SNAP Supporter & Donor Profile: A Long Journey Toward Healing: Helen Kock
This profile was written by Patrick Price, Fundraising and Development Manager of SNAP, to honor our courageous and dedicated supporters and donors.
At the age of 90, Helen Kock reminisces about her long healing journey after having been sexually abused by priest as an 8th-grade student at a Catholic school in Minnesota. Born into a German farm family in Minnesota, and as the eldest daughter, her family assumed Helen would one day enter a convent, as was the practice during that era. After all, her uncle, the eldest son of his family, had become a Franciscan priest. Helen found this potential life path to be very appealing.
Unfortunately, when Helen was just 13 years of age, a young parish priest, whom she felt was a kind and caring man in her life, manipulated her into having sexual intercourse with him. Haunted by shame and guilt, Helen never spoke of the incident to her family, friends or teachers, leaving her feeling isolated. Eventually, when some of the other Franciscan parish priests learned of the incident, the young priest was re-assigned a year later to another parish. This was done secretively primarily to avoid confrontation with Helen’s uncle, who had by then become an influential Franciscan priest. Sadly, though, no clergy member ever approached Helen to acknowledge what had happened or offered to provide her help. So, Helen’s “secret” remained a painful memory for many years.
After completion of high school, though, Helen joined the convent of the School Sisters of Notre Dame at Our Lady of Good Counsel, in Mankato, Minnesota. For almost 20 years, from 1949 to 1968, Helen taught high school. In 1968, Helen met a salesman for the small tech company Fabritec, which manufactured computer memory components and provided them to the school where Helen taught. No longer comfortable in a communal living system and still haunted by her past sexual abuse, Helen left the convent and joined Fabritec to work as a computer science instructor for other schools and the military. In time, she connected with a clinical therapist to get the counseling she needed to finally address the guilt and shame that had troubled her throughout the previous years.
In 2000, Helen attended a lecture about clergy sexual abuse at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. At this lecture, she learned about SNAP and Barbara Blaine’s vision of providing support to survivors of clergy sexual abuse and advocating for the rights of these survivors. Intrigued by what she heard, Helen began researching and connecting with SNAP, which she says, “Is absolutely the greatest service for survivors.” Helen has been a long-time monthly sustaining donor to SNAP because she wishes for all who have felt the guilt, shame, fear and sorrow of having been sexually abused by clergy to find the courage and strength needed to live a joyful and productive life. Helen’s own journey toward healing has been a long one, but a worthwhile one at that.