Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau has announced the establishment of the Office of Safe Environments (OSE) and the relaunch of the VIRTUS programme in the archdiocese January 1, 2023.
The OSE and the VIRTUS programme are intended to heighten awareness of the need to protect youth and vulnerable adults and provide safe environments for them to learn, grow and worship.
The Archbishop took the initiative after trained facilitators Patricia Neal, US Director of the VIRTUS Programs for National Catholic Services, and Tricia Syms, coordinator for the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) VIRTUS programme conducted a three-day training workshop, November 10–12.
A post by the ‘Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nassau’s’ Facebook page said that Syms, who is based in the Archdiocese of Port Spain’s Family Life Commission, noted that the training and awareness is “urgent”. In her three-hour session for clergy November 10 at Emmaus Centre, she emphasised that the Church needs to address and empower the people to protect the minors and vulnerable adults.
She said, “The clergy has a lot of influence on their parishioners. My goal is to empower the clergy in educating to exposing their parishioners of the importance of what they can do to protect children and vulnerable adults.”
On Saturday 12, the facilitators led the training for school administrators, youth leaders, religious educators, and Archdiocesan facilitators.
In a letter dated November 10, Archbishop Pinder underscored that protecting God’s children and vulnerable adults in parishes and schools “is of greatest importance to all of us”.
“It is our responsibility to look after one another. Our parishes, schools and all Archdiocesan institutions will participate in the VIRTUS programme. We have assembled a group of dedicated and experienced volunteers, who have been trained to assist in this regard,” the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Pinder appointed Julie Ritchie-Bingham, Director of Youth Office, and Eulie Elliott, Director of Office Family Life, as Chair and Co-Chair respectively, to oversee the work of the OSE as well as the VIRTUS programme.