.- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia took another step toward reconciliation with victims of sexual abuse last week, when three people recounted the abuse they and their family experienced by clergy.
"The fallout is indescribable," said the mother of two abused sons at the Friday afternoon gathering of about 500 priests, bishops and seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Her sons, now adults, became suicidal and alcoholic, and were deeply compromised as husbands and fathers, she said. One son is in prison.
Victoria Cubberley, 56, recounted how, when she was a teenager, three priests exploited her chaotic family situation by forcing her to have sex after she sought their help.
"This speech is but a whisper of the horrific screams that reverberate through my being to this very day," Cubberley reportedly said.
"It's as if the priest has sucked the soul out of the person and replaced it with just a vacuum, a deadness," said the third victim, Ed Morris, 44.
This was the first such gathering in the history of the archdiocese. Cardinal Justin Rigali chose the feast day of Our Mother of Sorrows for the gathering, and urged all local priests to attend.
Mary Achilles, the archdiocese's victims' assistance coordinator, said the gathering, called Witness to Sorrow, was timed in part to mark the first anniversary of the Philadelphia grand jury report on sex abuse in the archdiocese. A prayer service in the chapel followed the testimonies.
Fr. George Majoros of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish described the event as a "very profound experience" that would propel him “to be a bridge to any victim or families who have been hurt."
"We need to be compassionate, better listeners. We need to protect the most vulnerable at all times. We need to listen more to the victims like we did tonight," Fr. Majoros told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "My hope is that their tears will help show us how to make things better - that this never happens again."
Keith Chylinski, a seminarian in his last-year, said he was deeply moved by the evening. He said the seminary has addressed the issue of clergy abuse. "It's given me greater resolve for us to be holy priests. That's going to be the only solution to all of this," he reportedly said.
The evening was shown live on a streaming video on the archdiocese's website. The archdiocese plans to archive the video on its site, www.archdiocese-phl.org/index.php.