.
The Secretariat for the Protection of Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults will include four offices. Bishop Zubik has named three of the directors, with a fourth to be appointed later.
Office for Victims’ Assistance
Rita Flaherty, a licensed social worker who has assisted victims of clergy sexual abuse since 1993, will continue in that role as director of the Office for Victims’ Assistance. That office, which has had several titles over the years, was previously part of the Secretariat for Clergy and Consecrated Life. The Office for Victims’ Assistance staffs the diocesan hotline that receives calls about allegations of abuse, holds the first conversation with those who bring such allegations and facilitates access to counseling from a licensed therapist of the victim-survivor’s choice.
Office for Accompaniment
Mimika Garesché, a spiritual director with experience assisting victims-survivors of sexual abuse, will be director of the new Office for Accompaniment. In addition to more than 20 years of work in this field, she has a certificate in spiritual direction and directed retreats, as well as a master of arts in theology/Christian spirituality from Creighton University. Garesché will connect victims-survivors with resources to help in spiritual recovery and guide parishes in creating a welcoming environment for those who have been abused. Among the new initiatives she will develop are spiritual support groups for victims-survivors. Garesché joined the diocesan staff in 2015 as director of spiritual formation for pastoral leadership, providing clergy and lay leaders with the training and support necessary to lead others deeper into the faith.
Office for Compliance
Phyllis Haney will be director of the Office for Compliance, continuing 15 years of diocesan programs for child protection. In 2015, after many years as a safe environment coordinator in a parish, she became the second director of the Department for the Protection of Children and Young People. Haney will continue her work with safe environment coordinators in parishes, schools and diocesan institutions to maintain compliance with diocesan safe environment policies and the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” The office facilitates child protection training and enforces background checks for all clergy, staff and volunteers, including clearances from the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the FBI. This office also will work to ensure that students in Catholic schools and religious education programs continue to be trained to recognize the signs of abuse and how to report it.
Office for Investigations and Monitoring
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Zubik also pledged to hire a law enforcement professional for a new Office for Investigations and Monitoring. This person will conduct diocesan inquiries into allegations that would not be the purview of law enforcement investigation and will monitor clergy who were removed from ministry with substantiated allegations, but who were not dismissed from the clerical state due to age, illness or canonical restriction, as determined by the Holy See. In “The Church Healing,” Bishop Zubik wrote that he would fill this position by Sept. 1.