'Every day is a chance to start a new chapter'

Friday, August 16, 2019 - Updated: 1:50 pm


A year ago, I sat on my couch, watched the news of the grand jury report, and sobbed. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and my heart ached for the victims, their families, the clergy, and for all of us who make up the Catholic Church.

I went to church and could see the pain on so many faces. I remember getting on my knees and praying for all of us. After a few weeks went by, and I began to notice that there were fewer people in church, my prayer turned to, “How can I help?”

So I was honored to become part of the new Church Healing Commission to help implement Bishop Zubik’s pledge of best practices in the prevention of abuse and ongoing outreach to victims/survivors. As a mom of children in Catholic schools, I have been closely following the diocesan response. I’ve kept informed on the upgraded protection policies and other measures taken to prevent abuse. While I’ve always felt my children were safe in church and at parish activities, the actions I’ve witnessed for even more vigilance — instill even greater confidence.

Still, my mind was blown at the first meeting of the Church Healing Commission. We heard details about the comprehensive levels of action and first-of-their-kind programs that the diocese has created for victims/survivors and their families, as well as the independent evaluation process that the diocese has long required for abuse allegations.

News coverage of the abuse has focused on numbers, and money … but money alone does not bring healing and the bishop knows that. The diocese is taking financial responsibility and spiritual responsibility. Much is being done to support victims/survivors spiritually, even as the diocesan staff who provide that support are themselves grieving.

When I offer wellness presentations, I talk about how reaching a low point can bring us to a crossroads with our faith. Some people get mad, take it out on God, and turn away from Him. Others find a way to cling to Him during the darkest times. I encourage people to hold fast to God, because He provides light and love … and love heals. Faith and love fill the holes in broken hearts.

I want people to know that every meeting I’ve been to at the diocese begins and ends in the same way — with prayer. We pray for you, whether you’ve been coming to church or have taken a step back.

Every day is a chance to start a new chapter. As we continue to support victims/survivors and their families, we need to join in rebuilding our Church. We have an opportunity here in Pittsburgh to come together as the body of Christ, to demonstrate healing love where there is pain and sorrow. Because of what has happened, things will never be the same. We are challenged to change and grow to keep the faith alive.

Antkowiak, a member of the Church Healing Commission, is a former KDKA-TV news anchor who works with health education and stress management programs through her private practice, Jennifer Productions.  

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