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Archdiocese walks with violence victims’ families through ‘ministry of presence’

Oct 25, 2013

from the article by Edison Tapalla:

In October 2012, the Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco began the Restorative Justice Ministry for Victims and Families of Violent Crime. 

Working closely with the city of San Francisco, the ministry helps the families of victims of violent crime navigate the period of time when a loved one is lost. In addition to helping with survivors’ loss and grief, the ministry also helps with funeral arrangements, translations, paperwork and – in cases of extreme need – expenses.

...There were 68 homicides in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties in 2012, with 39 through mid-October this year.

Families that work with the ministry are invited to host healing circles in their homes, where they talk about the circumstances that led to the loss and how to work through the grieving process. When family members feel ready, they are invited to larger healing circles that take place on a monthly basis.

The larger healing circles include of multiple families also experiencing the loss of a loved one through violent crime.

These families are then invited to a retreat hosted by the archdiocese. The retreats give the family members tools and resources for healing. The latest retreat was hosted at Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park with 15 family members attending. 

Julio Escobar, archdiocesan restorative justice coordinator, refers to the ministry as “a ministry of presence.” 

“What that means is that if there is a funeral service, we are there, and represent love, care and compassion for the family,” he said. “We don’t have to say anything. We don’t have to do anything. We just need to be present, and that’s enough, and it says a lot. And that leads to healing.” 

The ministry also hosts an annual walk against violence in the Mission District in January. Last year’s inaugural walk was attended by more than 250 participants and crossed the neighborhood from St. Anthony of Padua Church to Mission Dolores Basilica with stops along the way to hear testimony from loved ones. 

Jaime Gonzalez, restorative justice community coordinator, works directly with families. He makes the first phone call after the loss and maintains the relationship throughout the healing process.

Read the full article.

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