Building a Bridge for Abuse Survivors
PLEASE BE ADVISED: Article contains reference to mature content and themes not suitable for all readers.
A brave woman in New Mexico saw that the Church lacked a framework of support for survivors of abuse. So, she built it herself.
Carrie Bucalo was already over a decade into her personal apostolate before she realized what an apostolate even was. She had laid all the groundwork for her brand of evangelization, but only after going through Reach MoreTM mission training did she realize that her work was the essential work of the Church.
Carrie is acutely sensitive to the spiritual needs of those who have been wounded by the Church because she is one. She is a survivor of many years of abuse by a person active in the Church, one who represented the faith to her. Despite her long suffering, Carrie loved her faith and didn’t want to leave it behind. She escaped her home and found refuge in a Carmelite monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For three years, Carrie lived in the silence and solitude of the community, commencing her own journey of healing in that desert oasis.
After leaving the monastery, Carrie jumped headfirst into reconnecting with the Church as an institution. She sought resources for abuse survivors who wanted to continue their faith journey from her parish, diocese, and Catholic organizations, but was met with many people who wanted to help but didn’t know how.
“So many people I spoke to sympathized with me and thought it was a great idea, but I kept getting shuffled around the bureaucracy. Catholic institutions didn’t have the framework of support for survivors, and secular counselors didn’t have the faith component to understand why I wanted to approach it this way,” Carrie said, “Feeling like I had to handle the journey of healing alone was a pretty isolating experience.”
How often have we heard that if only our bishops and priests could get a handle on this response or that program, then the Church could tackle the world’s most complex societal issues? Carrie wasn’t ordained as Church authority, but she does have the power of the Holy Spirit through her baptism and she wasn’t waiting on the institution for answers.
Synthesizing her extensive background in Carmelite spirituality, the Catechism, papal encyclicals, Theology of the Body, and her experience with trauma and recovery psychology, Carrie wrote a series of essays called “The Spiritual Journey of Healing” over a two-year period. She also used art, particularly watercolor, as a recovery outlet.
In 2015, Carrie launched her website, Healed by Truth, as a place for her to share her creative endeavors. She wasn’t expecting it to serve as much more than a portfolio. But soon her email inbox was flooded with messages from survivors around the world who found spiritual and emotional renewal in her essays and art.
“I felt like one of the friends of the paralyzed man who opened up the roof to let him down through the house to Jesus. There are all these survivors suffering from spiritual paralysis because of their wounds. By being open and vulnerable about my own experience, I was doing something to remove a barrier and get them closer to Jesus.”
Carrie was excited by the response, and the transformations that people were sharing. She knew that this was good work and was proud to be the one doing it. It wasn’t until Carrie went through the Reach More mission training in 2022 that she realized just how vital her work was.
“I always felt like what I was doing was within the track of my own faith journey; I wasn’t really seeing the bigger picture. I didn’t know what a personal apostolate was, and I didn’t really make the connection that I was evangelizing until I went through the mission training.”
Reach More mission training forms lay people as effective disciples to go out into the mission field of ordinary life. Whether or not she was aware of it, the Holy Spirit was driving Carrie’s imagination for her own missionary agency in the world and igniting her baptismal power to bring Jesus into the world.
Choir Apostolate | Young professionals at a parish in Illinois are bringing their peers together through a love of music:
St. Joseph’s in Aurora, Illinois wasn’t a parish known to attract the younger crowd. After experiencing the Reach More mission training, parishioners Ana and Bridget wanted to change that. The friends share a love of music and singing, and started up a choir for young professionals. What began as a simple Mass choir for people in their twenties and thirties has transformed into a group of peers who worship together, share in fellowship, and begin all their social gatherings in prayer.
Men’s Group Apostolate | A Spanish-language men’s group in Georgia is encouraging fathers to lead their families back to Jesus:
After Reach More mission training, Carlos from St. Matthew’s in Winder, Georgia, was inspired to launch a small group for men in the parish’s Spanish-speaking community. Carlos was particularly excited about learning another man in his group was from Venezuela, and the two men bonded over their shared experiences. Because of the men’s group and his fellowship with Carlos, the man began attending Mass after many years, bringing his family to celebrate as well.
Fraternity Apostolate | A Butler University student is bringing his Greek brothers together through a faith-based book club:
At Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, a male student is using a book club to bring Jesus into his fraternity house. He and his fraternity brothers are reading and discussing The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis together. One young man in the group has been so invigorated by the group discussions that he has purchased additional books for the brothers who don’t have their own copy.
Heart + Habits of Mission: Love the Lost and the Least
The fifth habit of mission is to love the lost and the least. Most of us grew up hearing an important truth: God loves all people. We might be less accustomed to hearing that God shows special concern for some of his people. Isn’t it against God’s nature to play favorites? What do we mean by “special concern”?
Just as parents are moved with special care and concern for a child who struggles more than the others, so it is with the Lord. Scripture reveals that God’s heart is moved with special compassion and concern when his children are lost, hurting, marginalized, or weak. He sees our suffering. He cares. And he moves with decisive action both for and with the lost and the least.
In a broad sense, we can trace all of the world’s suffering back to the presence of sin. Sin is the opposite of agape—the love that God is and calls us to participate in. Sin always injures both the sinner and others, and it is the root of the problem that Jesus came to deal with: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection achieved for us the ultimate victory of God’s love over sin, evil, and death.
But God’s work isn’t done yet. On this side of the Second Coming, he continues to call his followers to run into the messes of our world and spread his victorious love there. As followers of Jesus, then, we are both the sick in need of divine healing, and the physician’s assistants helping restore a wounded world!
We can’t do this for everyone. But like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who at times left the ninety-nine sheep in search of the one who was lost (Luke 15:1-7), we too must be attentive to “the one” whom we’re called to accompany on their journey from slavery to freedom. What an incredible privilege, calling, and grace!