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“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

A year ago, did we think COVID-19 would just be a bump in the road and our lifestyle would be interrupted for only a few weeks? Did we think all these months later we would still be wearing masks and reaching for hand sanitizer with such regularity? Did we understand the depth of the effects of losing our interactions with family and friends? Or even losing loved ones to death from the pandemic? Did we understand what stagnation to our education and intellect would do to our children, our colleagues, or ourselves or the tumult to our psyche?

No. A year ago we were only thinking of stocking up on toilet paper, paper towels, and disinfecting wipes.

I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point, and I think it was early on, it became clear our mission was still just as important, if not more so, and we needed to find another way to fulfill it. We needed to persevere and reclaim some sort of process or routine. Waiting for things to return to normal just wasn’t realistic or even finite. The seemingly eternal wait and continuing holding pattern were paralyzing and futile — especially when it comes to protecting children and vulnerable adults. Especially when we know that in times of turmoil and stress, the most vulnerable are even more susceptible.

In the Archdiocese of Miami’s Safe Environment Office, we have utilized this time — I hate to say “taken the opportunity” when referring to the pandemic — to find new ways of educating our audiences to further our goals of awareness and prevention of abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

  • We suspended adult live Virtus training sessions and adopted an online version instead, which is available in English, Spanish or with Korean or Vietnamese subtitles. The online reading of monthly bulletins is still required and has been especially helpful with topics addressing the challenges of the pandemic, among others.
  • We adapted the six Teaching Boundary Safety lessons for children (two of which are required each year) to include lesson plans for teachers and catechists to deliver them via Zoom or another virtual method. We also created lesson plans for parents who wanted to give the lessons themselves at home, especially if they did not have access to virtual lessons.
  • We created an online module to train Local Coordinators, whose duties include maintaining compliance and record-keeping of the Safe Environment Policy at their site. Previously this was done in a live workshop.
  • We created an online module to train directors and coordinators of Religious Education on the Safe Environment policy and the requirements of their role. Previously this was done in a live workshop.
  • We added an online Lesson Leader Orientation module to help teachers and catechists gain knowledge and a comfort level in delivering the Teaching Boundary Safety lessons for children.
  • We added the Healthy Choices for Teens online module and an extended edition which includes a safe environment component specifically designed for those teens who, beyond being students, also serve as volunteers in some capacity. This module includes information they need to empower their own safety and to understand how to create safe environments for other children or vulnerable adults who may be in their care while volunteering. (No teen is ever left alone in this capacity. They are always supervised by a Virtus-trained adult.)
  • We added an online module for the training of international priests who may be dealing with cultural differences when coming to the archdiocese.
  • We added an online module for Vulnerable Adults which may be assigned to those dealing with this population specifically, such as those who visit hospices, hospitals and the homebound.
  • We updated the Virtus homepage to make it more user friendly with quickly recognizable access to due trainings and printable Training Reports.

In a tumultuous time, whether in person, online, virtually, or with “holy smoke signals” (as we say in the Catholic Church), the Safe Environment Office’s commitment to protecting children and vulnerable adults is unshaken. Working together with our parishes, schools, entities, clergy, parents and volunteers, we must maintain the momentum, forging through all the obstacles and challenges to constantly improve our protection efforts. The children and vulnerable persons in our care are counting on us and we cannot become complacent. We must persevere.

“Brothers and sisters, don’t get discouraged in doing what is right.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

Jan Rayburn
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Comments from readers

Patricia S. Hernandez - 04/16/2021 02:05 AM
May God always fortify our commitment to children and to reporting any suspicion of child abuse in the memory of any victim.
Eileen D-H - 04/15/2021 11:26 AM
What a terrific summary of what has transpired this past year! You have certainly been busy building on the Virtus program to continue and expand its important mission in these challenging times. Sincere thanks to Jan and the entire Virtus team for all you have done for us.
Lisa Pinto - 04/14/2021 01:07 PM
Jan, you couldn't have picked a better Scripture passage to welcome us to your message -- I'm sure that we, your readers, have responded with a resounding "YES!" and feel encouraged to keep up the fight. Thank you for enumerating the initiatives you've done to continue to educate and inform us -- and to keep us abreast of even "newer" and more insidious challenges to the safety of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters during this time. Thank you for "not grow[ing] weary of doing good!"
Pat Neal - 04/14/2021 12:19 PM
What a powerful and uplifting message, and I feel so blessed to be a part of this most important ministry in the prevention efforts. Jan, you are truly an inspiration to us all, and thank you for your continued support and your creative ways in keeping the program strong during these challenging days! Blessings!
Michael Plummer - 04/13/2021 11:10 AM
Good summary. Good service. Thanks Jan.
Valli Leone - 04/13/2021 09:49 AM
Praise the Lord! This is our Church – – and, Jan, you and the others involved in this protective programming are doing a great job. What a complete and tremendous joy it is to know that the Body of Christ continues to live and move and have it’s very being by the power of God’s love for His children. We all benefit from your not growing weary in these good efforts. Jesus never fails! 🔆❤️🔆
Jensen R. - 04/12/2021 06:59 PM
Thank you, Jan! It is comforting to know that the importance of protecting children is still a priority during the pandemic. It is our responsibility to make sure they are safe especially during these difficult times. God Bless!
Br. Lombardo D'Auria, OFM Cap. - 04/12/2021 04:15 PM
Hi Jan and Team,peace, the new Virtus webpage is a great tool for our Archdiocese. Thanks for the excellent changes. Let's keep working together as a community for the benefits of our children, youth, and vulnerable adults. May the Lord bless you and keep you! Fraternally in the Risen Christ.
Maria Hopkins - 04/12/2021 03:25 PM
The changes were perfect for this challenging school year. Thank you and God bless!!!
Natalia Simich - 04/12/2021 03:25 PM
Thanks for everything you do! Thanks for keeping us informed and safe. Blessings.
Carrie Barillas - 04/12/2021 03:01 PM
Good information. Thank you
Kathy Werthman - 04/12/2021 01:57 PM
Great job, Jan and team!
Ellen Henehan - 04/12/2021 01:25 PM
It's a concerted effort for the entire community - parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, volunteers and even the students themselves. We persevere for one another. As we move from Lent to Easter to Pentecost, we call each other to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic. The work of the Virtus team in Miami exemplifies these values - thank you all!
Issa Gaytan - 04/12/2021 12:58 PM
It is very commendable the great effort that the Archdiocese of Miami and Jan Rayburn has been doing in this difficult times. They not only started from scratch, they did a great job updating everything and creating a new Safe Environment and thanks to them, we have tools for helping all God's children in the way they require. I am very happy with the outcome, it was very helpful for this year because I was able to train not only the children but the parents as well. Thank you jan for all that you do.
Fanny Garcia-Dubus - 04/12/2021 12:31 PM
Thank you so much for all the efforts, all the time and faith in this program! you make a big difference for all of us. God bless you Jan
Amy Cumming - 04/12/2021 11:42 AM
God bless our children and may we all work together to keep them safe at all times.
Marcia Gaitan - 04/12/2021 11:13 AM
Thank you for all you do please continue the good job of educating us under the current circumstances.We trust and hope that we can meet face to face in the near future.
Ann-Marie Donnelly - 04/12/2021 10:44 AM
Thank you for adapting so well to our current circumstances. We appreciate everything you do in helping to keep everyone informed and safe.
Anie Flor - 04/12/2021 10:40 AM
Adopting the online training workshops and other online module programs for different purposes has been a blessing as well as a productive enhancement to the safe environment office as we continue our commitment to our mission of awareness in the protection of abused children and vulnerable adults. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication during these difficult times.
Gloria G - 04/12/2021 10:35 AM
We have been blessed for your continuous support and dedication throughout these difficult times. You have continued to remind us ,hat our number one priority is to keep our students safe, and for that we are truly grateful!
annie molleda - 04/12/2021 10:13 AM
Thank you for your dedication to keeping us all informed and working towards keeping our communities safe. Knowledge, awareness and action are important and ongoing.
Jennifer Nicholson - 04/12/2021 09:39 AM
Thank you for all that you do to keep our students safe. The new updates to Virtus have helped to continue the mission of safety for everyone involved in the Catholic faith community.
Lisa Dodge - 04/12/2021 09:29 AM
It has been a trying year for all and I am so happy that we were still able to educate our children and adults. It is great we have an online option for Virtus, I just hope that we will be able to meet again in person for our classes with adults. We were able to teach the majority of our children in person with our Touching Safety classes. Thank for all you do to keep our students and vulnerable adults safe
Michelle Peral - 04/12/2021 09:27 AM
Thank you for your leadership, guidance and help throughout this very difficult year. I’m especially grateful for the privilege of being a part of the Saint Louis Covenant School family. This year has brought additional issues within the pandemic that presented great challenges for many of us. I am humbled and extremely thankful for the prayers, the friendship and this incredible community.
Vickie - 04/12/2021 09:17 AM
It's wonderful to see how you have adapted the system in order to continue our purpose of training and keeping up with all updates. Excellent!
Terri Williams - 04/12/2021 08:45 AM
Thank you! The last 13 months have been trying due to the pandemic! It would have been very easy to fall into the slump of negativity about what was to come. But after the first 6 months I for one reminded myself that this is happening for a reason. It is with us now and I must discover, uncover, new ways of doing old things! So the challenge was to remain positive trust that God's got us and rely on Him! So, yes, it's a new normal, but I believe God will hear and answer the prayers of the faithful!
Alicia Mendes - 04/12/2021 08:37 AM
It is so good to see how well you were able to adapt to the very different and restrictive circumstances thrust upon us by the pandemic, especially with respect to this most important mission. Many great programs were developed to continue and improve the work of protecting God's children and vulnerable adults, and doing so in the online environment. The online adult trainings have been especially helpful for our new volunteers, as it gets them working with VIRTUS and familiar with the system before they begin volunteering in person. Thanks for all you do!
Paulette Vitale - 04/12/2021 08:04 AM
The online training for volunteers has been a godsend. I am glad for those options. Thank you. The content across-the-board remains to be informative, encouraging, necessary and welcomed.
Anita Brommer - 04/12/2021 07:54 AM
Very well written blog and “spot on” title of perseverance. I appreciate your words “Waiting for things to return to normal just wasn’t realistic or even finite” and thank you for going the extra mile. I personally found a “silver lining” and am filled with immense gratitude that I can always count and lean on my Catholic faith, parish and pastor. God bless each and every one of us.
David Gonzalez - 04/12/2021 07:24 AM
God bless you Jan, Stay in the fight we have a long road ahead...

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