St Mary’s Cathedral Dean Fr Sean Fernandez has last weekend reminded parishioners that the work of Safeguarding is not only for Safeguarding Officers.
Instead, he explained, every single person in the Church needs to make “an enduring commitment and hold those in authority and each other to account about making our society a safer place for children and vulnerable adults.”
This year, Safeguarding Sunday, 11 September, which marks the end of National Child Protection week, was commemorated in parishes across Perth – not just St Mary’s Cathedral.
The Mass was also a special celebration of the life of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away Thursday 8 September at the age of 96.
The late Queen was remembered for her steadfast and unwavering Christian faith, and as someone who dedicated her life to the service of her people in the Commonwealth and promoting the common good.
A special Cathedral condolence book was signed by parishioners and visitors, with the Cathedral bells peeled to commemorate the proclamation of King Charles III.
During his homily, Fr Sean shared that he was recently summoned to jury service and he “found it very disturbing that 90 per cent of the trials being held had victims that were minors.”
“The national figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics state that the proportion of Australians who have been sexually abused before the age of 15 is 12 per cent for females, and five per cent for males. Think of those figures. We cannot close our ears to this for it is a crisis in our society, long hidden and still hidden in too many areas of life.”
The theme of the 2022 National Child Protection Week was “Every child, in every community, needs a fair go”.
Fr Sean shared that the theme “asks us to reflect on the support that children, in our care and outside our direct responsibility need, in order to grow into confident and trusting adults, free and safe from abuse of every kind.”
“The majority of children who suffer abuse do not go on to abuse in turn, but many abusers were themselves victims of abuse. So, the best way to ensure that children are protected in the future generations is to protect children now.”
“If we address the important factors involved in the abuse of children, we shall safeguard the future for children of future generations. The way in which children are raised now to deal with frustration and rage, and to build respectful relationships, will enable them to relate in gentle and mature ways to their own children.”
“These deeper ways of safeguarding depend on changing deep rooted attitudes. We must also however, make safe the environment in which they live. We do this by ensuring that they are listened to, are accompanied, that they are not vulnerable to predators and that protocols of conduct with children are strictly observed.”
“For children being treated with a fair go means they will be safe in the company they keep and the activities they do. For adults who accompany them, ensuring that they have a fair go means constant care to keep them safe.”
“At the heart of our faith stands not a preoccupation with our own welfare and comfort. But the concepts of service and of sacrifice, as shown in the life and the teachings of the One who made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. Let us serve the children of our society. That is a vow we can make.”
In concluding his homily, Fr Sean encouraged those present that we could emulate Queen Elizabeth who prayed at her 21st birthday speech “God help me to make good my vow. And God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”