2007 STORY #34: MY FRIEND MIKE
When I ran across this contest to write a short story describing how a person, event or series of circumstances inspired, encouraged or uplifted me as a survivor on my journey to healing, I immediately thought of Mike Chalberg. His dedication in helping me understand my pain and its affect on my life gave me the courage to walk through the pain, and begin healing from the sexual abuse that I experienced as a child.
Father X sexually abused me at the age of seven. For decades, the Diocese was aware of Father X’s actions through complains by family members. In the eighties, several children came forward with complains of sexual molestation by him. The parish community, as well as the Diocese, refused to believe the children or their families. Their power even convinced the police department that no crime had been committed and the church was able to cover up the abuse.
As a child, my parents refused to believe me because they were devout Catholics and no man of God would “ever do such a thing”. I held my feeling and memories inside of me for three decades, and put my emotions in denial mode in order to survive.
Yet my life was affected. I struggled with relationships and trust. I had problems with anxiety and fear. I seemed to be living life on autopilot.
In 1996, my daughter was sent to lock down on a 51-50. My world began to fall apart. I went to see a counselor and it was there that I met Mike Chalberg. Mike was a seminary student at Fuller and offered to help me with my spiritual struggles. That was eleven years ago.
Mike earned my trust. He never abandoned me when things got hard. He accepted me right where I was and allowed me to walk baby steps in my healing journey. He encouraged me and showed me how much God loved me. He helped me realize that God did not abuse me, but a man who used God’s name abused me. I began to express my feelings about the cover up and the church’s lack of understanding of my journey. I was able to meet with the bishop of the Oakland Diocese and speak to him about my life, and how the church’s leaders lack of protection of its most precious members made them even guiltier than the sick priest. It took a great deal of courage for me to meet with the bishop, but Mike was there right along side of me as I was finally able to tell my story.
Today I am a successful teacher in the very area that I was abused in. Like a phoenix rising up from the ashes, I am here as a true survivor. Mike Chalberg is now president of the non-profit organization called Shepherd’s Care Ministries in San Leandro, California helping others find healing.