New Diocesan Initiative Encourages High School Students to Take Active Role in Creating a Safe Environment
ROCKVILLE CENTRE, NEW YORK, October 7, 2004 – High school and junior high school age young people are being inspired to take an active role in preventing all forms of abuse in a new initiative by the Diocese of Rockville Centre called “Talk 2 Us.” The program provides participating students with a “tool kit” of knowledge on how the school administration, teachers, catechists, students and families can foster a safe and sacred school environment. The program is being offered to all Catholic high school principals for use in the junior high and high school grades. Pastors are also being encouraged to incorporate the program into their CCD programs as well.
Teenagers will learn to recognize the warning signs of sexual abuse and other problems, how to report problems as well as working with others in the parish and school community to create a safe environment. “Kids are asked by their homeroom teacher/religious education teacher to become involved in making their school or program safe, safe from bullies, safe from drug abusers, safe from those who sexually abuse,” said Eileen F. Puglisi, director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People.
“We want to give young people the tools to keep them safe as research has taught us that nothing is more preventive than communication,” said Mrs. Puglisi. Talk 2 Us encourages teenagers to speak up and ask a contact person or trusted adult to act as an advocate. If that is not an option, they are reminded to call the special phone line set up by the Diocese of Rockville Centre for reporting allegations of sexual abuse by church personnel and volunteers. That phone number is (516) 594-9063.
Mrs. Puglisi notes the Talk 2 Us initiative was inspired by a remark made in a “Protecting God’s Children” workshop when a participant commented “we need to do something that helps the kids know who to talk to.”
The Talk 2 Us initiative is part of a multi-faceted approach by the Diocese of Rockville Centre to correct the errors of the past and to develop the necessary means to protect children and minors in the future. The diocese recently announced plans to open a satellite office for the Protection of Children and Young People. Located at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary parish, Southampton, N.Y., the office gives the People of God an additional point of contact when it comes to matters of abuse by serving as a second base of operations for the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People. The diocese also announced the formation of a pastoral care team of priests and religious women to provide trained spiritual support to victim-survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. In August, the diocese announced the creation of a support group for those who survived abuse in the Church. And, additional support groups are also under consideration for the North and South Forks of Long Island.
The office oversees, among other things, criminal background investigations of all personnel and volunteers in the diocese, the “Protecting God’s Children” workshops to train all those working in the Church to recognize the warnings signs of potential problems and the writing and distribution of publications, including the diocesan Child Protection Policy manual detailing reporting procedures of allegations and ministering to survivors of abuse.
Diocesan efforts to assist survivors received a special commendation by auditors from the Gavin Group who found the Diocese of Rockville Centre to be in full compliance with the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People after the first on-site audit.
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About The Diocese of Rockville Centre
The Diocese of Rockville Centre was formed in 1957 and covers 1,222 square miles in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The diocese serves approximately 1.5 million Catholics (total population in both counties is approximately 3 million). There are 134 parishes in 119 towns. Last year over 21,000 Baptisms, 18,000 Confirmations, 21,000 First Communions and 5,000 Marriages took place in the diocese. There are 2,622 students in kindergarten, 26,738 in primary or elementary school, 11,979 in secondary school and 9,310 in higher institutions. There are 77 Catholic elementary schools, high schools and colleges/universities in the diocese. Catholic Health Services of Long Island consists of five hospitals, three nursing homes, two home care agencies, two senior housing complexes, a community-based home for those with special needs and a hospice. These facilities served over 743,000 people last year. For more information visit www.drvc.org.
Sean P. Dolan
Director of Communications
(p) 516-678-5800, ext. 625