February 03, 2016
NCSSS Dean William Rainford with Sharon O’Brien and Lauri Przybysz of Catholics For Family Peace.
NCSSS Dean William Rainford with Sharon O’Brien and Lauri Przybysz of Catholics For Family Peace.

Catholics For Family Peace, an education and research ministry dedicated to helping people use Catholic teachings to recognize and respond to domestic abuse, has joined the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS) at Catholic University.

“We are delighted to welcome this dedicated group to our campus and to our social work school,” says William C. Rainford, NCSSS dean. “Since its formation in 2010, Catholics For Family Peace has played a valuable role in education related to the Catholic response to domestic abuse. Our missions are well aligned as both Catholics For Family Peace and NCSSS are dedicated to promoting Catholic teaching on social justice. This will be a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn more about this important topic. And likewise, Catholics For Family Peace will benefit from having access to the resources of the preeminent school of Catholic social service in the U.S.”

Catholics For Family Peace became affiliated with NCSSS in October 2015 during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The group physically moved into Shahan Hall, home to NCSSS on CUA’s campus, on Dec. 1.

The group is part of the school’s Consortium for Catholic Social Teaching, a group of research centers that promote social justice and advance individual, family, and societal well being in the areas of child welfare, health and mental health, aging, and international social development.

“Our mission is to share the Church’s teachings on the promotion of family peace and the prevention of family abuse through education, research, practice, and policy,” said Sharon O’Brien, a cofounder and the director of Catholics For Family Peace. As part of her move to Catholic University, O’Brien was appointed a research assistant faculty member who can provide classroom lectures and will work directly with social work students assigned to her office.

“Working with graduate and undergraduate students who can bring their scholarship and passion to this cause will be a game changer for us,” says O’Brien. “We are currently planning a national summit on the impact of domestic violence on children to be held in the summer of 2016. We are modeling this meeting on NCSSS’s highly successful national summit on human trafficking held last summer. Already we are benefitting from the input of faculty and students at the school. Our hope is that we will be of benefit to them to them as well.”

Catholics For Family Peace is also working on a research project that joins the resources of Catholic University, Dominican University, and the Archdiocese of Chicago to evaluate a parish-based abuser intervention program in the Chicago archdiocese.

“We have a real sense of pride in being part of the Catholic University community,” says Lauri Przybysz, cofounder and education director on the current advisory board of Catholics For Family Peace. “The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) hosted organizational meetings in 2010 and 2011 to determine how to create a coordinated response to domestic violence,” says Przybysz, who received her doctor of ministry from CUA’s School of Theology and Religious Studies in 2012.

“Our first goals centered on education, especially in relation to the USCCB’s statement ‘A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women.’ There has historically been misunderstanding when it comes to the Catholic response to domestic abuse,” she says.

The USCCB statement affirms that “The Catholic Church teaches that violence against another person in any form fails to treat that person as someone worthy of love.”

“In our first five years we have made great strides in forming partnerships with other Catholic organizations to foster understanding of church teaching in this area. Now, with the support of CUA, we are ready to realize even more ambitious goals,” says Przybysz.

“We want every Catholic, especially clergy and pastoral care leaders in the Catholic community, to know how to respond with confidence and compassion to people who are touched by domestic abuse,” says O’Brien.

For more information, visit www.catholicsforfamilypeace.org or contact O’Brien at obriensa@cua.edu.