ST. FRANCIS — Sr. Susan Rosenbach, a School Sister of St. Francis, said she always wanted to work within a clinical and spiritual environment. As the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s victim assistance coordinator since February, she has gotten that opportunity.
“I didn’t want to be just a psychologist; I wanted to be able to combine that with a sense of spirituality,” she said. “So whenever I try to get a position as a therapist, I always try to do it within a faith context.”
Sr. Susan is a licensed clinical professional counselor with a bachelor’s degree in education from Alverno College, 1967; master’s in counseling psychology from Loyola University in Chicago, 1974; master’s in pastoral theology from the University of Notre Dame, 1976; and a doctorate of ministry from St. Mary of the Lake University, 1982.
Prior to coming to the archdiocese, she was a private clinician in Illinois. Upon hearing about the need for a victim assistance coordinator in the archdiocese, she was intrigued with the combination of faith and counseling.
“It looked like a ministry that would be a compassionate ministry and also one in which I could utilize my skills to help people heal,” Sr. Susan said.
She said that before she could start working in that position, she had to learn what has happened and what was happening.
“I spent these first couple of months doing a lot of listening and a lot of talking and inviting people to have conversations,” she said. “I’ve talked to some victims on the phone. I’m talking to people in the archdiocese who have worked with the victims over the past several years.”
For years, Sr. Susan said, she wanted to work with the poor and other voiceless members of the community.
“I’ve always had a sense of a call to stand with people who need representation,” she said. “It’s not without reason that I find myself working in a situation within the church where there’s a different kind of poverty — the people who have somehow been disenfranchised have been abused.”
Born and raised in Chicago, she was involved with issues of poverty and the Hispanic community. She worked as a therapist for priests and nuns in Chicago. Although she has plenty of experience, she admits she is also learning on the job.
“I do know from my own reading and studying that in the past 10 years the statistics tell us the number of abuse by priests (in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee) has gone way down,” she said. “Part of that has to do with the cycle of sexual education that’s being offered and screening of the candidates who come into the seminaries.”
Sr. Susan said she realizes the importance of her office.
“This position, not just me, this position is a critical piece of the diocese right now,” she said. “The next step, I think, will hopefully be healing the wounds that have been inflicted and focusing more on the parishes and the faithful who have been hurt by this.”
She added that the perpetrators also need healing.
Such an emotional job can exact a hefty toll, and Sr. Susan acknowledged she’ll need to monitor her own health.
“This is serious business and it saddens me,” she said. “I’m going to have to know how to take care of myself doing this job. I think I can get pulled into a sadness.”
Since she started, she said people in the archdiocese and Cousins Center have been very supportive and gracious to her.
By helping the archdiocese move on to help the victims, Sr. Susan said the emphasis on systemic change will continue to inform her ministerial activities. She added that she will spend a lot of time talking to other victim assistance coordinators in other dioceses to know how to move forward in the proper way.