Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger celebrated a Mass of Hope and Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse at the Church of St. Mary in Clinton Heights on April 29. (Molly Halpin photo)
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger celebrated a Mass of Hope and Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse at the Church of St. Mary in Clinton Heights on April 29. (Molly Halpin photo)

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger said to those attending a Mass of Hope and Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse to remember that God loves you.

“Sometimes there may be parts of our own lives that we are ashamed of or that we are made to feel ashamed of by somebody else, but God is not ashamed of us,” said Bishop Scharfenberger, who celebrated the Mass at the Church of St. Mary in Clinton Heights on April 29. “God is not afraid to draw near, he comes to us exactly where we are. And if that takes an act of faith that simply I am going to believe, then that’s where we have to start. ...

“God loves me, God loves me. … And that is why today, all of us, wherever we are in our lives, wherever we are in our journey of faith, even if we feel we have no faith, or we have lost the path, or we are here because we are praying for somebody that we feel may have gone astray or led astray or (they are) so wounded that they cannot pick themselves up again … Jesus comes to us.”

Bishop Scharfenberger added that it was particularly relevant that the Mass — which was in recognition of April being Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month — fell on the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena.

“She was very well aware that human beings disappoint, in fact she specifically said this: All earthly fathers are flawed. Certainly we know that about our friendships,” the Bishop said. “No matter how good a friend may be, no matter how good a friend we may want to be to one another, or how good a parent or how good a child, we know we are going to fail in that. And sometimes that gets us down because we get caught in these failures, in the brokenness of humanity that goes right back to the fall.

“But her secret was not to deny that but her secret was to recognize one basic truth: Satan has lost, God has won, Jesus is our savior.”

The Bishop added: “I would recommend St. Catherine of Siena as a particularly important saint to go to if in any way you have suffered from the scourges of abuse or you know somebody that has because she has a way of focusing us on what really will heal us and moving our minds away from what pulls us down.

“And that is not a denial of evil, and this is not denial of a need for apology and a need for healing and for justice and for remedies in human terms. But it is also a call for us to recognize that our true identity never lies in what has happened to us or what others have told us we are or even what we ourselves tell us what we are. … the true identity of every human being is deeper than anything we know about ourselves or anything about our biology or our history ... our true identity is in how God sees us and why God created us.”

Bishop reiterated that, no matter where we are in our lives, God is always there.

“It is almost impossible, if not totally impossible, for us to reconcile with somebody who has hurt us, who has abandoned us, who has hurt us so deeply. But we still have God, our loving father, who is the true father of our souls and we have Jesus, our brother who shows us the human face of God and the depths to which God will go to make it clear to us that he wants us. He loves us.”

Frederick Jones, the diocesan assistance coordinator, also attended the Mass.

“I am available today,” he said, “and whenever anybody needs additional assistance. As a victim, as a survivor, as a parent, as a friend, you don’t have to go through this journey alone. I am here and I can be of support in any way that you need.”

The Albany Diocese urges anyone who as a child was sexually abused by a Catholic priest or deacon to report the matter to a law enforcement agency or to the Diocese. To report an incident of abuse or to seek help, contact Jones at (518) 453-6646 or by email at assistance.coordinator@rcda.org.