Part of New Mental Health Ministry Outreach of Catholic Charities
FALL RIVER — October is designated annually as a time for greater focus on mental health and on mobilizing efforts to support it. In recognition of the impact that mental health challenges can have on individuals, their families, and caregivers, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., will celebrate a special Mass for Mental Health Awareness on Sunday, October 29, at 10:30 a.m. in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River. All are welcome to attend.
Planners of the Mass explain it will be offered with two intentions: to pray for those who have lost a loved one to suicide, drug and alcohol use, or mental illness; and to pray for those who are currently experiencing mental health challenges.
To remember in a special way those who have died, a Book of Remembrance bearing their names will be offered in the context of the Mass. All are invited to submit the name(s) of a loved one for inclusion in the Book of Remembrance for this purpose. Please email the name(s) to FR-Reception@ccfrdioc.org with the subject line indicating Name for Remembrance Book. You may also call Catholic Charities Diocese of Fall River at 508-674-4681 ext. 1101.
Jack Weldon, LICSW, who serves as Mental Health Coordinator for Catholic Charities, said, “This Mass for Mental Health Awareness is an opportunity for the Church to recognize the impact of mental health and substance use challenges on the lives of the faithful and to welcome those impacted to be part of a healing community, which is the Church”.
Mental Health Ministry Program
The celebration of this Mass is a dimension of a Mental Health Ministry (MHM) program recently brought into the umbrella of services of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fall River.
Mental health providers report that one of the biggest challenges facing those who suffer with any type of mental health issue is the stigma placed on them and their situation; in most cases, this stems from misinformation or a myth-laden understanding of mental health illness.
This reality has prompted Pope Francis to speak of the necessity of action to “fully overcome the stigma that mental health is often tainted with,” and Catholic Charities’ MHM program is a step toward that goal.
The program follows a national model and aims to invite, support, and provide acceptance of those who may feel isolated and alone due to mental health of substance use challenges.
Catholic Charities’ MHM is available to support parishes throughout the Diocese in establishing their own mental health ministry teams to provide vital spiritual accompaniment for people experiencing mental health challenges, mental illness, and substance use, as well as for their family members and those who care for them.
“The MHM program can equip our parish faith communities with the ability to address mental health and substance use in an impactful manner,” Weldon explained.
In collaboration with the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, the MHM program offers training for volunteers from parishes who feel called to be a healing presence in the lives of those with a mental health condition or those impacted by it. They are there for faith-based conversation, prayer, support, and accompaniment; they do not diagnose or provide treatment but can direct parishioners to those services. MHM training provides the education and tools needed to do this.
“Mental Illness is not selective,” said Rose Mary Saraiva, who is coordinator of the MHM program. “It does not care who you are, where you are from, or what you believe in; we are all affected at some point in our lives. The goal is to break down the barriers, so no one must go through it alone.”