Diocese hires safe environment coordinator
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Keeping the safety of children and young people in mind, the Diocese of Sioux City recently hired a Safe Environment Coordinator.
Colleen Sulsberger of St. Mary Parish in Mapleton has accepted the newly created position.
“It is an important position,” she said. “It is important that we make our diocese a place where children can learn the good news of Christ and grow in their spirituality in safety and security. It is important that we create a culture of safety and support for young people.”
She said another goal of her job is to make the diocese “a place where a potential abuser will not find safe haven or opportunity.”
In the position, she will serve a clerical and administrative function. Sulsberger will help to ensure that anyone in the diocese, who has interaction with young people or not, undergoes a background check and Virtus training.
She will also make sure that every parish is compliant and follows up with the training.
“There is the administrative side, but the real goal of the job is to create a culture of safety so everyone is aware of this, everyone is vigilant and everyone is dedicated to making sure that our youth are safe,” said Sulsberger.
After working in the corporate world for 25 years, she felt called to do service-oriented work. She worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. She received a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from the University of South Dakota.
“I took early retirement from my job in 2009,” she said. “I have worked the past two months with the disaster relief efforts in Mapleton. That has helped me come to the decision that I was interested in serving the church.”
She has also been involved at St. Mary’s in various volunteer roles. Sulsberger and her husband, Steve, have been married for 31 years and have two children, Alyssa and Ryan.
“I am extremely honored to have this position,” said Sulsberger. “This whole issue has done great damage to the church, not to mention the victims. To have a hand in trying to mitigate that is a vocation to me, not a job.”
Msgr. Mark Duchaine, vicar general for the Diocese of Sioux City, pointed out that he has known Colleen for nearly nine years.
“She is exceptionally well qualified for this position, both because she is a devoted and dedicated wife and mother, and because she has a great love of God and the church, which will impel her to perform her new ministry with zeal,” said Msgr. Mark Duchaine, vicar general for the Diocese of Sioux City. “It is her goal to be an ally and helper to our clergy and their staffs, to help them in any way possible to keep our children and young people safe and secure.”
Bishop Walker Nickless said he was grateful for the recommendation from Msgr. Duchaine to focus more on the safe environment program.
“Nothing is more important to us than the protection of our young people,” said the bishop. “There is a lot of work that goes into making sure that all of our parishes are adhering to the policies of the Dallas Charter of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Having someone who is solely dedicated to this task will be a great benefit to us and ultimately to our children.”
He added that he is grateful for the “talent and dedication” that Sulsberger will bring to the position and looks forward to working with her.