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Series to focus on mental and spiritual health

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SAN DIEGO — In May, the diocesan Office for Family Life and Spirituality will host a workshop series on the connection between mental and spiritual health, as well as a special Mass for Mental Health Awareness celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan.

May is observed annually as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.

Both upcoming events are part of an ongoing diocesan effort to create a compassionate community within the Church for those affected by mental illness, to provide accompaniment and resources to them and their families, and to reduce the stigma around mental illness that can be an obstacle to seeking help.

The workshop series, “Catholic Prayer Practices for Mental & Spiritual Wellness,” will be presented via Zoom on five consecutive Thursday evenings, beginning on May 6, which is also the National Day of Prayer. Participants are welcome to attend any of all or the sessions, which will address such topics as Spirituality & Mental Health (May 6), The Body & Prayer (May 13), Praying with the Saints (May 20), Ignatian Spirituality (May 27) and Centering Prayer (June 3).

As a whole, the workshop series aims to show how spirituality can contribute to mental wellbeing.

John Prust, director of the Office for Family Life and Spirituality, said the workshops are open to “pretty much anyone and everyone, from those involved in mental health ministry to those who’d like to learn more about particular prayer styles.” There is no cost to attend.

Laurie Dusa, one of the facilitators of the mental health ministry team at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Rancho Peñasquitos, plans to attend the workshop and encourages others to do so.

Dusa, who believes that mental health ministry requires “lifelong learning,” said the series “offers tools and practices for better coping during our faith journey.”

The Family Life and Spirituality Office is also hosting a special Mental Health Awareness Mass. Bishop Dolan will preside over the liturgy, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Saturday, May 15, at St. Michael’s Parish in Poway. May 15 is the feast day of St. Dymphna, patron saint of those with mental illness, anxiety and depression.

Prust noted that Bishop Dolan “has a real heart for this topic.” For the past two years, the bishop also has celebrated a Mass for Survivors of Suicide Loss. And he compiled and co-edited Responding to Suicide, a pastoral handbook for Catholic leaders, released in January.

The Mass will be celebrated at St. Michael Parish’s Saturday vigil Mass time. Deacon Bill Adsit, director of the diocesan Mental Health Ministry Network, ministers at St. Michael’s and will be assisting at the altar for that Mass. Parish-based mental health ministry team members, local mental health professionals and clergy are invited to attend.

Though Mental Health Awareness Month provides an additional opportunity to spotlight an important topic, the local Church’s involvement with that issue is “year-round, round-the-clock,” Deacon Adsit said.

The Mental Health Ministry Network, which operates under the aegis of the Family Life and Spirituality Office, includes active mental health ministry teams at 20 parishes; another six parishes have expressed interest in starting one, with training to begin soon. While some parishes’ teams already include Spanish-speaking members, the ministry network would like to expand that number.

Deacon Adsit describes the local Church’s response to those with mental illness and their loved ones as “compassionate companionship.”
“We understand that their life may not be easy,” he said, “but we do want to make a commitment to them that … we will walk with them.”

Resources to help people cope with anxiety and depression from COVID are available on the Office for Family Life and Spirituality’s webpage, www.sdcatholic.org/family

For more information about the upcoming workshop series and the Mental Health Awareness Mass, contact John Prust at jprust@sdcatholic.org or (858) 490-8256. Register for one of all five sessions of “Catholic Prayer Practices for Mental & Spiritual Wellness” at https://tinyurl.com/mentalspiritualwellness.

To contact the diocesan Mental Health Ministry Network, visit sdcatholic.org/mentalhealth or contact Deacon Bill Adsit at wadsit@sdcatholic.org.

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