‘To be, rather than to seem’

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Safe Environment

“Esse quam videri” is a Latin phrase meaning: “To be, rather than to seem (to be)”

I first read this common quote in my daily Catholic readings. As a Catholic Christian and as someone representing the Archdiocese of Anchorage, I am called to strive to live what it is I intend to portray. To live out these words demonstrates sincerity, authenticity and accountability. A person with these attributes would be trustworthy and their message transforming. Needless to say, Jesus is the perfect example.

The ministry of safe environment requires sincerity, authenticity and accountability. It is not just about meeting formal requirements to ensure safety; it is about authentically embracing the mission of protecting the vulnerable and ministering to those who have been harmed. It is about living our belief about the dignity of the human person.

As an archdiocese we work towards this mission by providing training to all of our ministers, employees and volunteers on the dynamics of abuse and how to protect. Our mission includes reiterating to our children that they are daughters and sons of God and therefore, deserving of dignity and respect. Our mission also includes how to identify unsafe and unhealthy situations and relationships and how to seek help when needed. In addition, we promote awareness and opportunity to parents and all parishioners, helping them identify and respond to abuse.

Our office is supportive of the intention of the Alaska Safe Children’s Act recently signed into law by Governor Walker. From experience, I know that one important piece of preventing sexual assault and domestic violence is teaching children to identify the warning signs of abusive relationships and how to ask for help. Some may wonder if the archdiocese’s safe environment curriculum, Circle of Grace, will simply be a repeat of what the schools may provide. Public school systems and the archdiocesan faith formation programs both focus on safe environment awareness — this only helps to enforce an important message. If a child is taught a safe environment curriculum at their public school and their parish, there is an opportunity to discuss how they may differ, what our faith beliefs are regarding this issue and the importance that people of all walks of life understand that they deserve to be in safe and healthy relationships.

Recently, a non-Catholic asked me what I thought of Pope Francis and his messages. I responded that his teachings are not new or different, but he has put a renewed emphasis on the Gospel message and the church’s pastoral lived response. So if he is not radically changing church teaching, then what is it about him that makes the world, especially the media, stop and listen and report on his every word and move? This student has also stopped to listen, because the pope’s message appears sincere, authentic, holds the church accountable and challenges Catholics and the world at large. In regards to safe environment, we see this most recently in the development of a Vatican commission for child protection and the accepted retirement of bishops who failed in their safe environment implementation.

As the summer winds down parishes and schools are gearing up for educational and faith formation programs. Soon, parents and parishioners should begin hearing information on these classes and programs. I encourage everyone to help the archdiocese work and improve on how we are “to be, rather than to seem,” especially in relation to the dignity of the human person and the mission of safe environment.

n The writer is director of the Office of Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of Anchorage. To contact her, call 297-7736.


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