Archdiocese of Chicago

Catholic Chicago Blog

Monday, January 24, 2011

Acts of Recovery

By Michael Hoffman

I call it, “Acts of Recovery”. Telling my wife of 17 years my story of childhood abuse has been, and remains, my primary Act of Recovery.  Going through the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Review Board process, and after all of this time, having Church personnel including Cardinal George believe me, is a very important Act of Recovery.  My larger family and my wonderful friends now know the story I had been holding back for so long.  And, as I continue to recover from the tragic and long-lasting effects of childhood abuse in my life, I consider it a great Act of Recovery to work with other childhood abuse victims/survivors, priests and staff from the Archdiocese to create a beautiful place of prayer, reflection, healing and reconciliation: The Healing Garden of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The Healing Garden will be located on the campus of Holy Family Parish on Roosevelt Road in Chicago.  Working on this project, with our great planning committee, has helped me focus my energy on something so positive and good.  It is my hope, that this Healing Garden project will be a source of inspiration to other childhood abuse survivors, family members and loved ones who suffer from terrible sadness and pain.  With abuse survivors, priests and staff working together, we hope the Healing Garden may provide healing and reconciliation for all affected by childhood sexual abuse in our society.

Please visit for more information.


Friday, January 28, 2011 12:18 AM

Mike, Hats off to you and the Archdiocese for providing such a powerful support and healing outlet. You are such a strong example to not only others that are struggling with the healing process, but to your family and friends as well. You have our love and support 100%!

John T.

Thursday, January 27, 2011 2:49 PM

God Bless you on your healing journey. I'm not surprised that your path is also one that will help so many others. The Garden sounds like a wonderful place for healing, prayer and peace.
You and all the other victims/survivors will be in our prayers!

MariJo T.

Thursday, January 27, 2011 2:20 PM

What an inspirational example of forgiveness the Healing Garden is.

While a committed Catholic, I can't help but fear that the Church's approach to sexual misconduct is still a bit broken. More sadly, as a father of four I still fight the urge to be wary of even my most trusted priest friends.

That said, the fact that victims like yourself have created such an amazing symbol of forgiveness helps me to chip away at my own skepticism. What a gift to us all.

Mike B.

Thursday, January 27, 2011 9:30 AM

I congratulate you and the Committee for your hard work, dedication and commitment to providing comfort and healing to all those impacted by the scourge of sexual abuse. Your efforts to deal with your own pain & suffering by focusing on helping others is an inspiration to us all. What a shining example of the resiliency of the human spirit, to be able to find light amidst all of the darkness. A great example as well of the importance and power of faith, forgiveness, and friends in the healing process. Keep up the good fight.

Keith M.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 9:21 PM

Your story is one of incredible courage. I pray that the your garden is a place of peace and healing for you and all in the community.

Mary Ellen L.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:20 PM


Thank you so very much for your model of forgiveness. You remind us all of what is truly essential about our Catholic faith, which is remarkable in light of your experience and the response of the hierarchy.
Those of us who know you are not surprised by your choosing love over bitterness. You have always led with your heart.
Our prayers are with you as you share your healing with others. Hope to see you soon.

Kate Brennan G.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 10:18 AM

Congratulations! This is a great service for the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Sr. Maryellen S.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 10:18 AM

Congratulations! This is a great service for the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Sr. Maryellen S.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 9:15 AM

Dear Mike,
I have always admired you for the many wonderful things that you are..
Your courage and compassion are awe inspriring. You are so incredibly brave. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

Sheila B.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 7:51 PM


Those who have been through experiences like yours sometimes are open to the reconciliation and healing of the Roman Catholic tradition and sometimes are not. Thank you for your efforts to reach anyone who patiently hangs onto their Roman Catholic faith.

-- Keith P.

Keith P.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 6:24 PM

This garden seems like the perfect place to begin the healing process. I hope people find comfort among the beautiful surroundings!!

Patty C.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 12:14 PM

Dear Mr. Hoffman,

I'm Mary Brennan Z.'s son. First, thank you for the kindness and generosity you always showed me when I was growing up, and for being a friend to my uncle. Second, I want to send good thoughts your way for your recovery and for your helping others to recover.

John Z.

John Z.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 11:19 AM


Your group's work is an example to all of the power of reconciliation and forgiveness. You've shown tremendous courage and faith through your acts of recovery. May your courage and faith be rewarded with peace of mind and an end to the pain. And may the Healing Garden be a place of solace, comfort and reconciliation to all those who have suffered from abuse. That would be a fitting legacy to your strength and faith.

Pat M.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 11:05 AM


I hope this garden is one of the first steps in the healing process for the survivors and the Catholic church. I commend all of your hard work and courage.

Mary Kay O.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 10:55 AM


This effort brings such hope to the most difficult of circumstances. It is imperative that all Catholics rally around the survivor community. Thank you for all of your hard work!

Geralyn L.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 10:50 AM

Mike: for humans forgiveness is a conscious choice though often we need God's presence to give us the strength to do so. While you have been made to struggle by the very church who preached the power of God's forgiveness, you have reminded all of the power of forgiveness. Through your pain and your renewed strength you stand as a shining example of the good that comes from forgiveness. I know your "Acts of Recovery" will never be completed in this lifetime but you have shown those who know your story that you will not be defeated in living a full and complete life. Congratulations on this achievment which will live as a testimonial to the past victims and now survivors of abuse such as yourself. Stay Strong!

Matt S.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 9:28 AM

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr. Your courage and hard work are truly inspirational. The garden looks great and the sculpture is beautiful.

Edmund R.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 9:14 AM

The Healing Garden, filled with the beauty of flowers and plants and lovely walkways, will be a place of quiet and peace where one can only hear the birds sing and the foliage grow and God's message of love and forgiveness. What a beautiful and amazing gift to the City of Chicago where all people will be invited to be with their God whoever that is for each individual. The Garden is especially a recognition of the destruction of innocence in the lives of the victims who suffered clergy sexual abuse. The Garden will offer a place to find redemptive solitude for all of us who have suffered violence in any way. Thank you Archdiocese.

Ellen Redding M.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 9:07 AM

Thanks for sharing Mike. I'm sure your efforts (along with those of the entire planning committee), will provide some comfort and a welcome place of stillness for others working through their own sadness and pain.


Mitch R.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 8:05 AM

Dear Mr. Hoffman,
I just absolutely stand in awe of your courage in living your
life and opening up the past, but even more in your willingness to work within the Archdiocese to heal abuse victims and our church. I am
almost staggeringly humbled by your ability to attempt reconciliation
with a church which sometimes continues to seem so unrepentant to me. If you can attempt reconciliation, it inspires me to continue to work
hard on letting go of some of the anger I feel.
Almost all the time, I can
remember that we are the church, and that the Bishops, who, to me, seem increasingly arrogant, out-of-touch, and obsessed with authority and power, don't matter very much. Human institutions are human and humans make mistakes, sometimes egregious ones. In your case, clearly you were a young and innocent victim of a reprehensible crime compounded by disgraceful and inexcusable actions by members of the hierarchy. But, as Christ, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama have shown us, reconciliation makes individuals, cultures, and institutions happier
and healthier and better able to grow. I admire you so much
for following in the footsteps of these great men, who have been
spiritual and political teachers and models for so many. I will work harder on reconciliation, too.

Mary Brennan Z.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 8:03 AM

I am so happy to see the Chicago Archdiocese actively engaging the survivor community in a true spirit of reconciliation and healing. I applaud the committee for their courageousness and pray for their ongoing healing.

Karen O.

Monday, January 24, 2011 5:33 PM

Mike - thank you for all your efforts with this project. I think it will be a benefit for the entire Archdiocese.

Mick O.