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Jan. 24, 2018

By Mary Lou Kilian

Ogdensburg – In her new position as Director of Safe Environment and Charter Compliance Coordinator for theJill Lawrence Diocese of Ogdensburg, Jill L. Lawrence brings ten years of work experience for the State of New York and a deep love for the Catholic Church.

Since, Nov. 27, Ms. Lawrence has been overseeing diocesan efforts to ensure that every church facility is safe for all who enter.

She succeeds Atonement Sister Ellen Donahue who left the North Country this past summer.

In her first months, Ms. Lawrence has begun a series of visits which will eventually bring her to every parish in the diocese.

“I want to insure that they have all required safe environment documents on file and are following diocesan policies,” she said. “I want the process to be as open and transparent as possible – to work together to prevent child sexual abuse.”

“I would also like to build relationships with our school administrators and stay informed of potential child safety issues arising in context of parish/school programs and activities,” she said.

A graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh, Ms. Lawrence has served as a legal secretary for the Adirondack Park Agency, worked in the financial aid office of SUNY Plattsburgh and, most recently, worked for Franklin County Family Court and Essex County Family Court.

“My experience in Family Court really exposed me to the dangers and tragedies that affect today’s youth,” she said. “So many young people are hurt by loved ones and family members, and the healing process can take a very long time.

“Through outreach and education, I hope that the skills I acquired from Family Court can have a direct impact on what we are doing for a safe environment throughout the diocese,” she said

Long term goals
As she strives to live out her commitment to maintaining a safe environment within the Church, Ms. Lawrence has adopted a number of goals. She hopes to:
• Increase education and awareness about child sexual abuse – not only in terms of the Church, but in other areas where the marginalized are most vulnerable
•Guide parishioners throughout the diocese and give them the means to become more actively involved in protecting God’s children
• Create ways to combat the intense public scrutiny that the Church is faced with today; aid our priests in their missions of renewing the image of the vocation to Holy Orders
• Make the Safe Environment Office as transparent and reachable as possible so that those affected by past abuse know that we are here to listen and to help

North Bangor native
As a child and young adult, Ms. Lawrence attended St. Augustine’s parish in North Bangor. Three years ago, she moved to Keene and became a parishioner of St. Agnes Church in Lake Placid.

“It is here that I began to take my Catholic faith very seriously, and decided that I wanted my life to be about the Church,” she said. “It’s a wonderful parish and community, and I am blessed to have been able to participate in Masses there.

“My acceptance of this position at the diocese has meant that I had to relocate,” she said. “Although it broke my heart to leave St. Agnes parish, I feel this is an acceptable and willing sacrifice to make.

“I love working for the Church, and this position allows me the opportunity to do good work and live a more Christ-like existence,” she said.

“It's important to remember that the residual effects of having been abused can last a lifetime,” Ms. Lawrence said. “It is encouraging to see that the bishop is so dedicated to maintaining the importance of prevention, outreach, and healing.

“I am so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people here at the diocese,” she said. “I can talk about my faith and work with others on issues that are important to me and to the good of the Catholic Church.”
Ms. Lawrence is currently enrolled in the Master’s Program in Pastoral Ministries through Fordham University Graduate School of Religion as well as in the diocesan formation for ministry program.

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