Sister Carroll Juliano is leaving her post as coordinator of the diocese’s Office of Safe Environments this spring to become the leader of the American province her religious order, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in Rosemont, Pa.
During nearly four years in Wilmington, Sister Juliano has overseen the diocese’s Keeping Our Promises curriculum in schools and parishes that ensures children are safe and protected in parish and school communities.
The curriculum was developed in 2006 after the U.S. bishops’ 2003 commitment to safe environments in their charter “For the Sake of God’s Children,” following the tragic revelations of clergy sex abuse of minors.
Both the bishops’ charter and the diocesan curriculum have been audited throughout their existence and the diocese has always been found in compliance with the guidelines, Sister said.
Sister Juliano’s office oversees about 2,000 background checks of employees and volunteers every year. Currently there are about 20,000 people in the database and background checks are renewed every five years.
Keeping Our Promises’ curriculum for schools, which was updated by the Safe Environments office last year, addresses such concepts as secrets, good and bad touch, trusted adults and bullying at every grade level, pre-K through 12.
The problems of sexual, physical and even verbal abuse are present in all society, not just the church, Sister Carroll said.
Her office’s challenge has been need to keep the safeguards of “For the Sake of God’s Children” and “Keeping Our Promises” “in the forefront of people’s minds.
“The policies’ purpose is the overall protection of children. Hopefully, we don’t get complacent and lose sight of that.”
So far, so good, Sister Juliano said.
“It’s been my experience in the diocese there’s been cooperation with the program across the board, both in schools and parishes. They do work toward being compliant.”
The diocese has passed each audit “every year, very well with good grades,” she added.
As the appointed leader of the Holy Child Sisters’ American leadership team, Sister Juliano returns to the order’s administration where she has previously served.
The province includes about 130 Holy Child nuns across the United States, as well as sisters in the Dominican Republic and Chile. Holy Child sisters also serve in two other provinces, Europe and Africa.
In the U.S., “if you look at religious life in general we are diminishing and we are older, that’s a fact,” Sister said. “Our sisters in Europe basically look at the same dynamic as we do, older and small in number.
“Our sisters in Africa are not diminishing. They are growing, and they are younger.”
In the United States, “the challenge for young women to enter religious life is different from the challenges that I looked at when I entered,” Sister Juliano, a member of Holy Child since 1964, said.
“For many of us, we might have been called to serve God through some ministry. Now (since Vatican II), we realize the vocation of all laity to participate in ministry, so many young women do not look at religious life” to find a ministry.
Therefore, the call to religious life is focused again on serving God “through the structure of religious life,” Sister Juliano said. “It is a vocation; it is a calling and there are still women out there, hopefully, becoming more aware that maybe they are called to serve God in religious life.”
Education is the primary charism or work of the Holy Child order, Sister Juliano said.
“We do education in the broad sense of the word. We have sisters engaged in pastoral services, health education, social justice, legal work and spiritual ministries.
“Our foundress, Cornelia Connelly, called us to meet the wants of the age,” Sister Juliano said. “That’s what we’re looking at — what are the needs in our age today.”
Amid the changes to religious life, Sister Juliano says she has hope.
“Is religious life going to look different as we move into the future? Yes, but I have hope that God has called some of us into this type of life. I do have hope for the Sisters of the Holy Child and society at large.”
Agreeing with Pope Francis’ advice to religious orders to invite people to serve but not to worry about numbers of vocations, Sister Juliano pointed to the poster behind her desk with a quote from the pope: “The church is a love story, not an institution.”