By: Michelle Packard
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so we take the time to hear stories of our loved ones and neighbors most impacted by this painful reality. We also work together and learn what we can do to create and advocate for healthy relationships, healthy families, and healthy communities. One advocate we have at Old St. Pat’s is Michele Packard, a church member who has given new energy and life to a growing Domestic Violence Ministry here at OSP. She has been coming here for 25 years, ever since her daughter entered FXW School in the year it opened. Michele recently completed the JustFaith program at Old St. Pat’s, a small group curriculum that examines justice issues through a lens of faith and Catholic Social Teaching. She is also active in our campaign for a community-funded west side mental health center. We are grateful for her and all those who live a faith that does justice.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says that, “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/ or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner [person] against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s [person’s] consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.”
Domestic violence intersects with race, culture, gender, religion, and social economic status and is transmitted in familial and social systems. For example, children who hear and observe aggressive behavior grow up mirroring the behavior and thinking it is an acceptable way to resolve conflict. The behavior that inflicts psychological trauma or sometimes death is transmitted across generations in families, workplaces and communities.
I believe in the opportunity for prevention that comes in affirming and recognizing the presence of domestic violence in our lives. Prevention begins with awareness of how we work through conflict and in that process how attitudes, values, policies and behavior are formulated and integrated into our families and the communities and systems we move in. Prevention is achievable in that each of us is able to participate to positively impact our home, communities and global environment.
So what are we doing to address domestic violence as a church? The mission of the Archdiocese of Chicago Domestic Violence Outreach (ACDVO) is threefold. The first is to raise awareness of domestic violence throughout the archdiocese. Second, is to promote the development and delivery of services, such as counseling and group support, to women, men and children victims of domestic violence, as well as to perpetrators. Third, is to advocate for the prevention of domestic violence. Girls and boys, young women and young men must learn to recognize the elements of unhealthy and healthy relationships. This is accomplished through education at home, in parishes, and in schools.
Old St. Pat’s and Old St. Mary’s are collaborating to implement the ACDVO mission in our communities. Our ministries’ volunteers have completed training and are scheduling parish staff trainings. We continuously bring education and prayers for peace into our communities, and we are reaching out to partners and other parish communities to expand the ACDVO outreach. Please join us during this month of Domestic Violence Awareness by praying with us, advocating for services and prevention, and joining Archbishop Cupich on Saturday, October 29, for mass at 5:15 p.m. dedicated to issues of domestic violence. All are welcome as we walk with one another towards healing, compassion, and hope.
If you’d like more information about our Domestic Violence Ministry and how to support this month, contact Rachel Lyons – firstname.lastname@example.org.