Ann Fox, ‘the healing face of the church,’ retires

By | June 21, 2012

And while she walks, she prays.

“I can really process,” she added. “I’m an introvert, so I process things inwardly before they ever come out. So I need alone time. I truly trust that God is present and that God is with everyone through it.”

At the end of June, Fox is retiring from the position she has held for seven years. She will move to Wautoma. In June 2002, Fox became a covenant affiliate with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse. In Wautoma, she will live with another FSPA affiliate.

 

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Ann Fox, who has served as diocesan assistance coordinator for seven years, is retiring in July. In her position she has covered all aspects of making safe environments for children and vulnerable people around the diocese. )Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“Being with a religious community as an affiliate is really strengthening,” Fox said. “We share prayer and are able to trust each other — those things help you.”

 

Besides meeting with people who come forward with allegations of abuse, Fox’s position has covered all aspects of making safe environments for children and vulnerable persons around the diocese. So she supervised background checks and VIRTUS training for all employees and volunteers, worked with the independent review board and the annual audits and was a liaison between church personnel boards and the Bishop’s office. She also credits her associate, Karen Bass, as well as Fr. Tom Long, vicar for ministers, and Fr. Long’s predecessor, Fr. Paul Demuth, with offering immeasurable help.

“Fr Paul could sense when I needed to explode,” she said with a chuckle.

Fr. Demuth, now pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Green Bay, said of Fox: “If ever you wanted a person who was passionate and compassionate toward any person who contacted the diocese regarding the issue of sexual abuse, it was Ann Fox. She would listen for hours to a person on the phone, travel anywhere to see them personally, and always spoke on their behalf to the bishop and the diocese.”

Fr. Long echoed the sentiments, saying, “She has been able to listen to the hurt and pain of those who have been harmed, and to walk with them as they seek healing. She has been able to do this with a deep compassion for people. … In significant ways, she has been the healing face of the church.”

Before her present position, Fox served as a teacher and then a Catholic school principal for 19 years. After that, she earned a second master’s degree (her first is in education) in pastoral counseling. She worked at Catholic Charities in Waukegan, Ill., before coming to the Green Bay Diocese in 1997, first working in the education department with school and parish personnel. She came to her current position when Sr. Mary Bride Grubbs, who was retiring as the first assistance coordinator for the diocese, gave her name to Bishop David Zubik — and then told Fox.

Looking back at those seven years, Fox said that, of all the responsibilities, “(the) most privileged and most humbling experience is working with those who have been victimized. That has been a very privileged position. To hear their pain and know that, with their coming forward, they’re on the way to healing.”

She added that she considers this the most important part of her position: “The most humbling and awesome part for me has been building that trust, for people trusting me with their stories or to hear their anger, to validate who they are as persons, validate their experiences.”

Sometimes, she admitted, her role of “speaking your truth” made her “a lone voice,” but she did not feel alone at the diocese.

Of her job, Fox said, “The most humbling part and awesome part for me has been building that trust, for people trusting me with their stories or to hear their anger, to validate who they are as persons, validate their experiences.

“There’s a special sense of mission,” she said about working at the diocesan offices. “And a special sense that you’re working for something beyond yourself. … We’re a family. It doesn’t come across that way all the time. …. You don’t know how grace is operating, how the Spirit is operating. We never get the whole picture.”

That perspective has helped develop one of her life mottos: “Just to be is a blessing.”

Her other motto — one that guided her in teaching — is Micah 6:8: “to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Fox’s job has called for humility and grace. As Fr. Demuth said, “In the midst of all the hurt of this painful era in our church, she could laugh — and cry — because her heart was filled with people’s anguish and the desire to be an instrument of healing for them. At the same time, she had the ability to meet with our priests during this painful period and walk with them.”

It always seems to come back to walking with Fox. As assistance coordinator, she said that her biggest challenge has also been her biggest reward: “Walking with someone – it’s my biggest gift. I’ve been gifted by being able to walk with these people.”

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