Safe Environment Volunteers celebrate Nov. 8 – The Leaven Catholic Newspaper

Safe Environment Volunteers celebrate Nov. 8 – The Leaven Catholic Newspaper

Jennifer Valente, Director of the Diocese Office of Protection and Care, addresses Facilitators and Safe Environment Coordinators (SEC) from across the diocese at Facilitator/Virtus Appreciation Day on November 8 at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee. Green leaves photo by Kathryn White

By Moira Collings

Kansas City, Kansas — When Shannon Holcomb received an invitation to participate in Virtus’ facilitated training, it didn’t matter where she was.

“I was actually on vacation,” she said. “In the backseat of my husband’s truck driving down the road, I took the facilitator training on the first day.”

By the second day of training, she was safe and well at home.

“I’ve been really interested in becoming a facilitator for about three years,” Holcomb said. When they called, it didn’t matter [where I was]. It’s an important service.”

Holcomb, a preschool principal at Xavier School in Leavenworth and a Virtus facilitator, joined other facilitators and Safe Environment Coordinators (SEC) from across the diocese for Facilitator/Virtus Appreciation Day on November 8.

The ceremony was hosted by the Parish Office of Protection and Care (OPC) and was held at Saint Joseph Parish in Shawnee.

Sandy Felhauer, left, Safeguarding Compliance Officer, and Kathleen Chastain, Parish Office Counsellor for Safeguarding and Care, put out gift bags for Virtus facilitators and Safe Environment coordinators at an Appreciation Day on November 8. Leave a picture of Catherine White

Jennifer Valiente, director of OPC, and Sandy Felhauer, director of Safeguarding Compliance, said their office was eager to show their gratitude.

“Our OPC team is very grateful to our volunteers and frontline staff who work tirelessly to raise awareness about abuse and make sure we are doing everything we can. [we] Our most vulnerable organs can be protected,” Valenti said.

Forty-four people attended the Appreciation Day, including members of the OPC team, presenters and Father John Reilly, Counselor and Vicar General of the diocese.

Attendees were brought up to speed updates on upcoming policies and processes in the ministry and participated in a question-and-answer panel discussion with experts on safe environment and abuse awareness.

Monica Lynn, left, veteran Virtus facilitator, and Amy Stork, victim care advocate, speak during SEC/Virtus Virtus Facilitator Day. Green leaves photo by Kathryn White

They also had opportunities to network with others, something Ashley Vardigan, SEC at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, appreciated most.

“I enjoyed building camaraderie through our challenges and sharing some successful ways to overcome those struggles in our roles,” she said.

The day left Vardijan feeling “renewed and appreciated”.

“I feel like OPC does a great job of communicating and helping with the coordinator’s needs on a regular basis,” she said. “But meeting in person helped build on that sense of ‘team’.”

Franchel Nyacatura, right, speaks with Virtus facilitators on Appreciation Day. Green leaves photo by Kathryn White

Holcomb agreed.

“Sandy and Jennifer – the whole team there – are so welcoming,” she said. Monica Lynn and Franchel [Nyakatura]I, seasoned facilitators, welcome you with open arms and will be there to support you.”

The Department for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults is something close to Holcomb’s heart.

She previously served as a trainer with Child Development Services in the Army, where she focused on identifying and reporting child abuse, as well as preventing and responding to child abuse.

Becoming a facilitator of Virtus was the logical next step for Holcomb, who wanted to be a resource to the Xavier School community, as well as Leavenworth parishioners. I was intrigued by the idea of ​​Appreciation Day.

“I feel so appreciated that we took on this role — I didn’t expect it,” she said. “This just demonstrated the diocese’s commitment to this service.”

Father John Riley shares a laugh with LuAnne Montgomery of the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park. Green leaves photo by Kathryn White

Valenti and Felhauer said their office plans to host an Appreciation Day each year.

“This ministry would not be possible or successful without the dedicated work of the local Safe Environment Coordinators and Virtus Facilitators,” said Valenti. “We also realize that this work can be challenging at times.

We hope that days like these help to renew and encourage. We also hope to develop a support network for each other.”

To learn more about the Protection and Care Office, go online to: archkck.org/protection-and-care/office.

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