Recently, our department hired Marie Justin as the Parish Mental Health Ministry Coordinator, a position funded by a grant from the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers. She has been with us for a little over a month, and, already, we have greatly benefitted from her enthusiasm and focus for this new endeavor. We’re grateful that she agreed to be interviewed for this month’s issue of TOGETHER.

Lisa Wagner-Carollo, Deaf and Disabilities Ministries Coordinator


LISA: What drew you to the position of Parish Mental Health Ministry Coordinator?

MARIE: I was drawn to this position because it combined my gifts, my passions, and a mission that I see a huge need for. A unique call to serve the Church is found when these three areas come together for an individual. For me, I am very gifted at coordinating programs and events. I have done it many times, especially in bringing therapeutic arts to those in need. I am also incredibly passionate about mental health because it affects all of us. We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. Sometimes it is good, other times it’s poor. I love the science behind it, as well as the holistic and spiritual aspects to mental health. I could read, study, and talk about this topic for hours. Lastly, it is a mission that I have a huge heart for as I have seen too many people I love not seek the support that they need because they see treatment for mental health as something only needed if you have a diagnosed mental illness. This has been heartbreaking to witness as it creates a stigma that then fosters isolation and adds to the heaviness and duration of these struggles. It also can lead to strain on existing relationships because individuals who are struggling are not relying on a larger community or professionals to help them. This position being specifically in the Catholic Church was also attractive as I do not need to worry about my morals or beliefs being jeopardized. It also reminds me every day that this mission is so much bigger than me, as our Diocese, and others around the world are now putting together mental health ministries in their parishes.

LISA: What will be your focus in this position?

MARIE: My focus will be to reduce the stigma around mental health, and to develop faith sharing groups for anyone who is struggling with poor mental health, their families, friends, and caregivers. We will have events to bring awareness and healing in these areas, too, such as the Mass of Remembrance for those who died by suicide, and Healing Masses for those struggling with poor mental health. I want there to be inclusiveness, and for parish members to feel supported as they carry their crosses.

LISA: In your perspective, how do Faith and mental health intersect?

MARIE: Faith and mental health intersect because we are human beings, created in the Image and Likeness of God. We are not merely physical, nor are we merely spiritual beings. Caring for our mental health is just like caring for our physical health. In the fullness of our humanity, we cannot ignore our physical/mental health and only focus on the Spiritual. Jesus had physical and mental health. He suffered in the garden. It is said that His mental suffering (the weight of all our sins) was far more painful than any of the physical suffering He experienced during His Passion. He felt isolation and betrayal from His disciples. He wanted His friends to stay awake with Him so He was not alone. That is what these ministries are for, to stay awake and walk with our brothers and sisters who are carrying invisible crosses. To recognize the importance of caring for all aspects of our human bodies, which are Temples.

LISA: Is there anything you’d like to add?

MARIE: I’d just like to add that I am so excited to start meeting the wonderful people who are going to be implementing these ministries in their parishes. I am praying for all of them and the people we will be serving.


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