Providing Ministry to those with Mental Illnesses
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THIS WEEK'S TOPIC:
Over the next few weeks, I plan on doing a series of articles on ministry to those with mental illness and what it looks like. This week I have been in contact with Deacon Ed Shoener, from the diocese of Scranton, PA. He is the president of a rather new organization named The Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (ACMHM). Taken from their website, The Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (ACMHM) is a Lay Association of the Christian Faithful whose members are called to be a healing presence in the lives of people with mental illness. Members of the ACMHM see Christ in those who live with a mental illness.
Deacon Shoener has written the folllowing article for this blog speaking about his organization's focus on ministry to those with mental illness. A link to their website is listed at the end of the article below.
Timothy Duff (Tim) CO-FOUNDER AND GUARDIAN has been a lay Catholic board certified hospital chaplain for over 20 years. He has worked with psychiatric patients throughout the times of his ministry; Tim founded the Guild with his mother Mildred in 1996 under the guidance of the late Father Benedict J Groechel C.F.R.. The apostolate came about when Tim's brother Scott who has suffered from Schizophrenia was unjustly placed in prison, They prayed tirelessly and worked hard to not just release Scott but to change the laws in Massachusetts. Our Lady of Fatima intervened to help them accomplish the task.
The Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (ACMHM)
By Deacon Ed Shoener, Diocese of Scranton, PA and President of the ACMHM
Mental Health Ministry in the Catholic Church is growing because many people see the need for a ministry focused on the spiritual needs of those living with a mental illness and the family members and other people who love and support people living with a mental illness. In 2019 several lay ministers and members of clergy founded the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (ACMHM) to support this growing ministry.
The Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (ACMHM) is a Lay Association of the Christian Faithful whose members are called to be a healing presence in the lives of people with mental illness. Members of the ACMHM see Christ in those who live with a mental illness. Members practice a ministry of service and presence; like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), they do not look the other way or walk past those living with a mental illness but instead pour the oil and wine of the Gospel into their lives. Members walk with people living with a mental illness to help them find the support and services that they need.
Members of the ACMHM are inspired by Saint Pope John Paul II who wrote:
“Christ took all human suffering on himself; even mental illness . . . whoever suffers from mental illness "always" bears God's image and likeness in himself, as does every human being. In addition, he "always" has the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”
“It is everyone's duty to make an active response: our actions must show that mental illness does not create insurmountable distances, nor prevent relations of true Christian charity with those who are its victims. Indeed, it should inspire a particularly attentive attitude towards these people who are fully entitled to belong to the category of the poor to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs (cf. Mt 5:3).”
ACMHM members see persons living with a mental illness as unique individuals who are not defined by their illness. They have much to offer the Church and the community because living with an illness gives them unique insights into suffering, humility, compassion, friendship and love. ACMHM members work to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that people living with a mental illness encounter in the Church and in human society.
Members of the ACMHM work to make mental health ministry an integral ministry in the Church that is available in every Catholic parish and community throughout the world. The goals of the ACMHM are to provide support in the following ways:
1. To people living with a mental illness, members provide spiritual support to people living with a mental illness to assist them to live in holiness. Members encourage actions to prevent any discrimination that would prevent them from full participation in the life of the Church. Members of the ACMHM do not provide diagnosis, counseling, treatment, medical assistance or behavioral health support, but instead may provide assistance in helping people living with a mental illness find treatment and medical services in their community.
2. To the parents, family members and friends of people living with a mental illness, ACMHM members provide spiritual support and comfort in their efforts to care for and help their loved ones. Members of the ACMHM do not provide diagnosis, counseling, treatment, medical assistance or behavioral health support, but instead they may provide assistance in helping find additional educational and other support services to aid in their understanding of mental illness.
3. To clergy and other ministers in the Church, the ACMHM provides the tools, methods and insights that allow them to confidently minister to people with a mental illness without fear or prejudice.
4. To the wider Church, the ACMHM educates and informs people about the issues, struggles and joys that can be found in people living with a mental illness. The ACMHM will witness to a strong and authentic communion with the pope and the local bishop and will operate and participate in the Church’s apostolic goals, with a particular focus on those goals directed towards ministering to people living with a mental illness.
The ACMHM will provide this support by means of several specific activities. Some of the tasks we are working on are:
1. Support a network of mental health ministries in order to provide leadership, guidance and support to members. Ministry networks are developed on the national, diocesan and parish levels.
2. Develop tools, processes, documents, worship aids and other methods to support members in their efforts to offer a spiritual mental health ministry.
3. Organize and provide training and education for members of the ACMHM.
4. Organize conferences to disseminate information and support the development of a sense of community among mental health ministries.
5. Disseminate information via a web page, email and other methods of communication to promote unity among members and greater awareness and understanding in the Church and in the broader community about ministering to people who live with a mental illness.
The ACMHM entrusts its mission to Our Lady. Our Lady of Lourdes is a special patroness for healing. May Our Lady guide us so that those who live with a mental illness will know that they are surrounded by her and her Son’s healing presence and remember that they are never alone.
If you are interested in learning more about the ACMHM and would like to become a member (it’s free to join), please go to our web page at www.catholicmhm.org or send us an email at email@example.com or write to Deacon Ed Shoener, Cathedral of St. Peter, 315 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA 18503.