Photo via Unplash.
Photo via Unplash.

The sexual abuse crisis continues to haunt the Catholic Church.

An upcoming event at Siena College looks at how the laity and Church can work together to rebuild a stronger institution in the wake of the crisis.

“Let’s Rebuild Our Church” is the title of the event on Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Sarazen Student Union on the campus of Siena College. The day runs from 1-5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The afternoon concludes with a Vigil Mass at 4 p.m., celebrated by Bishop Edward Scharfenberger in the Siena College Chapel. A reception follows the Mass. The event is sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Alumni and Clubs of Northeastern New York and the Triple Cities and Siena College’s Mission Office and Franciscan Center for Catholic Studies.

The day begins with The Hesburgh Lecture titled, “Embracing the Joy of the Gospel in a Church in Crisis” by Dr. Matt Ashley, an associate professor of systematic theology at the University of Notre Dame. The Hesburgh Lecture series, inspired by the late Father Theodore Hesburgh, has been bringing Notre Dame faculty to alumni clubs and local communities since 1986.

“In the summer of 2018, when the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report came out, myself and many other people were very dismayed at what they were reading,” said Michael Moore of the Notre Dame Club of NENY, who organized the event as an active alumnus. “And I said, ‘Why not do a Hesburgh Lecture event on this sexual abuse crisis?’ ”

Moore worked with the Notre Dame Alumni office in South Bend, Ind., to find the right speaker, then had the idea to partner with Siena and was put in touch with Tom Dickens, a professor of religious studies, “and he was all for it … Siena has been wonderful.”

After the lecture, a panel discussion and question-and-answer session titled “The Church Crisis and a Path Forward,” follows and it will be moderated by Jaclyn Brilling, member of the review boards of the Diocese of Albany and the Franciscan Conventual Province. The panelists include: Dr. Matt Ashley; Professor Kelly D’Souza of Siena College; Paul Ehmann, an abuse survivor, and Father Tom Konopka of the Counseling Center of the Diocese of Albany.

“I saw putting this event on as a way to more positively channel the anger and sorrow that I was feeling in the Pennsylvania report,” Moore said. “All we are hoping for is to have a frank and thorough airing of issues. We are not dictating anything. We are not engaging in an anti-Church rant or an anti-Catholic rant. We understand people may be angry. All we ask is to be civil and respectful. We just want to start the discussion.”

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