7 months ago · Leah Fogt · Comments Off on The Addiction Crisis: A Catholic and Lutheran Response
On February 19th I was honored to participate in a conference hosted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Southern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – The Addiction Crisis: A Catholic and Lutheran Response. The event was held at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cincinnati. I was pleased to attend with two individuals who are very special to me: Suzanne Beckmeyer, LISW-S, my colleague and close friend, and Deacon Roger Duffy, a deacon at my church and the celebrant when my husband and I were married! Nearly 400 people participated in the event, representing Lutheran and Catholic churches across the state, as well as physicians, social workers, nurses, other professionals, and concerned citizens. The day was focused on collaboratively forging solutions and equipping local churches with information, skills, and resources to better serve individuals with Substance Use Disorders and their families.
A Beautiful Collaboration
When my friend and colleague, Suzanne suggested we attend the conference together, I was very eager to be a part of the event. I feel very strongly that our community needs to band together to address the Addiction Crisis, particularly in this part of Ohio. The collaboration and partnership between the Catholic and Lutheran churches in this particular event is what I hope will be the beginning of a fruitful partnership. It is so exciting to see two Christian denominations uniting toward a common goal. Indeed, we are more alike that we are different. As believers and servants to the community, we are called to do all we can to help one another – and we do better when we all work together!
It was inspiring to see Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and Bishop Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt praying and working side-by-side at the event, bridging gaps between two denominations that have historically been in opposition. We can put our few differences aside, join together in our similarities, and unite toward the goal of serving others.
The conference opened and closed with song, scripture, and prayer co-led by Bishop Dillahunt and Archbishop Schnurr. Both faith leaders affirmed a commitment to support service and change in the area of addictions in our state, as well as a commitment to future collaboration.
Equipping Clergy and Lay Ministers
The main goal of the day was to train and equip local faith communities to better understand and address the addiction crisis in their communities.
We heard a presentation by Fr. Mark Hushen, O.S.F.S., a Catholic priest in the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, counselor, President and CEO of Ashley Addiction Treatment in Havre de Grace, Maryland, and recovering alcoholic and addict. Fr. Hushen shared with us some of his personal story of struggling with a Substance Use Disorder and finding his way to recovery. He spoke about the benefits of 12-step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Celebrate Recovery. Through his lively and interactive talk he emphasized how individuals in recovery are most successful in achieving and maintaining sobriety when they are surrounded by a wide variety of supports including medical support, pastoral care, psychotherapy, housing options, vocational rehabilitation and employment, supportive friends and family members, and other resources. Fr. Hushen emphasized that local churches can play a powerful role in supporting those in recovery and their families. One cannot recover alone!
We also heard a compelling presentation by Sis Wenger, the President and CEO of the National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA), who spoke about the impact addiction has on the family unit. She emphasized how many of the consequences of addictive behavior are suffered by the children in the family, however the indicators of this problems are often very hidden. Wenger encouraged those serving in local churches to be attentive to covert signs that children in our community might be suffering. She identified ways that children are often “parentified” at young ages when there is addiction in the family, taking on adult responsibilities and protector roles rather than more developmentally appropriate activities. She emphasized that local churches wanting to serve those impacted by the addiction crisis must be prepared to help not just those with Substance Use Disorders themselves, but their families as well.
Another fruitful aspect of the day was a time devoted to identification of specific resources available to help those in recovery and their families. Participants broke up into smaller groups by county to learn about specific programs and ask detailed questions. I attended the Montgomery County break out session where we heard are recovery story from a member of the community and a presentation fro Jodi Long, LISW-S, LICDC-CS who is the Director of Treatment and Supportive Services for the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services Board (ADAMHS). This was an opportunity for local church leaders to gather details and brainstorm solutions to bring to their towns and neighborhoods. Long outlined specific ways churches can make commitments to better support those with addiction and their families like hosting trainings on addiction and trauma issues, having Narcan available on the church premises, partnering with local recovery centers through donations and events, hosting 12-step meetings, and preaching with sensitivity and awareness.
Coming back together as a group, returning from our individual county break out groups, we concluded the informational and learning portion of the day with a final presentation on “Connecting the Dots.” Fr. Hushen and Sis Wenger together walked us through additional resources and empowered us to engage in community-based ministry in partnership with existing programs, initiatives, and service providers. Some examples of their recommendations include:
- Be a welcoming community. We can use person-first language. We can resist judgment and invite the community into our church. We can be mindful of the families we serve and reach out when needed.
- Promote addiction awareness and reduce stigma. We can host trainings and events to raise awareness and increase dialogue. We can create lists and gather information about area programs and resources and make them readily available and visible. We an assist those in need by connecting them to resources in loving, supportive, and judgment-free ways.
- Talk about addiction. Clergy and ministers can preach and teach about addiction issues, healing, and forgiveness. We can pray together for those struggling with Substance Use Disorders and their families.
- Form an Action Team. Local churches can develop collaborative strategies and address the unique needs in their community, establishing contacts and point-people to facilitate action and assistance. These groups can lead the charge in supporting a welcoming environment.
- Reduce overdoses. Church staff can be trained in administering Narcan and keep Narcan available on the premises. A Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided with Naloxone) training ca be offered to equip members of the congregation to recognize signs of overdose and administer Narcan.
- Get involved with your county board. Faith communities can collaborate with local service providers and programs, host trainings, and offer sacred space for discussion and healing.
It was a compelling call-to-action, which left me personally feeling energized and inspired.
A Community’s Prayer
The event concluded with a Prayer and Commissioning Service. We prayed for our communities and for the courage, wisdom, and fortitude to serve effectively and compassionately.
One of the closing prayers from that service said it best:
You have blessed us, O Lord, with wisdom and insight and linked us to those who can help us walk with our sisters and brothers with a substance use disorder. We are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, family members, co-workers, members of congregations and members of society. We know that what hurts one member of the Body of Christ hurts us all. We also know in faith that if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Give us strength to continue to shoulder the cross of this crisis in our midst, to be patient and compassionate as we look forward to a day of sharing the joy of healing, no matter how small, because we are each a member of you body, O Christ. Amen.
A special thanks to Suzanne Beckmeyer, LISW-S for encouraging me to participate in this event. Thank you to Deacon Roger Duffy and Fr. Pat Sloneker for supporting me. Thank you to Pr. Aaron Layne, John Pyron, and Susan Barton-Nonno for allowing me to use event photos and quote event materials. Thank you to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Southern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for putting on a great program. I look forward to future collaborations to bring about health and healing in our communities.
Categories: Awareness and News