‘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: Five tips for reading the Word of God

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Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!