‘Safe Haven’ resources offered for anti-porn push

By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, Clarion Herald Commentary

For the second straight year, you have designated this weekend, the First Sunday of Lent, as “Safe Haven Sunday,” designating a time to raise awareness of the scourge of pornography in our community. What’s the purpose of this initiative?

In our world today, “Porn is the norm.” Pornography is an epidemic. As we enter the Lenten season, God calls us to make an honest, grace-filled assessment of our weakness and sins. The church traditionally has called us to prayer, fasting and charity, which leads to conversion of heart and unites us in the love of Christ. The readings for the First Sunday of Lent are about temptations. Pornography is a major modern-day temptation that affects our families and darkens many lives. Sometimes parents say they are afraid or incapable of dealing with the issues involving pornography. On Safe Haven Sunday, we are inviting everyone in the archdiocese – parents, parishes, schools and organizations – to learn more about this common struggle and how we can protect and provide healing for ourselves and our loved ones, especially our children.

You did this last year for the first time. What were the results?
David Dawson, who directs our Office of Marriage and Family Life, and Timmy McCaffery, director of our Youth and Young Adult Ministry, have told me that last year’s awareness campaign had amazing results. We not only passed out books and other materials to parents, but we also held full-day workshops for teachers and religious educators to make them aware of the pervasive nature of pornography and to give them tools to deal with it in their settings. This year will build on that tremendous start. We could see last year that many parents were beginning to take ownership of the problem.

What’s the plan for this year?
As always, Safe Haven Sunday provides an opportunity to pray for God’s strength as we deal with this issue. Parishes will distribute the book, “Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure,” along with prayer cards. The follow-up from Safe Haven Sunday obviously will be a key component. We’ve already lined up incredible resources for parents, educators, ministry leaders and those struggling with pornography. We are launching a new website (cleanheart.online/nola) that combines cutting-edge, local resources with the best in international resources provided by a group called “Covenant Eyes.” The website includes a list of counselors in our area who are trained to help families and those affected by this issue. The website will include training and formation resources such as articles and videos. Covenant Eyes has put the website together with our help on the local level. Also, we have a group of trained presenters who are available to give free presentations to parents at schools and at parishes. The presenters include members of the Marriage and Family Life Office, the Willwoods Community, Dumb Ox Ministries, Lighthouse Counseling and others. Parishes can make arrangements for a speaker by calling Terry Fricano at the CYO Office (836-0551 or cyo@arch-no.org). We also have lined up two, 90-minute workshops by Matt Fradd,  one of the world’s leading Catholic speakers on “Parenting in the Internet Generation.” Matt will offer those presentations on March 27 at 6 p.m. at the CYO Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office, 2241 Mendez St., New Orleans, and March 28 at 6 p.m. at Our Lady of the Lake Chotin Center, 3123 Lafayette St., Mandeville. Matt is the author of “Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography.” His presentations are free and open to the public.

What’s the goal?
We want to offer Safe Haven Sunday each year and build on it every year. We’ve tied it to the First Sunday in Lent because it is a good time to reflect on what’s really going on in our own spiritual lives and in our family’s life. Lent is about removing the obstacles to a fuller relationship with God, and we realize pornography is a big obstacle that is affecting us in ways that we haven’t been aware of. Lent is a perfect time to do that. Porn should not be the norm!

Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org.

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