A letter from Fr. Regis Smolko:
Dear St. Brendanites, friends, and visitors:
I want to discuss the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, and how it relates to us. As Episcopalians, many of our traditions share roots with Roman Catholicism and many of us have loved ones who are hurting deeply due to this betrayal situation, including some within our own pews.
First, I know that a number of you experienced pain and worry due to your or your family members possible close proximity to the betrayal and, as a result, you felt the need to check the “lists of names.” I’m profoundly saddened that you have to experience this. At the same time, I want you to know that you are not alone. We are blessed at St. Brendan’s to have three additional priests who are available to help you talk any of these concerns out, if you would find this helpful. Our pastoral team to offer support and a helpful ear are in addition to me: The Reverends Rodge Wood, Moni McIntyre, and Bill Pugliese. I must admit I myself went through the list and several names were known to me. One of them was a classmate, another was a student of mine, and a third was my high school spiritual director. I found it helpful to discuss this with one of my trusted spiritual mentors.
Second, many of us likely share a curiosity or a worry about this situation. You might feel confused or even “wrong” for some of the things you’re wondering about. The wondering is normal and okay. And I encourage you to discuss any of these concerns with myself or our pastoral team. Wonders can become worries, then problems, then crises if we clothe them in secrecy. I guarantee you that our pastoral care team will help and honor your concerns.
Third, we have people from the Roman Catholic Church reaching out to St. Brendan’s at this time. People are joining us at liturgy, calling and emailing us, and visiting our web site. You may have friends who are Catholic expressing confusion and checking out alternatives at this time. Sometimes these volleys are crystal clear and obvious; at other times, they are cryptic and hidden. Our friends are experiencing grief and–and this is important to integrate—our first response to them needs to be empathy and kindness. A conversation about “How awful this is, tell me the details.” or “How can you stay in a church like that?” is not the appropriate conversation. This is especially true of those who are physically making moves like looking at, visiting, calling, or emailing an alternative church. Recall Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance): if they are reaching out like this they are no longer in denial, they are likely in anger, bargaining, or depression. A few might be finished with it all (this has been going on for over 15 years) and in acceptance—they are ready to make a significant move.
Let me make a suggestion as to what you might say to people in the various stages. First, trust your inner guide. Avoid, if possible, reaction. When words don’t come to you say something like this: “I’m so sorry you have to be experiencing this situation. I’m (We’re) glad you’re here and will do everything I (we) can to help you find peace and meaning here.” Try to find a way to support them after church as well. Think of it like this: they have taken a major risk to reach out in their grief; let them know that your faith, humanity, empathy, Christianity—whatever you call it—would like to check on how they’re doing during the week. Perhaps get an email or phone number. If you don’t want to commit to checking up on them during the week, tell them about this letter and our pastoral team who can supply them support as well. Know that if you connect them with me, I’ll follow up during the week.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, when we are baptized we become a community member in Christ’s Church. That means that you never have to be alone ever again. When times of joy as well as times of challenge come, you have others who will share your joy and support your questions while they offer support. At St. Brendan’s we have a mission and vision statement that clearly states: our mission is to love and accept all people as our neighbors, nurture each other on our spiritual journey, walk beside those with needs in our changing world, and spread the Good News of God.
May the Lord Be with You,
Fr. Regis +
Fr. Regis Smolko joined St. Brendan's family as an intern in the Spring of 2016 while he was completing his ordination in the Episcopal Church. He took on the official role of Priest-in-Charge in early summer of 2017. Since then, Fr. Regis and his husband Ken have become integral parts of St. Brendan's. A former Catholic priest and teacher, Fr. Regis brings with him a life-long call to serve and minister to the people around him.
To speak to Fr. Regis or another member of our Pastoral Care team, please email our office or call us at (412) 364-5974.