In book crafted for pope, a list, a legacy

Artist's flair makes names of victims hard to forget

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Michael Paulson
Globe Staff / April 28, 2008

The book has no title, no author, no explanatory words - just a few quotes from The Bible, and page after page of first names.

Keith Robert Jeffrey Michael Michael Kim Curtis

Richard Scott John Steven Peter Michael

Jackie Robert Wayne Stephen Paul Linda

Much ink has been spilled over the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the last six years, but this work is different: a hand-painted list of 1,476 men and women who have reported being sexually abused by a Catholic priest, deacon, or nun in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the book of names the Archdiocese of Boston gave to Pope Benedict XVI was an unusual effort to humanize a crisis of unimaginable scale, in this case for a pontiff who had once minimized the scope of abuse within the church. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston presented the book at the historic Washington meeting between the pontiff and five abuse victims from Boston on April 17, midway through a papal trip to the United States during which Benedict spoke out four times about the pain and damage caused by clergy sexual abuse.

O'Malley later described the book as "a symbolic way of helping the Holy Father to experience the dimensions of the problem."

"We were trying to find a way that we could make present all of those who have been so hurt," said Barbara Thorp, the social worker who heads the archdiocese's victims' outreach efforts. "It isn't just 'the sexual abuse crisis,' but these are real people, with individual lives, and we felt a great responsibility to carry them with us in some tangible way."

The book was created by a West Roxbury calligrapher, Jan Boyd, who Thorp found by doing an Internet search. Boyd is not Catholic, and the bulk of her business is wedding invitations. At this time of year, she is usually swamped addressing envelopes for anxious brides.

"It was kind of overwhelming - she first gave me fifty names for a test, and that was enough," Boyd said. "Then she gave me a sheaf of papers that was too big to staple."

Thorp had little idea what she was looking for, other than a way to memorialize the names of the abused. She has worked for the archdiocese for more than 30 years, and has long seen the power of the personal. In one of her former roles, as head of the archdiocesan prolife office, she presented Cardinal Bernard F. Law a list of names that women who had had abortions had given their unborn children.

And last November, at a candlelight memorial Mass for people who had died, mostly from suicide or drug overdoses attributed to the damage done by clergy sexual abuse, she had people write the names of victims on pieces of paper, drop them in the basket, and then present them to O'Malley as part of the offertory.

"Our names are very precious," she said. "We are known by name to the Lord."

Boyd, who has been studying paper and book arts in her spare time, set a few goals for the project. Each name should look different - even though there are scores of Michaels and dozens of Josephs, Stephens and other names popular among Boston Catholic families - to acknowledge the individuality of each victim. The book should be peaceful - no bold colors, but a palate of blues, greens, and purples.

Boyd did not know where the book was going - Thorp kept the recipient secret because the archdiocese was trying to prevent news of the papal meeting from leaking out - and imagined that it would be displayed at the archdiocesan cathedral. She learned that the pope was the recipient of the book from a description in the Globe the day after the meeting.

Boyd made the 11-by-14 inch, 40-page book by taking specialty artist paper, immersing it in water, coating it with a mix of acrylic paint and paste, and then creating textured patterns on the pages by raking them with household objects, such as corks, combs, and credit cards. She painted the names, also in patterns, with a variety of colors of ink made from diluted gouache.

Boyd was raised in the United Church of Christ, and has as an adult attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Her husband was raised Catholic, her children were baptized as Catholics, and one of her daughters went to Ursuline Academy in Dedham. She said the priest who guided her and her husband through their marriage preparation was later accused of abuse.

"I was very aware of the abuse crisis, and we were really grateful that my husband's mother was in a nursing home at that point, and didn't know what was going on, because it would have broken her heart," Boyd said. "And, just being a human being, you have to know what crushing pain this must have been for the kids and their parents."

Boyd said she had a little more than a month to work on the project, and that it became an obsession for her during that time.

"I felt like I had 1,500 people I needed to do something for," she said. "And when I came across a name where I knew a child with that name who had been raised in the Catholic church, I'd think about that person."

When O'Malley handed the book to the pope, "there was an audible intake of breath," akin to a gasp, from the pontiff, according to the Rev. John J. Connolly, an O'Malley aide who was there. And the pope then paged through the book, Connolly said.

Two days later, O'Malley choked up when asked about that moment by reporters. "Just seeing the book makes a great impact," O'Malley said. "I know the Holy Father was touched by it."

The number of names in the book is significantly higher than that previously acknowledged by the archdiocese, and suggests that the number of victims nationally could be substantially higher than the 10,667 tallied by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004. Thorp said the list represents everyone the archdiocese could identify as having claimed abuse by a priest in Boston - the archdiocese did not attempt, she said, to verify the claims for the list, and the list is longer than previously known, she said, because it includes people who never filed legal claims, and allegations made well before the crisis erupted.

"We tried to be as inclusive as we could be," she said. "We didn't want to leave anyone out."

Faith Johnston, 23, of Haverhill, one of the five victims who met with the pope, said her name, Faith, "popped out of the page right at me" when she first looked at the book. Johnston was just 15 and working part time in her parish rectory when she was sexually assaulted by the Rev. Kelvin Iguabita. The priest was convicted of multiple charges and is serving a prison sentence.

"When the pope saw it, I think the realization of how huge this has been really hit him," Johnston said. "It helped him to realize there were real people, individuals, who were hurt by this."

The book now belongs to the Vatican, and archdiocesan officials say they hope the pope is sharing it with other Vatican officials. They also say they hope it may one day be loaned back to Boston for display here.

Already, some abuse victims have come forward as a result of publicity over the papal meeting, according to the archdiocese.

"People have been calling to ask, 'is my name in the book?' " Thorp said. "That seems to have really struck a chord with people. There is a sense that this encounter was for them."

Michael Paulson can be reached at For a photo gallery of images of the book, go to

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