Pax in Familia

Contact
information

Office/person in charge:
Dr. Christauria Welland-Akong

Address:
P.O. Box 721595, SAN DIEGO, CA 92172, USA

Email address:
drchristauriawelland@gmail.com

Website/social media:

Pax in Familia is an international Catholic ministry dedicated to peace, and to the prevention of violence and abuse in Catholic families. Based in San Diego, CA, USA, it was officially founded in 2015 in preparation for the World Meeting of Families by Dr. Christauria Welland-Akong, a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment and prevention of domestic violence for 25 years, and a catechist for children, youth, migrant workers, and adults for 50 years.

Her husband Michael Akong, MPH, L.Ac., offers technical and logistical expertise in videography, editing, etc. Given the shocking prevalence of violence against Catholic women worldwide, we seek to educate pastoral agents on how to understand and respond when they are confronted with this common problem in their ministries, and how to integrate the prevention of violence in their youth and family ministries.

We have trained over a thousand pastoral agents at a national level in Africa, Sri Lanka, and Latin America, and they have gone on to establish trainings and initiatives throughout their countries. The participants have included archbishops, bishops, priests, seminarians, sisters, counselors, catechists, and family life ministers.

Since 2021, we offer our workshop for pastoral agents online in English, Spanish and French. This training for trainers can be accessed with a full scholarship for those in developing countries. https://health-transformations.learnworlds.com/

We also have a website where three books for pastoral agents in several languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Tamil, and Tagalog) can be downloaded at no charge. http://paxinfamilia.org/

Pax in Familia has been invited to speak to the assembly on the topic of violence in Catholic families at the World Meeting of Families in Rome in June, 2022.

What is it?

What is this initiative about?

Pax in Familia is an international Catholic ministry dedicated to peace, and to the prevention of violence and abuse in Catholic families. Based in San Diego, CA, USA, it was officially founded in 2015 in preparation for the World Meeting of Families by Dr. Christauria Welland-Akong, a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment and prevention of domestic violence for 25 years, and a catechist for children, youth, migrant workers, and adults for 50 years.

Her husband Michael Akong, MPH, L.Ac., offers technical and logistical expertise in videography, editing, etc. Given the shocking prevalence of violence against Catholic women worldwide, we seek to educate pastoral agents on how to understand and respond when they are confronted with this common problem in their ministries, and how to integrate the prevention of violence in their youth and family ministries.

We have trained over a thousand pastoral agents at a national level in Africa, Sri Lanka, and Latin America, and they have gone on to establish trainings and initiatives throughout their countries. The participants have included archbishops, bishops, priests, seminarians, sisters, counselors, catechists, and family life ministers.

Since 2021, we offer our workshop for pastoral agents online in English, Spanish and French. This training for trainers can be accessed with a full scholarship for those in developing countries. https://health-transformations.learnworlds.com/

We also have a website where three books for pastoral agents in several languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Tamil, and Tagalog) can be downloaded at no charge. http://paxinfamilia.org/

Pax in Familia has been invited to speak to the assembly on the topic of violence in Catholic families at the World Meeting of Families in Rome in June, 2022.

How does it help?

In what way does this initiative enhance the formation of the laity?

Our Initiative has great importance in the USA, as domestic violence (intimate partner violence) is a serious problem in the country, affecting millions of adults in the USA.

About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact. (CDC, 2022).

Millions of youth are also affected by dating violence each year. Studies show that Catholics and Christians do not have lower levels of IPV than the population in general.

The US Bishops have recognized the gravity of the issue with their document, When I Call for Help (2002): https://www.usccb.org/topics/marriage-and-family-life-ministries/when-i-call-help-pastoral-response-domestic-violence.

There are a small number of national ministries devoted to responding to Catholic victims/survivors of IPV, notably Catholics for Family Peace, and several dioceses with specific ministries (e.g. Washington DC, Chicago) but there still remains a great deal to be done to ensure that pastoral agents are properly trained to be aware of and respond effectively to persons affected by IPV in their role as beacons of the light of Christ.

Why is it important?

Why is this initiative important for the training and advancement of the laity in your country?

Pax in Familia’s mission is to educate youth and families for peace in their relationships and for the prevention of violence in Catholic and Christian families.

Our work integrates Scripture, the Magisterium, and contemporary psychology and public health expertise in healthy relationships and in violence prevention.

How did it start

How was this initiative developed?

Dr. Welland, the co-founder of Pax in Familia, has specialized in intimate partner violence (IPV) as a clinical psychologist for over 25 years, and has 50 years of experience as a catechist working internationally. She has conducted research and training on treating and preventing IPV for over 25 years. She began to focus more exclusively on IPV in Catholic families in 2014, when asked to present at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. She wrote a guide for pastoral agents which was presented in 6 languages at WMOF, as well as given to the participants at the Synod on the Family in 2015. In 2016 and 2017, books were sent to the Episcopal Conferences for each diocese in the world, along with a letter of introduction from the Archbishop of San Francisco, and an offer to teach a no-cost workshop by Pax in Familia to pastoral agents of the country. We subsequently taught 10 workshops on 4 continents. Obliged to stop traveling by the pandemic, we started developing  online courses.

Benefits

Does it benefit the laity on a national or local level?

Although the trainings provided by Pax in Familia are very necessary for the pastoral formation of priests, seminarians and consecrated women and men, it is the lay catechists, family ministers, parish staff, educators and counselors who are usually among the first to become aware of IPV and dating violence in the families they serve, either through the effects on the children and youth they teach, or more directly in working with couples and individuals.

Pax in Familia’s work helps to improve their response to IPV in the course of their work of evangelization and catechesis, and to bring them up to date on the clearly articulated teaching of Pope Francis on the topic. Responding to IPV is not usually part of the formation of pastoral agents, although the rate of violence in families is 30% worldwide. That means that virtually all pastoral agents will be exposed to the need of some family at some time, and usually many families, due to IPV.

Our trainings raise awareness and teach people the warning signs to look for, teach pastoral agents what the Church is teaching today on the topic as well as on human rights in general, and recommend that they become experienced in referring their parishioners to local support, so as to not have to deal with these complicated events without proper expertise.

They learn to serve as conduits, and most importantly, to show compassion to victims, and to avoid giving unhelpful or possibly dangerous advice.

We also provide them with three handbooks to teach general principles of the Catholic response to IPV, a youth and adult catechesis that includes proven violence prevention strategies, and a brief relationship course for couples, based on Amoris Laetitia, also with violence prevention strategies.

Means and funding

Who funds the initiative? What is needed to launch this initiative?

So far, Pax in Familia has been funded by the modest inheritances of Dr. Christauria Welland and Michael Akong, as well as by the income from the clinical work of Dr. Welland.

We initially also received a $15,000 private donation to assist with the printing of the 22,000 books printed in Mexico in 2015 and 2018. African Episcopal Conferences applied for and received over $160,000 in funding from the USCCB, Missio and Aid to the Church in Need in 2018 to cover the cost of the participants’ travel, accommodation, and meals during the workshops.

Dr. Welland and her husband have volunteered all the time necessary to develop the ministry so far, and have paid a few people for administrative assistance and translation from their own pocket.

Dr. Welland recently retired from her clinical practice so as to be able to devote herself full-time to Pax in Familia. In order to further expand and consolidate this initiative, Pax in Familia needs to locate donors to facilitate administration, extend internet and in-person trainings more broadly, and to assist local pastoral agents in their own training initiatives to share the information with Bishops, priests, seminarians, religious, catechists and all other pastoral agents.

Pax in Familia also considers it part of their mission to raise awareness at the Vatican of the need for a coordinated response to a problem that besets so many millions of Catholic families.

Learn more

Where can people learn more about this initiative?

Our website has information regarding the online courses, as well as multilingual free downloads of books Dr. Welland has written on the pastoral response to domestic violence, violence prevention and  relationship skills based on Amoris Laetitia in Catholic families: http://paxinfamilia.org

Our online courses and detailed descriptions of the courses in English, Spanish and French can be found at: https://health-transformations.learnworlds.com/

Countries involved

Does this initiative exist in other countries?

Yes, Pax in Familia has trained over 1000 pastoral agents in Africa (Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Malawi in English and in Cameroun and Rwanda in French).

We have also given the in-person workshop in Ecuador in Spanish and Sri Lanka in English. In each of these countries, participants have continued the work of teaching about pastoral responses to domestic violence locally or nationally.

With the online courses we will reach many more. Currently we have many students taking the English course from Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroun, Kenya, South Africa, and Malawi. In Sri Lanka the course was translated into Sinhala and Tamil by the National Office for Family Life.

How to start?

How can this initiative be implemented in other countries?

It is the express desire of Pax in Familia that as many Catholics and Christians as possible download the material and share it with others, especially those who are themselves survivors or abusers, as well as all pastoral agents who work with families.

The online courses were created with other countries in mind, since our courses are in English, French, and Spanish. The art and photos, as well as many quotations, are specifically selected for Africa, Asia, and Latin America, although the courses are appropriate for any country.

Unfortunately, there is domestic violence everywhere and in spite of cultural differences, the root factors, the treatment, the pastoral response, and prevention strategies have more in common than not.


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Pax in Familia Course Presentation [EN]
Pax in Familia Course Presentation for Dicastery 622 
CCUSA-CFFP WEBINAR SERIES [EN]
CCUSA CFFP 521 TX OF THE ABUSIVE