The Solidarity Memorial

IMPORTANT UPDATE / Posted April 18, 2013:
 
Regarding the Vandalism
of the Solidarity Memorial at Mission Santa Barbara
 
A Letter to the Franciscans of Mission Santa Barbara
from the Board of Directors of Instruments of Peace, April 16, 2013.  
 
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To: The Franciscan Friars of Old Mission Santa Barbara
From: The Board of Directors, Instruments of Peace
 
Members of the board of directors of Instruments of Peace (IOP) held their regular board meeting on April 16, 2013 and discussed the senseless vandalism of the Solidarity Memorial (a project of SafeNet, an IOP program) that occurred on April 11, 2013 on the Mission grounds. All the stones, rocks, messages, candles and other items of remembrances that had been left there by survivors and others were swept up and discarded like so much trash, including the clay pot and sign that reminded visitors of the sacredness of this place. This is the second time the Solidarity Memorial has been wiped clean and vandalized.  
 
 
The troubling questions for the board are these: 1) How does an inexcusable act of defacement of a sacred space occur--not once but twice in less than a year (July 5, 2012 and April 11, 2013)--and by the same person (Robert Koehler) who is in the employ of the Franciscans? 2) What has been done to determine what motivated this person to commit this act and how was he held accountable? 3) Why has there been no immediate explanation issued, no apology offered and no outreach undertaken to date by the Franciscans that would assist in relieving the suffering caused by this act of vandalism? and 4) What actions will the Franciscans take to help heal this new wound? 
 
The vandalism has caused harm not only to survivors who received word of it, but to those in the Santa Barbara community who visit this memorial and look upon it as a positive symbol of compassion, understanding and reconciliation. It has harmed the Franciscans, also, since it was perpetrated by an employee whose actions have created shame. It is bewildering to many in the community why the Franciscans have never embraced the Solidarity Memorial, one of the few positive aspects of the clergy abuse problem which casts them in a good light. This second desecration of the memorial by Robert Koehler, and his callous remarks afterwards to Paul Fericano (who challenged his actions), caused Paul to suffer traumatically.
 
Last June Paul met privately off site with Richard McManus to discuss their differences. At the time, it was mutually agreed that any further communication between the two would be respectfully initiated by direct contact, either by phone or email. It was also mutually agreed that no second party would be involved in delivering messages back and forth. This was the most honest and appropriate way to conduct themselves. 
 
On Sunday, April 14, when Richard took Susan Blomstad aside and informed her that he wanted her to deliver a message to Paul (that he wanted Paul “gone”), he violated the agreement that he and Paul had made. We can only assume this was a forgivable lapse of memory on Richard’s part, and we expect that Susan will not be used as a go-between or an excuse to relay any more messages in the future. 
 
It is therefore fair and reasonable for the IOP board to also assume that Richard’s demand of Susan on Sunday to relay a message to Paul is related in some way to the incident of vandalism of the Solidarity Memorial that occurred  on Thursday. If this is the case, and we believe it is, we are writing this to go on record with the Franciscans regarding our concerns and questions, and to state our belief that Susan has every right to welcome Paul as her guest. By living the Gospel, she continues to assist in the healing process for Paul, the Santa Barbara community, and the Franciscans themselves.  
 
Respectfully,
 
Susan Blomstad, OSF, Paul Fericano, Olan Horne, Alice MacDonald
Board of Directors, Instruments of Peace / April 16, 2013
 
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DEDICATION OF THE SOLIDARITY MEMORIAL
 
               After six years, The Solidarity Memorial was formally dedicated at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 9, 2011, on the grounds of the  Mission Renewal Center at Old Mission Santa Barbara. In its simplicity, the memorial consists of an old St. Anthony's Seminary athletic bench and a large rock. Both bear plaques commemorating the occasion. This project never would have been possible without the support and encouragement of so many from the very beginning. We thank you all.
                
 Angelica Jochim, M.F.T., outreach coordinator for the Franciscan's Office of Pastoral Outreach, speaking at the Solidarity Project dedication ceremony on July 9, 2011.  (Photo by Jim Favre)
Angelica Jochim, M.F.T., outreach coordinator for the Franciscan's Office of Pastoral Outreach, speaking at the Solidarity Project dedication ceremony on July 9, 2011.  (Photo by Jim Favre)  
 


 
               The Solidarity Memorial Project was initiated in 2005 by SafeNet and community and parish members of Santa Barbara, California, supported by annonymous contributions. The two-fold purpose for establishing this space near St. Anthony's Seminary was 1) to acknowledge and honor on Franciscan property all who had been hurt by the sexual abuse crisis; and 2) to create a visible testament to the healing process.  
               A bowl of stones that sits atop the large rock offers a gift to all who visit and spend time in this beautiful place. Visitors are encouraged  to keep a stone or leave one behind as a simple offering of unity and healing.
 
            
     
       
The bench and rock. (Photo by Jim Favre)
 

 
From a distance. (Photo by Jim Favre)
 

 
The plaque on the rock. (Photo by Jim Favre)
 

 
The plaque on the bench. (Photo by Jim Favre)
 

                    
About The Solidarity Project

     In 2005 SafeNet and community and parish members of Santa Barbara, California, joined to form The Solidarity Project. This endeavor strove to create a place on the grounds of Old Mission Santa Barbara , and next door to St. Anthony's Seminary (SAS), that acknowledged and honored all who were hurt by the sexual abuse crisis. Moreover, it aimed to focus attention on individual and community healing.    

     The steering committee for the project included, Clement Krause, SAS alumnus, former friar, and St. Barbara parishioner; Angelica Jochim, Pastoral Outreach Coordinator and survivor advocate for the Franciscan Province; Kathleen Strittmatter, St. Barbara parishioner and Voice of the Faithful member; Paul Fericano, SAS alumnus, survivor, and SafeNet co-founder; and Jack Clark Robinson, O.F.M., friar, friend,  and scholar.

     The advisory committee for the project included, Alberic Smith, O.F.M, former guardian of Mission Santa Barbara, SAS alumnus, and a secondary survivor; John McCord, SAS alumnus, survivor, and SafeNet co-founder; Richard Juzix, O.F.M., former pastor of St. Barbara Parish and SAS alumnus; and Robert Alderette, SAS alumnus.

     With the support in 2006 of Alberic Smith, O.F.M., Guardian of the Old Mission, and  Richard Juzix, O.F.M., Pastor of St. Barbara Parish, the proposed site for the project was approved. The project included the placement of two plaques, one embedded in a rock and the other on a bench where people could sit, talk, and reflect. As a powerful symbol of unity, the chosen bench was one of the old athletic benches that former Franciscan Brother Clem Wehe built for the students at St. Anthony's Seminary in the early fifties. Using plank wood which he painted "Santa Barbara Blue," Clem fashioned and welded the steel bench supports from old bed frames taken from the attic of the freshman dormitory ("The Barn").

     Negotiations with the new owners of the seminary to secure the bench for this project continued for more than three years. With the sad and unexpected news in June, 2009, that Clem had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given only a few months to live, talks moved more rapidly. On July 9, 2009, one of the athletic benches was finally transferred from the property at St. Anthony's Seminary to the Old Mission grounds.

     The bench and rock are now located on a space that is situated approximately 300 feet from the Mission Renewal entrance in a peaceful area on the grass and under the trees, and adjacent to the Garden Street entrance/road shared by the Old Mission and St. Anthony's Seminary. 

Commemorative Plaques

     Two commemorative plaques have been designed for the site. The plaque on the rock honors everyone wounded by the sexual abuse crisis and is next to the bench. The plaque on the bench honors Clem Wehe's contribution.

The text for the plaque on the rock reads:

"From 1896 until 1987, Saint Anthony’s Seminary located next door nurtured and prepared hundreds of boys for the priesthood. There was great joy on this campus as well as great sorrow. With this dedication we celebrate the good and acknowledge the pain of those who were abused there -- a pain shared by their families, schoolmates, the friars, and the community. This bench and stone are symbols of our committment to the healing process and our will to reconcile our past with hope for the future. We embrace and honor all our memories."

The text for the plaque on the bench reads:

"This athletic bench was built in 1954 by former Franciscan Brother Clem Wehe, OFM, who was a handyman and a friend to hundreds of boys who attended St. Anthony's Seminary. Over the years many students and faculty members sat on this bench cheering for their teams, talking with each other, and spending time in quiet reflection. We invite all who sit here to hold this memory with us."

Dedication Dates

The Solidarity Memorial bench and plaque were officially dedicated on Saturday, July 18, 2009. The Solidarity Memorial rock and plaque were officially dedicated on Saturday, July 9, 2011.