A new community dedicated to St Dimpna and aiming to provide a place of welcome and hospitality for survivors of sexual abuse, will hold monthly gatherings at St Patrick’s Church in the Rocks beginning this May.
Parish Priest Fr Michael Whelan SM said the Community will be a place of spiritual nourishment for those who have suffered sexual abuse and feel uncomfortable attending Mass.
“[It’s] a place where survivors and victims can come… a place of love, healing and forgiveness,” he said.
“Especially for those who are survivors who long to be part of the Church but don’t feel able to go to church.”
One of Australia’s most well-known iconographers, Michael Galovic, was commissioned to write an icon of St Dimpna for the new community founded in her name. The 7th century Irish saint is the patron of the sexually abused and those suffering mental or emotional distress. It is believed she was killed by her mentally disturbed father when she was just 15 because she refused his sexual advances.
The icon was blessed by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at St Mary’s Cathedral on 2 March this year. It will be the focus of an annual devotion to St Dimpna each May at St Patrick’s church; her feast day is 15 May.
Fr Michael said the St Dimpna Community would not just be for survivors of sexual abuse within the institutional Catholic Church but for all survivors of sexual abuse.
“There’s a lot of survivors out there from families and from other sources. So we decided to set up this St Dimpna Community to provide a hospitable environment where there can be prayer and reflection – hopefully a half-way house for stepping forward into full involvement in parish life.”
The Community will gather in the Crypt beneath the church on the second Saturday of each month at 7pm, with the first meeting to take place on 12 May.
Fr Michael said the gatherings will consist of a brief proclamation of the Gospel, a breathing exercise to aid relaxation, a time of anointing where people will be invited to anoint each other and an opportunity for people to be prayed over.
“After the 6pm Mass we’ll meet in the Crypt of St Pat’s. At 7pm we’ll have a very simple, very informal gathering. Everybody is welcome.”
“It will be an opportunity for people to pray for each other, to feel prayed for. We’ll finish up with giving people the opportunity to come forward and I will pray with them, pray over them”
“Hopefully it will be an experience of prayerfulness and welcome and hospitality.”
The Community will also begin praying a novena to St Dimpna on 10 May.
For more information about the St Dimpna Community: 02 9254 9855