An American archdiocese is bringing the Eucharist to survivors of clerical sex abuse who hunger for Communion but find church-going traumatic.
“People really want the Eucharist. They want to be fed and healed by it,” said Paula Kaempffer, outreach coordinator for restorative justice and abuse prevention for the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis.
She told Catholic news website The Pillar that she works with abuse survivors who speak of “their hunger for Eucharist, except for who dispenses it”.
“They can’t go into a church and have a priest give them Communion. There’s too much trauma there. Many of them say, ‘I am Catholic to the core. I will always be Catholic, but I cannot walk inside a church’.”
Under the programme, launched in autumn 2022 by the archdiocese in the state of Minnesota, survivors who request the Eucharist may be brought the host at home by a fellow survivor of clerical abuse.
This role is discharged by Deborah Scheissl, a eucharistic minister. She developed the idea while attending church support groups for abuse survivors.
Mrs Scheissl had already brought the Eucharist to the housebound, including Catholics unable to attend Mass for physical, psychological and emotional reasons. “I thought well, why wouldn’t that apply here?” Mrs Scheissl explained.
To date, she has brought the Eucharist to one local survivor of clergy abuse. “It was very humbling,” she said. The recipient told Ms Kaempffer the experience had been “healing,” and “profound”.
Mrs Scheissl plans to speak about the ministry to support groups for clergy abuse survivors.
“I’m hoping to give them an experience of their church that is healing.”
At one point in her personal recovery from adult clergy abuse she had considered leaving the Church. Her abuser went to prison and was laicised. Through her ministry, she feels that “Christ has a reason for me here in the Church.”
She added: “Isn’t it interesting that Christ is using the wounded ones to heal?”
In 2018, the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis paid $210 million to 450 victims of clerical sexual abuse.
On April 13, the archdiocese is launching a new, virtual support group for employees of faith-based institutions who have experienced abuse in the archdiocese or other dioceses nationally or internationally.
This is the fourth survivors’ support group to be instigated by the archdiocese. Every month, it holds a virtual presentation on topics relating to victim-survivor healing.