Safe Haven teaches technology safety


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Safe Haven Sunday, a weekend to address the harms of pornography, takes place this weekend (March 13-14). The observance is part of a three-year initiative based on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.”

This is a graphic for the Safe Digital Family Challenge families can sign up for on their phone or computer.

Last year, Safe Haven Sunday took place prior to the coronavirus shutdown, said Marianne Agnoli, diocesan coordinator of Marriage and Family Life. “We were able to deliver the materials to the parishes and schools and they, in turn, were able to distribute them.”

The majority of parishes and several schools participated in various ways, she said. The initiative inspired several parishes and schools to schedule presentations with Agnoli or Deacon Chris Kabat for parents, teachers, catechists, confirmation classes and other groups. However, a couple of the presentations scheduled for late March were cancelled because of the pandemic.


This year, Bishop Thomas Zinkula encourages families to do the “7 Day Safe Digital Challenge,” which “provides the knowledge and tools to form, protect and guide children in using technology safely and responsibly,” Agnoli said. The easiest way to sign up is to text SECURE to 66866. “However, you can also sign up for the challenge from any computer or tablet at”

The diocese has an extensive website that includes email challenges, video courses, ebooks, subscription courses and more at The resources vary, depending on a person’s role as a parent, educator or ministry leader. The diocesan website also offers a section for men or women affected by pornography use or addiction. “I would encourage everyone to explore the website. It contains a wealth of information and resources that can be helpful to you or someone you know.”

Parishes, schools and individuals also can order resources in English or Spanish from Covenant Eyes The featured book for this year is “Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure.” Additional resources are available on the diocesan Pornography Awareness webpage

Deacon Kabat said, “I think it is critical that parents/family/friends gather together and mutually discuss this topic. It is front and center with everything they have had to face this past year. Zoom is not for everyone, communications are devolving into text messages or tweets that leaves much to the imagination for interpretation. Good honest face-to-face meetings about how to combat the world that is out there ready to consume our kids and families is critical.”

He noted that with current restrictions in place, in-person meetings are not possible. “Hopefully, by late spring and into the summer months parishes will be able to mobilize more readily around this topic. The clean heart website has an amazing amount of information that everyone needs to visit and bookmark.”

Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, director of religious education at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, said last year she and youth minister Tommy Fallon distributed Safe Haven information to parents and promoted the computer app Covenant Eyes for parents. Deacon Kabat gave a presentation on pornography and internet safety to confirmation students and parents.

“While we purchased the booklets that Marianne Agnoli had suggested, of course COVID brought it all to a standstill but we were able to give the parents/students the book,” Sister Demmer said.

Principal Jennifer Alongi of Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf said her school scheduled three presentations before COVID-19 hit, but only one was held. Afterwards, Alongi said parents received a video to watch and could print a certificate to show they completed it. Parents who attended the presentation or turned in a certificate received free dress day passes for their children as an extra incentive.

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