Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
This is a small book with a big topic. The writer is credible as he is the chair of the Healing Garden Committee of the Archdiocese of Chicago and a member of the board of directors of Prevent Child Abuse. He is active in his local parish of Chicago, is married and has two children. Each of the chapters delve into the ways Michael Hoffman worked on recovering. Similar to many recovery programs, the focus is on the person recovering and how he works at accomplishing his own spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical health.
Each of the chapters contains a way that Michael laid out his recovery. He relayed the information to people who would direct him in the next step of recovery through agencies and special people who took his story seriously. They directed me to the Archdiocese Office of Assistance Ministry where Dr. Bland told him about counseling. At first Michael disagreed as he thought he had too much on his plate at this point. “I thought I as strong enough to handle anything, but I was having serious trouble.” He had experience in pain and anguish, sleepless nights and feelings of the burden of what occurred as well as sadness. Dr. Conviser became Michael’s counselor for 4 years. Michael was at a good place with his family and friends; he was in a good place with serving the Church; he was in a good place with his business; his parents were older but did not have an inkling what had happened in fact they were friends with the priest/abuser. “It took my some time, and a lot of help from Dr. Conviser, to filly appreciate all the things I had lost in my life because of what that man did to me. My abuser had manipulated them so they would trust him, so there wouldn’t be any questions asked when the invitation came to have me and a few other boys come up to his room in the rectory for pizza. Yes, when I went up to his room, often there was pizza to eat, but there was so much more stuff that was truly disgusting to me, then and now.” P. 45
Michael was invited to a retreat put on by the Office of Assistance Ministry. This retreat was a catharsis for Michael, he felt a weight be lifted. At the retreat, Michael felt that the Archdiocese was trying to take the corrective action necessary to prevent abusive priests from ever harming children again. Five months after Michael told the story of his abuse, he received a letter from the Review Board of the Archdiocese saying that they believed him. Michael now had 7 Acts of Recovery. Shortly after this, Michael called his parents and told them of the abuse. This was the 8th Act of Recovery. “Finally telling my parents about the abuse I had endured as a child from a priest-friend of theirs was my eighth act of recovery. There would be more, but beginning to remember and celebrate the good times I did have when I was young has led to real healing and reconciliation for my family.”
The rest of the book has other important acts of recovery but it is evident that a great deal is done to help Michael become able to deal with his past. The Office for the Protection of Children and Youth for the Archdiocese of Chicago did and continues to do an outstanding job in dealing with this issue. Michael provides us with books and of course the process of healing. This is a book that tells the story, but even more importantly shows the way to reconciliation and peace.