‘We’re having a huge effect’: Safe environment trainer shares experience from the frontlines of keeping kids safe

Vladimir Mauricio-Perez

Kevin Davies hesitated every time he was asked to become a safe environment trainer – he was either too busy at work or the topic itself didn’t seem very exciting. It would take a few years and a clear need in his parish for Davies to finally give a facilitator in his parish a reluctant “yes.” 

Thirteen years later, he’s trained close to 1,000 people on how to protect children from abuse and neglect. 

“The Church has done so much to stop the abuse and neglect of children,” Davies said. “I believe that if we really looked at the statistics, we’d say we’re having a huge effect.” 

Davies, who is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Collins, has a degree in law enforcement and served as a deputy sheriff, an experience that has helped him appreciate the program even more. 

“It makes me very proud to be part of this effort of the Catholic Church… It’s one of the best programs I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of training programs,” he said. “The Church really has gone through an extraordinary measure so that parishioners are well educated. There’s around three million people who have received this training.” 

Considering that a great portion of the people he has trained come from different parts of the country, Davies sees the that the impact of this training quickly extends to the national level. And throughout all these years, he has experienced in numerous occasions how meaningful this training has been for many people. 

“I’ve had many specific instances where people have shared a lot with me after class or by email,” he said. “For example, I had a very young lady come up to me and say, ‘I appreciate this so much – to know that I’m not alone. I never got help and I was abused and didn’t realize it.’ 

“I’ve also had people reach out to me regarding family members and neighbors with lots of situational questions and personal experiences they’ve had.” 

Davies has continued giving classes even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He was surprised to receive a call from the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the Archdiocese of Denver personally asking him to give virtual trainings.  

“COVID has been a challenge and a reward,” he said. “It brought a whole new level of challenge none of us ever anticipated. But what this situation has also done for me is to expand my classes beyond my parish to the whole Archdiocese of Denver.” 

This situation has only motivated him to reach more people with the important message of protecting minors from abuse and neglect. His passion becomes evident in person and during his recent virtual classes.  

“Each of you here have the power to change a child’s future, you can stop abuse form happening,” he tells the participants. “If a child is being abused, that abuse will stick with them for the rest of their lives.” 

But overall, as part of this effort by the Church to protect minors from abuse and neglect, Davies emphasized the difference that has already been achieved thanks to the hard work and determination of many people. 

“I think people need to know that the Church is very committed to providing a safe environment not only for our Church, but for our community, and making our world a better place,” he concluded. “I would add the invitation to come and listen to one of these sessions. Through knowledge, we have the power perhaps not to stop this terrible thing, but to stop it for a single child.” 

COMING UP: ‘I have seen the Lord’: St. Vincent de Paul’s new adoration chapel honors St. Mary Magdelene’s witness

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

“I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18). 

One couple from St. Vincent de Paul parish took these words to heart with urgency last year during the pandemic and decided to build a Eucharistic Adoration chapel for their fellow faithful to be in the Lord’s presence themselves. 

Mike and Shari Sullivan donated design and construction of the new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene adjacent to their parish church to make a space for prayer and adoration that they felt needed to be reinstated, especially during the difficult days of COVID-19. 

The chapel was completed this spring and dedicated during Divine Mercy weekend with a special blessing from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. 

“It was invigorating to have the archbishop bless the chapel,” Mike said. “The church has been buzzing.” 

Mike has been a Catholic and a member of St. Vincent de Paul since his baptism, which he jokes was around the time the cornerstone was placed in 1951. The Sullivans’ five children all attended the attached school and had their sacraments completed at St. Vincent de Paul too. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila dedicated the St. Mary Magdalene adoration chapel with a prayer and blessing at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church on April 9, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

The 26-by 40-foot chapel is a gift to fellow parishioners of a church that has meant so much to their family for decades, and to all who want to participate in prayer and adoration. 

The architect and contractor are both Catholic, both of whom helped in the design of the Catholic structure, and the construction crew broke ground in mid-December. The Sullivans wanted to reclaim any Catholic artifacts or structural pieces they could for the new chapel. Some of the most striking features of the chapel are the six stained glass windows Mike was able to secure from a demolished church in New York. 

The windows were created by Franz Xaver Zettler who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century.  The Munich style is accomplished by painting detailed pictures on large pieces of glass unlike other stained-glass methods, which use smaller pieces of colored glass to make an image. 

The two primary stained-glass windows depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, the chapel’s namesake, and they frame either side of the altar which holds the tabernacle and monstrance — both reused from St.  Vincent De Paul church.  

The Sullivans wanted to design a cloistered feel for the space and included the traditional grill and archway that opens into the pews and kneelers with woodwork from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. 

The chapel was generously donated by Mike and Shari Sullivan. The stained glass windows, which depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, were created by Franz Xaver Zettler, who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Shari is a convert to Catholicism and didn’t grow up with the practice of Eucharistic adoration, but St. Vincent de Paul pastor Father John Hilton told her to watch how adoration will transform the parish. She said she knows it will, because of what regular Eucharistic adoration has done for her personally. 

The Sullivans are excited that the teachers at St. Vincent de Paul school plan to bring their classes to the warm and inviting chapel to learn about the practice of adoration and reflect on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

The words of St. Mary Magdalene “I have seen the Lord,” have become the motto of the chapel, Mike said, and they are emblazoned on a brass plaque to remind those who enter the holy space of Christ’s presence and the personal transformation offered to those inside.

The St. Vincent de Paul  Church and The Eucharistic Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene is located at 2375 E. Arizona Ave. Denver 80210 on the corner of Arizona and Josephine Street. The chapel is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Visit https://saintvincents.org/adorationchapel1 for more information about the chapel and to look for updates on expanded hours as they occur.