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L.A. Archdiocese Commemorates April Child Abuse Prevention Month with a new garden of healing and prayer

–A fifth healing garden, which will complete the places of prayer dedicated to sex abuse victim-survivors in each of the Archdiocese’s pastoral regions will be blessed in April in the San Pedro Pastoral Region–

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is commemorating National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April by reaffirming the Archdiocese’s commitment to protect our children and young people from sexual abuse. During the month, parishes and schools are called to highlight sexual abuse prevention efforts through various prayer events and activities. The fifth garden of healing, which will be inaugurated this month, will complete the five of such places of prayer, meditation, and reflection, dedicated to abuse victim-survivors, located in each of the five pastoral regions of the Archdiocese that comprises the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

“This year, the Safeguard the Children Office celebrates its 20th anniversary. Over the years, our staff along with thousands of volunteers, have been called by God, guided by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and inspired by the Holy Spirit in our ongoing commitment to protecting children and young people from child sexual abuse,” said Joan Vienna, director of the Archdiocese’s Office of Safeguard the Children.

Under the lead and supervision of Safeguard the Children’s Office, since 2002, more than 440,000 clergy, educators, volunteers, parents, and guardians have participated in the VIRTUS® Protecting God’s Children Adult Awareness Program to learn the “Five Steps” in preventing child sexual abuse. The new VIRTUS® Protecting God’s Children 4.0 and Keeping the Promise Alive 4.0 Recertification – Los Angeles Versions have been created to meet the specific needs of our diocese and more fully address current issues of concern, such as “Internet Safety.”

In addition, the ”Empowering God’s Children and Young People Safety Program” has trained more than 356,506 children and young people with the necessary knowledge and tools to empower themselves and others to stay safe from potential harm.

An important resource since 2002 has been the “Working Together to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse” brochure, which features a special message from Archbishop José H. Gomez. It also provides current information on safe environment policies, programs, resources, and contact numbers for reporting.

As it celebrates this milestone anniversary, the Archdiocese’s Safeguard the Children Office looks forward to the future with renewed determination and commitment to ensure that our children and young people have the opportunity to grow up in a safe, nurturing and supportive environment.

Along with Safeguard the Children’s Office, the Victims Assistance Ministry Office offers abuse prevention presentations throughout the Archdiocese, and supports and accompanies victims-survivors and their families in their healing journey.

“The Victims Assistance Ministry continues its ministry of accompaniment of victim-survivors with the intention of making manifest and tangible the church’s commitment to those harmed by the sexual misconduct of someone in our church,” said Dr. Heather Banis, the office’s coordinator. “We are here, and have been here for over 20 years to respond to survivors and their loved ones with compassion, while ensuring that the appropriate civil authorities are notified of the misconduct, coordinating healing resources, and continuously striving to deepen the Church’s understanding of the needs and hopes of victim-survivors. I am humbled and honored to serve in this ministry.”

Under the ministry’s coordination, a fifth garden of healing is being built at the San Pedro Pastoral Region of the Archdiocese, which will complete the creation of gardens of healing in each of the five Archdiocese’s pastoral regions, dedicated to those harmed by sexual abuse in their family, church or community. Offering a a sacred space for all those impacted by abuse to seek comfort and solace, the gardens are located at St. Camillus Pastoral Center in Los Angeles (Our Lady of Los Angeles Pastoral Region), Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Ventura (Santa Barbara Pastoral Region) St. Francis de Sales Parish, Sherman Oaks (San Fernando Pastoral Region), and St. Bernadette Parish, Los Angeles (San Gabriel Pastoral Region). For more information, visit

Additionally, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been committed to the implementation of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, since its inception.In June the Charter will mark its 22nd Anniversary.

The Archdiocese has also created the website,, which serves as a comprehensive tool containing resources, programs, and services for protecting children and reporting abuse.

For more information about April, Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Archdiocese’s Office of Safeguard the Children, visit For information on the Victims Assistance Ministry Office, visit