Blog Published


I took the plunge into my teenage years with a three-week canoeing trip in the Boundary Waters — a million plus acres of wilderness with forests, lakes and streams in the Superior National Forest located in northern Minnesota where it meets Canada. I say it was a canoeing trip, but my memory sure seems to recall a whole lot of portaging, which is a strenuous trek with all your gear on your back and the canoe hoisted over your head, held by the frame and support bars to traverse over land from one open waterway to another. I still have a permanent knot in my neck from this fun task!

There is nothing smooth sailing about portaging. It was an intense camping experience with very specific instructions, rules, guidelines, and warnings — not the least of which was no sweets allowed as they can attract bears. While I weighed the pros and cons of a bear visit versus three weeks without sweets, the instructions continued with steps on how to rope the backpacks holding our provisions up in the trees through a rather primitive but effective pulley system in order to prevent bears from foraging through them. We were diligent in the practice until the last few days of the trip when we were too tired to do the last few tugs on the rope and indeed fell victim to the bears taking our food, leaving us to survive on a diet of saltine crackers until the end of the trip. Lesson learned.

The rules are not necessarily in place to be restrictive, rather, they are just plain necessary for safety, well-being, and providing the best possible experience. The days were long, grueling, demanding, and absolutely amazing! I mean, we showered every day in waterfalls!

April showers not only bring May flowers (see what I did there?), but April is also the nationally designated Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The Archdiocese of Miami has been proactively protecting the children and vulnerable adults in its care since 2002 when the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) created the Charter for the Protection of Children, culminating in each diocese adopting a Safe Environment Policy for their entities. Decades of learning and growth have made us a worldwide leader in such protections, policies, and best practices.

A major element of the policy is the educational component. The archdiocese partners with Virtus to provide timely and topical information on the latest concerns, troubling trends, and statistics, as well as providing the techniques and tools to combat them.

This year, we provided a new Virtus online training module addressing Healthy Boundaries for Adults. It provides guidance on appropriate behaviors in relationships with children, vulnerable adults, and other adults. The module is required of all employees, educators, and vendors, as defined by the USCCB.  Coming this month is a similar training on the same topic specifically designed for clergy. It, too, will be required.

These trainings are among the library of educational materials designed to protect God’s children, as are all the Safe Environment policies and requirements. They serve as a reminder that we are all God’s children, not just minors and the vulnerable, and each of us needs healthy boundaries.

What is it about boundaries that make us recoil?

Is it the notion that no one likes to be told what to do?

Is it that we think we only really need one rule —the golden rule— in all we do?

Or perhaps just 10 commandments?

While we may think it should be that simple, it is rarely the case, especially in such a wonderfully diverse community like the Archdiocese of Miami. When many cultures come together in our mutual faith and Christian formation, it is essential to have guidelines in place and explanatory trainings to make them understandable and user-friendly.

It really comes down to respecting yourself, your role, and others around you. We are called in baptism to look out for one another. Those who get angry when you set a boundary are often the very ones with whom you need to set a boundary. The more you value yourself and others around you, the healthier your boundaries and the healthier we are as a Church.

So, whether we are talking about a canoe in the Boundary Waters, Noah’s Ark, Michael’s boat ashore, a water taxi in Broward, a dive boat in the Keys, or an airboat in the Everglades (and all points in between), jump on board to join us in our ongoing efforts to protect children and all adults, especially the vulnerable, in our homes, neighborhoods, canals, intercoastal waterways and the Atlantic Ocean.

With healthy boundaries in place, your excursion will have no troubled waters.

Comments from readers

Sister Lidia Valli - 04/12/2024 11:17 PM
Thank you and welcome back. We are blessed to have Jan who reminds us the importance of healthy boundaries and rules. Thank you for your ministry. May God bless you.
Eileen Dolan-Heitlinger - 04/12/2024 06:39 PM
What a great article, Jan! I enjoyed reading about your canoe trip and loved the comparison of your wilderness trek with our Safe Environment program. The need for methods to keep the vulnerable in our communities safe is obvious yet how to accomplish that is the challenge. ADOM has met that challenge head on with its Safe Environment program. The quality of our program, especially the Virtus components, has won wide support among our staff, parents, and parishioners. They get it! In addition, I absolutely agree with the other commentators who applaud your leadership of our program for ADOM. Thank you for your sincere commitment to all of us.
Maren Martinez - 04/12/2024 05:28 PM
Dear Jan, what a wonderful article, it could be a homily … 🙏 Thank you for your leadership in reminding and educating us how to keep our students safe. Many blessings your way 🙏
Michaele Kaelin - 04/12/2024 05:13 PM
Jan- Thank you for being such a wonderful facilitator for the safety of the vulnerable. We appreciate all you do. It is so vitally important that we keep our children and elderly safe from abuse and to educate those who volunteer on how to report abuse and to be aware of what to look for and how to avoid issues.
Sue McCrea - 04/12/2024 04:38 PM
Jan, as always, you lead us through the important "Healthy Boundaries" that we as administrators, educators, leaders in the Church or parents must be aware of. You always keep us up to date and you are always there to assist us when needed. You are a true professional who always puts the safety of our children first and foremost. Thank you for leading us all on this important mission to keep our children and vulnerable adults safe.
Ana Mantilla - 04/12/2024 04:31 PM
Jan- we are blessed to have you as our leader in the efforts of protecting our children and elderly. Your passion and commitment is like no other. I look forward to our continued partnership. Sending blessings your way!
Mildred Ratcliffe - 04/10/2024 11:49 AM
Thank you, Jan, for this wonderful correlation between your awesome adventure in your teen years and the need of healthy boundaries for all of us. Indeed, your last sentence sums it up: “With healthy boundaries in place, your excursion will have no troubled waters.”
Kathuska Pino - 04/09/2024 02:24 PM
Great article, Jan. God bless you . Welcome Back
Katy Dunn - 04/08/2024 10:45 PM
Jan, I am so glad to see that you are still doing a great job with The vertus program. I was in the first group of facilitators when the archdiocese started the program and still follow the articles online. Your article was right on point. I am so glad to see the program continuing. Blessings, Katy Dunn.
Kim Eichholtz - 04/08/2024 03:36 PM
Healthy boundaries are so important and they are empowering. It is up to us to ensure we enable those entrusted in our care to speak freely and establish those boundaries. Thank you for sharing, Jan. You are a true blessing!
Lisa Dodge - 04/08/2024 09:55 AM
What a great article. I did a little googling on healthy boundaries and found this. Healthy Boundaries mean Being able to say, "no," and accept when someone else says "no" Being able to clearly communicate both wants and needs. Honoring and respecting their own needs and the needs of others. Respecting others' values, beliefs, and opinions, even if they are different from one's own. When I read it, it reminds me of my Virtus training and this is exactly what we do to maintain healthy boundaries with our children and vulnerable adults' Our goal is to be sure that everyone stays safe and no means NO!
Donna R. Villavisanis - 04/08/2024 09:42 AM
Under the effective, inspiring and true leadership of Jan Rayburn, our parishes are encouraged and striving for the highest levels of Safe Environment Education and compliance for all stakeholders. Accurate, up to date and properly recorded information for all employees and volunteers is a hallmark of the ADOM expectations of all Local Parish Safe Environment Coordinators. We are all in this together!
Dolores - 04/08/2024 09:24 AM
As a teacher and administrator in an elementary school, we are always reminding students to be aware of "personal" space with each other. Rules/boundaries/personal space are all meant to keep us safe and protected.

Powered by Parish Mate | E-system

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply