PORTLAND (AP) – An outreach professional hired to help victims of sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Maine has resigned as requests for assistance dropped, officials said Tuesday.

Susanne Sturm of Bangor, whose background is as a trauma specialist, was hired for the part-time position two years ago to offer pastoral support to victims, to direct them to professional counseling when needed and to assist in setting up support groups for those who are willing to go that route. Sturm indicated to church officials that she intended to seek a position that more consistently utilizes her skills, said Sue Bernard, diocese spokeswoman.

“This ministry, which has its up and downs, was really not enough to hold her,” Bernard said.

The diocese is in the process of contracting with a professional to continue the ministry, she said.

The resignation takes effect Sunday. If there is a lag before the appointment of a replacement, then Sister Rita-Mae Bissonette, co-chancellor of the diocese, will fill the role.

Abuse claims were made by 86 victims since 1950 – the period covered by the report – and $2.6 million was spent on claims since the diocese began keeping detailed financial records in 1976, the diocese has reported.

All told, $1.35 million was spent to settle abuse claims, and another $1.25 million was spent for victims’ assistance and counseling and legal expenses. All but $200,000 of that was paid by insurance, the diocese said.


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