They are women in their 50s, but they cried for the little girls within who were abused by a priest they trusted.
At a home in Norcross on Friday, eight women forgave the priest from the Marist order who molested them and absolved the Catholic Church that failed to protect them 40 years ago.
The Rev. Dennis Steik, head of the Atlanta province of the Marist order, presented each woman with a $25,000 check along with a tiny gold cross decorated with a red rose -- a symbol, he said, of sacrifice, pain and resurrection. He also gave each woman a ceramic statue of Jesus with children at his knee.
"They're little things," he told them, "but a lot of love comes with them."
As settlements go, theirs was small. But they are convinced their spiritual healing dwarfs most others.
Some of the women hugged or kissed Steik as they received their gifts. Some wept into the shoulder of his black clerical shirt.
Steik himself choked with tears during the ceremony as he apologized to the women -- some there with family.
"That was one of our own that abused you as little girls," he said.
The women and two others covered by the agreement were molested by the Rev. Clarence Biggers, who was a Marist priest when they were students at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Marietta. As a nationwide scandal of sex abuse rocked the Catholic Church last year, some of the women acknowledged to their families and one another for the first time that they had been victims of Biggers. He now lives at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, where he is in ill health and has not been available for interviews.