‘Sacred and Safe’

April 26, 2011

HOUSTON — When it comes to child safety the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has various programs in place. This year, parishes across the Archdiocese will launch a new safe environment education program called Sacred and Safe. Per a directive from Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, between September and December, parishes will begin Sacred and Safe training: a sexual abuse prevention program comprised of developmentally appropriate lessons for children and youth in Kindergarten through the twelfth grade.

The program is being launched in response to Article 12 of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The charter advises all dioceses to administer programs such as Sacred and Safe, to educate children and youth about sexual abuse prevention. 

Sacred and Safe is in addition to the safe environment programs already in place. VIRTUS and Jeremiah 1:7 equip adults and high school youth, respectively, with the tools needed to foster safe environments for children in their ministries. Sacred and Safe is an ongoing child-education program which seeks to enable children and youth to protect themselves from sexual abuse.

“This program will empower kids when they’re not in our direct supervision,” said Mark Ciesielski, Associate Director of the Archdiocesan Offices of Continuing Christian Education and Youth Ministry.

Daily activities, such as going to school, sports practice and tutoring often put children in the position of trusting a familiar authority figure with warnings from parents to follow directions from the authority figures. One of the objectives of the Sacred and Safe program is to give children the knowledge that they have God-created voices and bodies that deserve to be heard and protected, even if they are afraid of retribution from an authority figure or family member.

Sacred and Safe is a parish and home-based program. Archdiocesan Catholic schools have a similar educational component integrated into the curriculum.

Lessons will be given annually by parish catechetical leaders. The means by which individual parishes implement the program will vary; some will integrate it as part of the catechetical program, while others offer the program as a stand-alone session. Though the method of delivery is flexible, the lessons and materials will be the same across parish lines. Additionally, each parish is required to report attendance and associated documentation to the Archdiocesan Safe Environment Office upon completion of each lesson.

The Archdiocese chose the Sacred and Safe curriculum over other safe environment programs because there is a need to relay the message that God’s plan of caring for life is connected to the human body. The Archdiocese of New York, the Children’s Assessment Center in Houston and the Children’s Global Fund contributed resource materials and consultations to the Archdiocesan Sacred and Safe Program.

“We researched numerous diocesan programs, secular versus faith based programs, but it’s important for children to have an understanding of God’s vision of the body as well as the sacredness and dignity of the human person and [the] Sacred and Safe [program] met those needs,” Ciesielski said.

Parents will have the opportunity to review program materials prior to the lesson. Parish Catechetical Leaders will also give parents resource materials to assist in follow-up conversations with their children at home.

Parents have the option of educating their child at home using the Safe and Sacred lesson or they may choose to opt out of the Sacred and Safe program completely. 

The Archdiocese ran pilot programs at St. Katherine Drexel, Queen of Peace and St. Monica parishes in the Houston area last fall with positive results. 

“Parents welcomed the content and help in coaching their children on the subject,” Ciesielski said.

For more information about the Sacred and Safe program at your parish in the Archdiocese, e-mail sacredandsafe@archgh.org.