Mental Health Awareness
The month of October, which just ended yesterday with the celebration of Halloween, reminds us also of a serious crisis affecting millions of people in our country and in the whole world: Mental Health. Sadly, there is still a stigma that remains around mental health challenges, which can prevent people from seeking and receiving help. We need to do a better job of helping everyone see that nothing can alter or diminish a person’s God-given dignity. I would guess there is no one, not in some way, affected by this new epidemic in our society.
Everyone is a beloved child of God, a God of healing and hope. Our Lord is always with them in their pain, fragility, and suffering, and He calls the Church, His Body here on earth, to love, support, and advocate for them. We humbly seek to follow in our Lord’s footsteps by rejecting stigma and upholding the dignity of all persons.
Last Sunday, I celebrated a Mass in our Cathedral to help call attention to mental health challenges. We must always keep in mind that we are never alone. Our readings at Sunday’s Mass spoke of our relationship with God and others, “If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.” What we do affects others, and we are responsible for each other. The readings focused on the most vulnerable and indefensible against abuse: strangers, widows, and orphans. The whole law depends on the two greatest commandments — to love God above all else and to love your neighbor as yourself. It requires faithful Christians to put God first and treat all others fairly and decently. How great would our world be if people actually did this? No crime, no discrimination, no greed. If people would love God and each other, that’s all we need to make this world better.
The Diocese is Here to Help
Everyone who needs help should be able to get it. Like physical illness, mental illness is a “normal” part of the human condition and should be treated as such. The stigma of mental illness remains one of the top barriers to accessing mental health care. Levels of persistent sadness, hopelessness, and suicidal tendencies have sadly been rising among our young people. Among the 57.8 million adults with a mental health illness,15.5 million people perceived an unmet need for mental health services.
The Diocese of Fall River recognizes the importance of acknowledging the feelings associated with mental health challenges and is working with parishes throughout the Diocese to create a welcoming, caring, and healing presence for those impacted by those challenges. We are intentionally working to create places of belonging for those who are experiencing mental health challenges.
Through our Catholic Charities, our Diocese supports our parishes in establishing mental health ministries. Mental Health Ministries provide vital spiritual accompaniment for people experiencing mental health challenges and mental illness, as well as those who care for them. Mental Health Ministry Teams have already been established in two parishes, and several others will follow in the next few months. They are currently preparing these teams by providing skills-based training about mental health and substance use issues. We hope to engage those impacted by mental health or substance use challenges to ensure that the fear of stigma is not a barrier to their being welcomed by their parish faith community.
Mass for Deceased Bishops, Priests, and Deacons
On November 2nd, the Church observes All Souls’ Day, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. Each year, on this day, I offer a Mass for the repose of the souls of all deceased bishops, priests, and deacons from our Diocese. This year, in particular, we will remember those who passed in the year since the last All Souls’ Day: Deacon John Welch; Deacon John Twerago; Deacon James M. Barrett, Jr.; Father Samuel Gomes, OFM Cap.; Deacon Ralph F. Cox; Deacon Joao DeAmaral Moniz; Deacon William A. Martin; and Deacon Paul K. Roma. The Mass will take place at 12 noon in St. Mary’s Cathedral. All are welcome to join us at the Mass to pray for our deceased clergy and to remember their faithful service among us.
Special Time in Adoration
In the past month, I had the pleasure of leading three Holy Hours with Diocesan priests from the Taunton/Attleboro, New Bedford/Fall River, and Cape Cod areas. Each of the Holy Hours was well attended and offered a peaceful, much-needed time of prayer, reflection, and Adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Many of our priests told me they were grateful for this opportunity to gather. It is important we set aside time for fraternal prayer, and I hope to do more in the near future.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha