Perpetual Day of Remembrance

Each September, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle pauses to acknowledge the devastation caused to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy and other Church personnel, as well as the impact to their families, and the whole community. Although historical, survivors and their families live with the impact every day.

In my role as Manager of Zimmerman Service Healing and Support, I have the privilege of meeting people who are directly or indirectly impacted by the abuse. In listening, it is clear the Church’s historic failure to protect children, deal with perpetrators appropriately and, at times, withhold acknowledgement and support, has caused a re-traumatising impact that is varied and complex.

Accordingly, meanings associated with the day are individual and equally valid.

Catholicism embraces diversity, and if one member suffers, we all suffer. These teachings are very relevant when it comes to survivors of child sexual abuse within the church context.

For some, the Perpetual Day of Remembrance is an important day to commemorate, so that the past is not forgotten nor repeated, and so that the many lives that have been lost to suicide are remembered. For others it is a painful reminder of crime and coverup and they refuse to participate.

 I asked some individuals to share their views on the Perpetual Day of Remembrance and the ongoing impact of the abuse that occurred.

“The Perpetual Day of Remembrance is an important day for all Catholics. The focus must always be on remembrance if we are to ensure that the past is never repeated.” (R. O’Toole, survivor and Co-founder and Chairperson of Clergy Abused Network.)

“My son is not a part of our family. His children don’t know us or we them. I often ponder on all that we’ve lost and the misery that is always there, but especially so on this particular day.” (Single mother estranged from her now adult son who was assaulted as a child.)

"It reinforces that child sexual abuse did happen. There was no acknowledgement of what we were going through as children... we lived in fear and shame, called liars and no one supported or believed us.” (Survivor)

Experiences and their impacts are diverse. The path to recovery has many twists and turns and can take many forms. For many, there is no sense of completeness. It is up to the whole community to acknowledge the crimes of the past, their ongoing impact, and take the time to listen, reflect, and never forget. This is true always, but especially so on the Perpetual Day of Remembrance.


Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday
Louise Gannon rsj

Resources to support the community’s prayer response on The Perpetual Day of Remembrance (15 Sept) and Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday (11 Sept) are available on the diocesan website.

The range of resources enables everyone to participate in whatever way is most authentic, from lighting a candle and perhaps saying a prayer in your home, to joining with others at Mass on Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday. 

For Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday Mass times in your local Catholic parish, please visit the Diocese’s website or download the Diocesan App.

If the light of Christ is to shine, if the mercy of God is to reach into this time and place, if hope is to be found, we all need to work to rout from our hearts and society those human qualities that continue to enable even subtle forms of abuse – disrespect, silence, judgment, privilege.

We pray for this change.


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