Safe Haven Sunday: an initiative to combat pornography

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Anne Marie Amacher
Rosina Hendrickson, lifelong faith and lay ministry formation coordinator, goes over Safe Haven Sunday booklets with Father Jake Greiner, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

The Diocese of Davenport will observe Safe Haven Sunday Feb. 29-March 1 to help families, schools and parishes navigate modern technology usage and to stop the deep harm that pornography causes to individuals and families.

“The Safe Haven Sunday initiative provides an opportunity for our entire diocese to work towards combating this issue together,” said Marianne Agnoli, diocesan Marriage and Family Life coordinator. “Most people, especially parents, do not feel comfortable discussing this topic with their children.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ state­ment “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography” inspired Safe Haven Sunday. The weekend invites dioceses to help Catholics directly address the societal harms of pornography.

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A three-year initiative, Safe Haven Sunday provides teaching and resources to support and protect individuals, marriages and families to make all homes a safe haven. Agnoli said parish and school participation is encouraged but is not mandatory. At press time, about half of the diocese’s parishes and several schools indicated plans to participate.

Agnoli said the Safe Haven experience will vary from parish to parish. Some pastors will preach on the topic at Masses while others will choose to read or print Bishop Thomas Zinkula’s letter and use other resources. Nearly 3,000 copies of the book “Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture” and a comparable number of prayer cards have been ordered for distribution to families throughout the diocese. Free training programs, articles and videos are available on the Diocese of Davenport’s Clean Heart webpage for parish/school families and ministry leaders. These resources are available in English and in Spanish.

St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City is among parishes participating in Safe Haven Sunday. Deacon Chris Kabat, a parishioner and member of the diocesan Marriage and Family Committee, has led diocesan presentations on pornography awareness.

“We will be handing out the books and I plan to be around after all the Masses (at St. Wenceslaus) to answer questions. As a follow up, I am hosting a book study question/answer session on March 19 for anyone who would like to come and discuss the issue more in-depth,” he said. Additionally, he plans to promote the diocesan Clean Heart website on the parish’s website and Facebook pages.

Father Jake Greiner, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, said Bishop Zinkula’s support of Safe Haven Sunday “lets people know that our local church is working to address these perennial challenges.” Father Greiner said his parish will hand out resource to families and stuff bulletin’s with Bishop Zinkula’s letter to the diocese. “As this initiative moves into the future, we hope to do more with awareness around these issues.”

Deacon Kabat said it is “super important that we promote Safe Haven Sunday to show that the diocese as a whole cares about this issue.” While it may be easier not to talk about pornography, “silence leads to acceptance.  We cannot afford to be silent any longer on the issue of pornography and the harm it does to the human brain, the beauty of our sexuality and the harms it inflicts on marriages.  … We have to be in it together as families and as a church to help each other through the struggles to live the lives the holy church calls us to live.  It is a tall order — but with God’s grace we can do anything!”


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