Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Va., speaks after receiving the St. Luke Award from the St. Luke Institute during an Oct. 22 benefit at the apostolic nunciature in Washington. (CNS photo/Matthew Barrick, St. Luke Institute)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — 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 is the recipient of an award named for the patron saint of physicians and healing.

Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, a former Washington auxiliary bishop, received the St. Luke Award at the 2018 annual benefit for St. Luke Institute, which provides treatment and education for priests and consecrated men and women religious worldwide.

The Oct. 22 event was held at the apostolic nunciature in Washington.

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

On Sept. 14, the feast of the Holy Cross, Bishop Knestout issued a pastoral letter, “From Tragedy to Hope,” on the abuse crisis.

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 St. 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 St. 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 address 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 St. Luke Award is given annually by the St. 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, St 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.

St. 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 remarks at the benefit, Capuchin Franciscan Father David Songy, the institute’s president and CEO, said 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.

“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,” said David Brown, chairman of St. Luke’s board of directors.

“This is the mission of St. Luke Institute: to rebuild the ministry, to rebuild the lives of our clergy and our religious — and in doing so, to rebuild our church,” he added. “Together, we will make a difference.”

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, commended St. 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.”

“I hope our society and our church will not become killing fields,” the archbishop 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 a closing prayer, Baltimore Archbishop William E. 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.”
Zimmermann is the editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.