safe environment

Frequently Asked Questions


Why does the Diocese of Winona-Rochester have a Safe Environment Office?

The Safe Environment Office for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, established in 2002, promotes safe, healthy communities of faith, intervenes when there is misconduct and responds fairly and compassionately when people are hurting.

How do you ensure the mission is fulfilled?

Following the standards of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People under Articles 6, 12 and 13 from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) 2002, we have established goals to achieve clear and well-publicized standards of behaviors and boundaries (Article 6), maintain safe environment programs for all children and adults (Article 12), and evaluate the background of all lay employees, clergy and volunteers who have contact with children (Article 13).

What support systems are available to aid in keeping our children safe?

Our Victims Assistance Coordinator (VAC) works with those who have experienced abuse in their lives or have been impacted by abuse because of something that has happened to a family member or friend. This person serves as the main contact for complaints and offers advocacy and resources to those who are hurting. The coordinator can be reached at 507-454-2270 Ext. 255.

The Diocese of Winona-Rochester is committed to continuous improvement of programs and accountability standards in parishes and schools.Recognizing its effectiveness, the diocese uses a program offered by VIRTUS® called Protecting God's Children. This awareness session for adults focuses on knowing the warning signs of the presence of a potential predator. By educating all adults who come in contact with children and youth, we can all be alert to these signs and together be active in protecting our children.

Who has to attend the Protecting God’s Children awareness programs?

There are three categories of people who are required to attend an awareness session. They are: 1) all clergy, 2) all employees of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and their parishes and schools, 3) all volunteers who have regular contact with children.

What does “regular contact with children” mean?

Regular contact means planned and on-going contact with children, vulnerable adults or the elderly. These are the critical ‘third party eyes” we need to help us spot others who put our children at risk.

How does the Safe Environment Office address the learning needs of children and youth in our diocese?

Curriculum in Catholic Schools and Faith Formation programs across the diocese includes a variety of components that address required safety standards. These include basic safety awareness in the community, respect of self and others, appropriate boundaries topics and information on bullying.

Does the Diocese of Winona-Rochester require background checks for individuals who work with children?

Yes. All part-time and full-time employees complete a criminal background check for employment through the affiliated parish or school. Additionally, volunteers are to complete a background check if they work with children or teens at the parish or in a school setting. These background checks are completed at a cost to the parish and results are kept on file locally.

How does the Diocese of Winona-Rochester Safe Environment Office remain accountable?

The diocese participates in the annual Safe Environment audit which is required by the USCCB. Since the inception of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Diocese of Winona-Rochester has been in full compliance of all standards.

Safe environment contacts, made up of individual representatives from parishes and schools, provide local oversight for safe environment participation and compliance.These representatives maintain records and complete periodic reports which are submitted to the diocese.

Additionally, the Diocesan Review Board, made up of professionals in the fields of law enforcement, counseling, family therapy, legal counsel and the Church, meets quarterly and advises the bishop regarding policies, allegations and processes.