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CURRENT ISSUE:  July 7, 2008
VOL. 46, NO. 13   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Governor pledges fight for health care reforms
Bishops issue new study guide on torture
New cathedral will include
healing garden for abuse survivors

Survivors of clergy sexual abuse will have their own healing garden at the new Cathedral of Christ the Light in downtown Oakland.

Created by Jane Lee, an architectural designer with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, (SOM), the firm that designed the cathedral, the garden will be a small, Zen-like oasis located at the north side of the cathedral’s outdoor plaza near the corner of Grand Avenue and Harrison Street.

This sculptured basalt stone, broken in three pieces, will be the centerpiece of the healing garden.
Five-foot tall Japanese privet hedges on the outside of the garden will reflect the Vesica Pisces fish shape of the cathedral itself. and will provide privacy for visitors. A sculptured basalt stone, broken in three pieces, will dominate the center of the garden. Two plaques, installed on two curved wooden benches, will read: “This healing garden, planned by survivors, is dedicated to those innocents sexually abused by members of the clergy. We remember, and we affirm: never again.”

Lee said the benches are being crafted from IPE, a sturdy, high maintenance wood which can withstand outdoor temperatures. “It’s the same kind of wood as the large exterior cross which just went up at the cathedral site,” she said.

The inspiration for the healing garden arose three years ago when Terrie Light and Jennifer Chapin, two members of the “No More Secrets” diocesan support group for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, were meeting with Carondelet Sister Barbara Flannery, the then-chancellor and bishop’s liaison for survivors.

As Sister Flannery told the group about the new cathedral, “it occurred to Jennifer and me at the same time that there should be a place of healing for sexual abuse survivors,” recalls Light.

Light, Chapin, and the rest of the group followed up on their idea with diocesan officials and with John McDonnell, director of the Cathedral Campaign office. After getting a “yes,” the group held a series of meetings to decide how they wanted the space to look.

Rather than opting for an indoor chapel, they chose a garden to be located outside the cathedral. This was in deference to survivors of clergy sexual abuse, most of whom are uncomfortable with going into a church because of what happened to them as children or teenagers, explained Light.

The garden sculpture is a story in itself, said Light. Cathedral designer Craig Hartman suggested the survivors group might be able to find the kind of art work they were looking for at the Japonesque Gallery in San Francisco.

He was right, she discovered.

“When I saw this one circular sculpture that had been fractured into three pieces, I knew right away that it belonged in the healing garden. I could feel the energy of those pieces trying to come together again.”

When she saw its name, “Someday,” Light realized that the piece “described perfectly the feeling of wanting to be whole and healed once more, and perhaps our someday being able to come back to the Church.”

Bishop Allen Vigneron made an $18,000 gift towards the cost of the sculpture on behalf of the diocese. The survivors group is raising funds for the remaining $30,000 cost. To date, $2,520 has been donated.

Mike Brown, communications director for the cathedral, said that because cost estimates for the garden and its sculpture exceeded what was originally in the cathedral building budget, the survivors group had the choice of having the size of the garden scaled back, or going ahead with original plans and picking up some of the cost.

The group readily agreed to pay back the diocese for the sculpture by setting up a fund-raising project, Brown said.

The group also received help from the sculptor, Izumi Masatoshi, and from Japonesque Gallery which gave the “No More Secrets’ group a 30 percent discount on the sculpture’s original $65,000 price tag.

Besides reducing the original cost of the sculpture, Japonesque is also waiving the $2,430 installation fee.

Dedication for the healing garden is set for Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. with Bishop Allen Vigneron and Bishop Emeritus John Cummins officiating.

Individuals who are interested in making donations towards the sculpture should contact Terrie Light for more details by e-mailing her at terrie@light-hall.com.

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