THE WOODLANDS, Texas – The Catholic community is widespread in Greater Houston, reaching 10 counties and 1.7 million Catholics.
After 15 dioceses released the names of more than 100 priests who were deemed by the Catholic Church as "credibly" accused for sexual abuse, parishioners said they were heartbroken. Now, the community is putting their faith in the power of prayer and coming together to forgive, heal and move forward.
"Today's all about prayer and healing," Stephen Lenahan, a spokesperson for St. Anthony of Padua, said. "I hope for the church to come out stronger from this. Honestly, you know, unfortunately, sin is a reality in our world, and crime is a reality in our world, and make no mistake, it's both that we're dealing with right now, but I do think that the church's mission will continue."
St. Anthony of Padua led a prayer service in conjunction with a service spearheaded by Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston.
"Coming together in a time like this where there is such a wound that we're responding to ... it's beautiful to come together," said Paige Ingersoll, the high school youth minister for St. Anthony of Padua.
Ingersoll said the Catholic community has been broken over this issue.
"You ache because there is a lack of trust there, and to build up that trust again, to build comfort and faith back in the church is going to be something that we're going to have to continuously work on," Ingersoll said.
"It's sad that there are people who have been abused like this, and I know some of the priests, but at the same time, we have a God who loves us and forgives us," Charles Giardina, another leader at the church, said.
With headlines of Catholic leaders indicted for indecency, among other accusations, even non-Catholics were affected.
"It's not right. It's not right at all," said one community member.
"Putting things out there is a good thing, and Catholic or not, it's pretty awful," another community member said.
However, many parishioners are praying for healing for those affected and for those who may have hurt them.
"We're going to have some answers finally and that we as a church can move forward," Gian Apulche, a St. Anthony of Padua parishioner, said.
"We're all sinners, and we need God's grace. So we should help each other and get through this together ... see this as a new beginning," Giardina said.
St. Anthony of Padua held town hall meetings on this issue. They have resources for those in need on their website.