Bishop Christopher Coyne, 8-22-2019

Bishop Christopher Coyne speaks at a press conference in August about sexual abuse allegedly committed by Vermont priests.

BURLINGTON – In response to a recent report detailing past sexual abuses by members of the clergy, Vermont’s Catholic Church has hired an independent victim assistance coordinator to support abuse survivors and their families.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington announced last week they had contracted with Sheila Conroy, a licensed mental health counselor, to help victims and their families in “bringing about healing, justice and peace” after cases of abuse by church employees and clergy.

As the victim assistance coordinator, Conroy would provide a confidential listening services and work as a liaison for victims to communicate their needs with the Catholic Church, while also promoting support groups, workshops and other healing services for abuse survivors and members of their family.

“In many conversations and communications with survivors, Bishop Christopher Coyne and other church leaders have been told that it is often difficult for survivors to approach the church directly, especially since it was an agent of the Church that was responsible for their abuse,” a statement from the diocese read. “Many felt that there needed to be another way to get the help and support they need.”

Conroy’s hiring comes after an extensive report filed by a committee of laypersons late last year implicated dozens of Vermont clergy members with credible sexual abuse accusations dating back to the 1950s.

None of those church officials implicated in the committee’s report were active.

According to the diocese, Conroy has “an extensive professional background in supporting victims,” citing her background as a clinician in behavior hospitals with adolescent abuse survivors and with the state as a contractor “dealing with the effects of sexual abuse on children and their families.”

Conroy has also worked the government as a military family counselor and first responder, as well as previous contracted work with Vermont Catholic Charities.

For anyone needing support, Conroy can be reached on a confidential line at 802-855-3016.

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