After his daughter, Kathleen, died by suicide in 2016, Deacon Ed Shoener’s family and friends founded The Katie Foundation to shine a light on mental illness. Deacon Ed serves at St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Diocese of Scranton and is no stranger to affects of mental illness. Deacon Ed is a founding member of Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers and the Catholic Institute of Mental Health Ministry at the University of San Diego. On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Deacon Ed Shoener spoke at a luncheon co-sponsored by Catholic Charities of Kansas City- St. Joseph and the Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph. Local clergy and ministry leaders attended to learn how to start a Mental Health Ministry in their own parishes.
In any given year, 1 in 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition and 50% of Americans will meet the criteria of a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life. The goal of Catholic Health Ministers is to provide hope and healing to those suffering with a mental health condition or the families caring for them. Just as Pope Benedict said, “The Church is not called to become a community of psychiatrists; it is called to become a community of persistent, patient love.” It is important to point out, this ministry is not to diagnose or treat mental illnesses, but to accept people where they are and to tell them, “It is good that you exist.” God created us body, mind and spirit and all must be cared for in harmony. Those that suffer with mental illness have many options to treat the mind and body, the Church can minister to the spirit.
Deacon Ed recognizes Mental Health Ministries will have its limitations, but its maintenance as God-centered will undoubtedly contribute to healing and wellness. Remember the words of Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta to Fr. Benedict Groeschel (CFR): “Jesus’ Crown of thorns represents the struggles of those persons with mental illness”. Take comfort: reflect on His agony in the garden. Only an angel could comfort Our Lord because of the depth of His anguish. Listen to Jesus saying to you: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV) Catholic Charities of Kansas City- St. Joseph is a Chapter of the National Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers. If you are interested in more information or becoming a member, email- firstname.lastname@example.org