After receiving the Saint Luke Award from the Saint Luke Institute during an Oct. 22 benefit at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout stands with, from left to right, David Brown, the chairman of Saint Luke’s Board of Directors; Sandy Andreas McMurtrie, the honorary chair for the event; and Capuchin Franciscan Father David Songy, the institute’s president and CEO. (Saint Luke Institute photo by Matthew Barrick)
After receiving the Saint Luke Award from the Saint Luke Institute during an Oct. 22 benefit at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout stands with, from left to right, David Brown, the chairman of Saint Luke’s Board of Directors; Sandy Andreas McMurtrie, the honorary chair for the event; and Capuchin Franciscan Father David Songy, the institute’s president and CEO. (Saint Luke Institute photo by Matthew Barrick)
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A bishop with Washington-area roots who has taken a variety of actions to promote healing in the wake of the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church recently received an award named for the patron saint of physicians and healing.

Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout on Oct. 22 received the Saint Luke Award at the 2018 annual benefit for Saint Luke Institute, which provides treatment and education for priests and consecrated men and women religious worldwide. The event was held at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington.

“My motto is ‘Christ our Hope,’” he said, noting the motto he chose after being named as an auxiliary bishop of Washington in 2008 has proven to be central to his life and ministry. Bishop Knestout, who was installed as the bishop of Richmond in January, said Christ’s hope, grace and assistance can guide people through life’s challenges as they seek heaven.

On Sept. 14, the Solemnity of the Holy Cross, Bishop Knestout issued a pastoral letter, “From Tragedy to Hope,” on the abuse crisis to the clergy and lay faithful of his Virginia diocese. That day at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, Bishop Knestout celebrated the diocese’s first Mass of Atonement for victims of clergy sexual abuse and apologized to them, their families and to the Catholic community, saying the Church must confess its sins for what its clergy and bishops had done and failed to do.

At the Saint Luke Institute benefit, Bishop Knestout said that his diocese has held a series of listening sessions and Masses, to pray with and hear people voice their anger, frustration and anxiety, that he said was always expressed “respectfully and with great love for the Church.”

The bishop said that in response, he has tried to lift up the beauty of the Catholic Church, which unfolds in the sacraments and its works of charity, and its mission to proclaim the Gospel to the world. “God guides us by the truth,” he said, noting that is life-giving and helps people live holy lives.

Bishop Knestout said that all people experience brokenness or struggles, and he praised Saint Luke Institute’s work in helping restore the lives of priests and religious.

In his pastoral letter, he outlined a variety of steps for the Church to face the abuse crisis, including ongoing efforts to protect children, a greater involvement of laity, and more transparency and accountability on the part of church leadership.

“As the People of God, we must atone for the sins that have caused it in order that we can be healed from it,” he wrote. “We will do that through hope – hope found in Jesus, hope we receive from his Word and from the Eucharist. It is with hope that we – individually and as faith communities – will mend from the damage caused by this tragedy.”

The Saint Luke Award is given annually by the Saint Luke Institute to someone whose life or charitable works embody the institute’s ideals of rebuilding the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual lives of those in need. The award is presented near the Oct. 18 feast day of St. Luke, the evangelist credited with writing one of the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, whom St. Paul called “our most dear physician.”

Established more than 40 years ago as an alcohol treatment center for clergy, Saint Luke Institute now offers psychological and spiritual care in residential and outpatient treatment programs to help priests, sisters and brothers overcome struggles with isolation, burnout, stress, depression, addiction, trauma or other challenges. The institute also provides candidate assessments to assist dioceses, religious communities and individuals in the discernment process, helping ensure candidates for the priesthood and religious life are psychologically and spiritually healthy.

Saint Luke Institute has five locations, including in Silver Spring, Maryland, and over the years, it has served 10,000 people in vocations to the priesthood or religious life, and it annually reaches 3,000 people through its education programs, which include webinars, in-person workshops and publications.

In a message in the benefit’s printed program, Capuchin Franciscan Father David Songy, the president and CEO of Saint Luke Institute, said, “At this time of deep pain for our Church, the healing ministry of Christ offered by Saint Luke Institute could not be more urgent.”

Addressing those at the benefit, Father Songy thanked the institute’s supporters for sharing in its mission of bringing Christ’s healing to priests and religious through its treatment programs and strengthening the Church for the future through its assessments of seminarians and aspirants to religious life.

David Brown, the chairman of St. Luke’s Board of Directors, in his remarks also noted the abuse crisis and the need for healing in the Church.

“As St. Francis was called to rebuild the Church 800 years ago, and as others before and after him have done, so, too, will we rebuild our Church true to the mission of Christ,” Brown said, later adding, “…This is the mission of Saint Luke Institute: to rebuild the ministry, to rebuild the lives of our clergy and our religious – and in doing so, to rebuild our Church. Together, we will make a difference.”

In introducing the recipient of the Saint Luke Award, Brown said Bishop Knestout is “someone who represents the best of leadership in the Church,” and called him a man of integrity, kindness and humility who demonstrates charity to others.

“The Church is richer because of Bishop Knestout’s love for Christ and for Christ’s people. He has supported religious life, encouraged vocations and walked the path to healing with many priests,” Brown said. “…Whoever goes to him in pain, in need of healing, in need of understanding, knows he or she will encounter a gentle father, kind brother and wise bishop who will listen, pray and do what is right and just.”

Bishop Knestout, the son of Caroline and the late Deacon Thomas Knestout, grew up as a member of St. Pius X Parish in Bowie, Maryland and attended its parish elementary school. He earned an architecture degree from the University of Maryland before entering Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg. He was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1989 and served as a pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring. Bishop Knestout served as co-chair of the committees that planned two papal visits to Washington, for Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and Pope Francis in 2015.

After being ordained as an auxiliary bishop of Washington, he served as Moderator of the Curia and vicar general for the Archdiocese of Washington until his appointment as the bishop of Richmond. His brother, Father Mark Knestout, serves as pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda.

Also at the benefit, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, commended Saint Luke Institute for its work of bringing “the merciful love of Jesus to our priests and religious.”

He encouraged Catholics in these challenging times to remain in communion with the pope. “Being united around Peter, the Church will be united around Jesus,” he said.

Archbishop Pierre noted that Pope Francis wants members of the Church to be evangelical, to live and share their faith and reflect God’s love in every circumstance. “I hope our society and our Church will not become killing fields,” he said, noting that in turbulent times, some seek to destroy or accuse others. “Leave it to others to condemn, to judge, to kill,” the nuncio added, encouraging the faithful to be at the service of life.

In his closing prayer at the benefit, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori prayed to God that the “Church not only respond to the (abuse) crisis, but that it be the place of truth, love, mercy and integrity that your Son founded it to be.”