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We're all special

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I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. (Psalm 139:14)

How about that! Aren’t we special? Yes. We. Are. No matter how humble or soft-spoken some of us may be, we believe it. Our actions show it. Our children receive participation trophies. We go through the express line with more than 10 items because they can surely make an exception for us. Then we stand in line to buy Powerball and Mega Millions tickets even though we know the odds are crazy against us.

Back of business card-size AAA alert to remind pastors and other church personnel of the steps to take if they witness or are told of suspected abuse of children or vulnerable adults.

Photographer: FILE

Back of business card-size AAA alert to remind pastors and other church personnel of the steps to take if they witness or are told of suspected abuse of children or vulnerable adults.

For a recent Powerball winning ticket, the odds were 292 million to 1! You are more likely to die from an asteroid strike (nearly 75 million to 1) or get struck by lightning (1.1 million to 1) or even become a movie star (1.5 million to 1). Still, we spend our hard-earned money on the gazillion to one chance, because we think we could be that special one who wins.

So, what’s the harm? After all, we are uniquely made. Well, sometimes we forget that we are all uniquely made and special. There’s no pedestal to preen from. The real gift is in rejoicing in everyone’s unique kind of special. To celebrate it and do everything we can to let it flourish in each other.

When it comes to children, this means doing all we can to protect them, so they can grow and learn and flourish in safety. The Safe Environment Policy of the Archdiocese of Miami was created to do just that. In keeping with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the policy requires, among other things, that all clergy, religious and employees in any capacity, and all volunteers with access to children and/or vulnerable adults, be cleared through fingerprinting in our data base, have an active and up-to-date Virtus account, and sign a Pledge to Promote Safe Environment.

These are best-practices solutions to ensure that those who have access to the most vulnerable among us are suitable, qualified, and have the best interest of the child at heart. It is an enormous undertaking in scope, resources, finances, commitment, and emotions but not doing so is so much more costly. If the results are saving just one child, it is worth it.

The Safe Environment Office has undergone an independent yearly audit – to see how well we are following the policies – since the Charter’s inception in 2002. The Archdiocese of Miami has passed the audit every year. Through this process, we know the program works and we’ve seen many helped and saved from terrible torment.

Then there are those we may never know about who were able to change their circumstances because of the information they received in their training or the training of children through the Virtus Teaching Boundary Safety lessons.

A key component of the success of the policy is that there are no exceptions —no matter how special we may be. Some groups of people may feel they do not need to comply because of their professional training and/or status. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, law enforcement officers, and politicians may feel their training is already sufficient — exceptional even.

However, we need these people to comply and set the example for others. We need these people to know what information is being disseminated for everyone else and to recognize when an action or activity is not acceptable as per the archdiocesan policy. We need these people to share their knowledge in Virtus training session discussions. We need these people to join us in our efforts. We are called in baptism to look out for each other. I can’t think of a more special calling.  

Comments from readers

Nubia P Stanley - 04/12/2019 03:51 PM
Hi Jan I think this is a very important ministry because it brings awareness to parents especially who God has entrusted to them the gift of their children and to the rest of us to be mindful of the responsibility we have. Thank you Jan for all you do and may God continue to bless you always.
Lisa Pinto - 04/12/2019 02:56 PM
Jan, thank you for keeping us on point and reminding us of why we champion Safe Environment programs and procedures, and the responsibility we have to keep it going! Thank you for all you do to keep children and vulnerable adults safe!
Rosalie Modzelewski - 04/11/2019 01:44 PM
Thank you for the support & guidance you provide to all of us in the ADOM. This is an amazing program that is doing so much good!
Christine Williamson - 04/09/2019 02:08 PM
Well said, Jan, in the eyes of God we are all equally responsible for the protection of the most vulnerable children and adults. Keep up the good work!
Dolores Alea - 04/09/2019 01:37 PM
An important point that you mentioned, is that the key to the success of this program is... everyone needs fingerprints, Virtus, and signed pledge... no exceptions!
Issa Gaytan - 04/09/2019 12:43 PM
Besides to remain us the uniqueness of each one of us, touch the hard point of those who feel they do not need to comply. How many times we hear of the terrible things doing for a person that we thought was a "safe adult"? What I like more is that we have a program that help us with the prevention of abuse to children and/or vulnerable adults and that is a global program, all of us in our catholic faith we have to follow it, doesn't matter who you are. That is a step forward preventing abuse and because we need to keep updated we learn what is happening in our children world and we are wiser thanks to that.
Karen Gioia - 04/08/2019 11:27 PM
What a great reminder that not one of us is SO special that we can't learn and benefit from additional training and information to keep our children safe! Thank you Jan for your informative blogs and articles.
David G - 04/08/2019 07:11 PM
You're absolutely correct, I can't think of a more special calling either. I have had countless participants approach me after classes and share with me their heartfelt stories and reinforce our message vigilance and reporting the actions of individuals that endanger those most vulnerable to exploitation.
Jennifer Nicholson - 04/08/2019 04:22 PM
Thank you for the important information as this reminds us of our goal to do our best for those we serve.
Farah - 04/08/2019 04:03 PM
Thank you for sharing!
Marianela Nieto - 04/08/2019 03:31 PM
I love the articles and notifications about safe environment, they are a great help when providing the community at church the right information in order to keep our children and the vulnerable adults safe. this article is one more reminder how important it is to have all ministries in compliance. thank you, and God bless
Amy Cumming - 04/08/2019 03:01 PM
The blog and the annual bulletin notifications about safe environment are great ways to remind people of the importance of keeping our young and vulnerable safe. If we can save even one from abuse it is well worth the effort.
Frank X. Will - 04/08/2019 02:59 PM
Walter Lambert - 04/08/2019 02:58 PM
I think that Virtus I appropriate for everyone including mandated reporters. It encourages us to specifically think about our parish and how we keep children safe in this environment.
Martha Alejandrina MArtin - 04/08/2019 02:48 PM
Yo pienso que esta muy acertado... efectivamente TODOS somos creados de manera especial y debemos cuidarnos y protegernos unos a otros especialmente a los mas debiles. Nunca vamos a saber cuanto gente realmente ayudamos con nuestras acciones pero lo importante es estar convencidos y seguir haciendolo.
Dr. Carlos D. Coton - 04/08/2019 02:21 PM
Thank you for your enlightening and precise blog. It keeps our ministry and purpose in perspective, especially this month. Blessings, all!
Sister Lidia Valli - 04/08/2019 02:21 PM
Thank you for reminding us how much we are loved and special. Thank you for working hard to help each one of us in our schools and parishes to comply with this important program and request. We are helping each other and our children. Thanks be to God!
Michaele Kaelin - 04/08/2019 02:19 PM
Wonderful article that reminds us to make sure everyone is in compliance for the safety of everyone, regardless of the situation. Everyone is unique, but we are all here for the same reason... the safety of the children and vulnerable adults!

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