ACN Success Story: Ongoing formation for priests, religious Sisters and laity providing pastoral care to traumatized people.
Easter Sunday morning 2019—will forever remain a day of frightful memory. On that day a series of suicide bombs were detonated in three Christian churches and three local hotels in the capital Colombo and elsewhere. Some 300 people lost their lives and over 5,000 others suffered, in some cases life-changing, injuries.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Colombo immediately stepped in to help the wounded and their family members, tending the wounds, burying the dead and providing emergency aid of every kind. However, psychological wounds can often go far deeper, and many remain to this day. Moreover, fear lingers of a similar atrocity happening again at any moment.
The priests were very often on the front lines and left to cope with a near-endless litany of need and immeasurable suffering. “In our country a priest is not merely a spiritual counsellor, but at the same time a person to turn to in every kind of social need. Our people obey their religious leaders and respect them more than they do the political leadership. And so we have to train them to cope with this role, ‘says Father Jude Chrysantha Fernando, who is responsible for social communications within the Archdiocese of Colombo.
Many of these priests were themselves traumatized at the same time. Deeply shocked and discouraged, they suffered alongside their suffering people. Many found themselves exhausted, after working day and night for weeks on end without any proper rest. One problem that emerged was the lack of competent and well-trained laity, capable of relieving the priests of some of this burden.
To address this need, the Archdiocese of Colombo has now established a training program for priests, religious and laity, with a view to equip them in dealing appropriately with such difficult situations and provide effective help.
Thanks to financial support from ACN, the priests, religious and lay pastoral workers of the archdiocese have now been able to take part in a series of workshops, run by psychologists, experienced priests and other experts. They have learned how to help people in traumatic situations, to support and comfort them, as well as how to deal with conflicts. They now feel a new and stronger sense of self-confidence and a greater ability to adequately respond to such situations in the future. The participants have also learned how to avoid falling victim to trauma themselves in these kinds of circumstances.