How one diocese is taking steps to support mental health
In the June issue of America, Bishop John P. Dolan of the Diocese of Phoenix shared how losing family members to suicide led him to found a mental health ministry. “The truth is, when I had to survive some of these losses early in my life, the church was the only place of comfort for me,” he wrote. “But there was a gap between the help they could provide as spiritual leaders and the deeper accompaniment I needed.” Bishop Dolan’s story drew a number of responses from our readers.
Thank you, Bishop Dolan, for such an inspiring and thought-provoking article. What resonated with me was the stated understanding that we are all disordered in one way or another, and that to moralize or make judgments on another is profoundly un-Christlike. Instead, we are called to uphold our brothers and sisters in love and compassion on this pilgrim journey to our heavenly home, where the first will be last and the last first. This reframing will profoundly inform my interactions with others.
I wish Catholicism in general and Christianity as a whole realized that mental illness is not a sin and that, as Bishop Dolan pointed out, it does not cut one off from God. God never promised us freedom from problems on this earth, but he did promise he would be with us when they arose. I have to believe that our Lord must be close to those suffering from mental health issues and those who love them.
I am a chaplain who facilitates spirituality awareness groups for adolescents and adults in a hospital’s behavioral and psychiatric units, and Bishop Dolan’s article touches my soul. The level of accompaniment he describes, down to providing meals and homework help for people who need it, is exactly what Christianity demands: namely, putting into action the words we too often merely say in the prayers of the faithful at Mass.
One of the finest articles I have ever read by one of our bishops on the ministry of mental and spiritual health—the bishop articulates the deepest sense of the sanctity of human life in this article. What a blessing to have such a bishop!
I believe Catholic involvement is essential to transforming the lives of those affected by mental illness.
Bishop Dolan, thank you for entrusting to us part of your family’s story. It will be a help for so many who carry deep emotional pain. And who among us, at one time or another, does not?
I am grateful for this ministry and the opportunity to learn more about Bishop Dolan’s vision. As I help a loved one with schizophrenia, I continue to be dismayed by the lack of good spiritual guidance and resources. I believe Catholic involvement is essential to transforming the lives of those affected by mental illness. It’s a daunting task. Knowing Bishop Dolan is dedicated to a ministry to support those who are on this journey is a source of joy and hope.
Rarely have I read such a beautiful piece of personal testimony and inspired leadership. Thank you, Bishop Dolan and America!
Thank you, Bishop Dolan, for sharing your deep personal loss and for creating this ministry of accompaniment for your diocese and parishes. So many of our families have been touched by mental health concerns; I pray that other parishes and dioceses follow your great example.
I presided at the funeral Mass of one of our students who struggled for many years with depression and other issues. God gave me the privilege to visit him a few weeks before he committed suicide, and I was blessed to have comforted his parents and sisters. Thanks, Bishop Dolan, for what you are doing.
Tony Marti, O.F.M.Cap.