Springfield Diocese appoints new leaders to task force on sexual abuse

  • Bishop William D. Byrne celebrates Mass at the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Springfield. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2021 3:25:26 PM

SPRINGFIELD — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has appointed two of its members to lead its Independent Task Force on the Response to Sexual Abuse.

The diocese announced that Bishop William Byrne had appointed independent clinical social worker Irene Woods and the social worker and community activist Orlando Isaza as co-chairpersons to the task force. That task force is set to release a report at the end of the summer based on input from focus groups of survivors, community surveys and information collected from interviews with diocesan clergy.

“I deeply appreciate the diligent work of all members of the task force and especially recognize the leadership roles being played by Ms. Woods and Mr. Isaza,” Byrne said in a statement.

Former Bishop Mitchell Rozanski created the task force last May amid criticism from survivors of sexual abuse about how the diocese had handled abuse allegations.

The task force will advise Byrne on steps to take to improve the diocese’s acknowledgment of the trauma of sexual abuse on members of the community, allocating resources to survivors, responding to sexual abuse allegations; creating a transparent system to provide respect and due process when an allegation is made, ensuring local church leadership is held responsible for failing to protect children and other vulnerable people, holding those credibly accused of sexual abuse to account and preventing sexual abuse in the future.

“The task force is currently finalizing the strategic initiatives and measurable objectives that will guide the work of the Diocese of Springfield going forward,” Isaza said in the diocese’s statement. “The goal is to achieve significant improvements in keeping all its members safe and to prevent future sexual abuse.”

Woods had been serving as vice-chairperson of the task force. She is the founding executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin, and serves on Greenfield’s Domestic Violence Task Force. She said in a statement that the task force’s work was made possible by the support of all stakeholders.

“We are grateful for their participation,” she said. “Be assured that what we have learned from all those impacted by this issue will be reflected in our final report and their insights and recommendations have informed the strategic objectives we will propose.”

Isaza has previously served as a program officer at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. He was a faculty member at the Smith College School for Social Work, as well as the Dean of Social Sciences and special assistant to the president at Holyoke Community College. He also has served in leadership roles at the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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