Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Diocese reaches out to victims of violent crime

By Sister Sue Reif, OSF
Diocesan Director of Restorative Justice

When a crime is committed, it’s like throwing a stone into the water and watching ripples go out and out and out and never seems to stop. One violent act effects more people than we can ever imagine: victims and their families, co-workers, neighbors, friends as well as offenders and their families. Murder encompasses the whole community. 

This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and parishes are encouraged to remember victims/survivors of violence in their prayers at Masses and other services.  

The diocesan Office of Restorative Justice has committed itself to reaching out to victims of violent crime in a special way. Our work in this area began in February when men and women from 18 different parishes attended a two day training called “Healing the Trauma of Violent Death.”  The training was for parish bereavement volunteers with the hope of giving them additional skills to help families who experience tragic death: the murder of a loved one.

Participants learned about the difference between a justice system of retribution and one of restoration, and ways that the Gospel calls us to be instruments of God’s presence and healing to all affected by violence. A panel of men and women shared personal stories of their loved one who was murdered and how one action has had an on-going effect on their lives.

Participants learned about the 12 components of grief unique to surviving violent death; much different that those of the 5 components of “normal” death. Although the focus was on homicide, there was some discussion of the effects of suicide on loved ones.

A panel of speakers came from the District Attorney’s Office in San Bernardino County, explaining how the criminal justice system works, and how that process affects families.  Victim advocates were present and told about ways that they assist families. 

The training will be repeated this summer with Part 1 on Sunday, August 14 and Part 2 on Sunday, August 21.  Trainings will be offered in English and Spanish from 9:30am-4:30pm at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. 

In the planning stages is an opportunity for a one day retreat in September for adult family members who have experienced the loss of a loved one through homicide.

Anyone interested in attending the next training or the fall retreat should contact Sister Sue Reif in the Diocesan Office of Restorative Justice:  sreif@sbdiocese.org or 909-475-5474. 

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