Churches Minister to Those Without Work

HNP Communications Features

NEW YORK — In these challenging financial times, several Province churches are ministering to the unemployed, helping them view their struggle as part of their spiritual journey, as well as offering practical job-search tips.

Talking with a specialist helps people prioritize, according to J. Patrick Kelly, OFM, director of FrancisCares, a counseling center in  New Jersey.  “Those going through a job change are often so emotionally distraught that groups and counselling can be very helpful.”

In Boston
Saint Anthony Shrine will offer a program on three dates in January. Led byDavid Convertino, OFM, the program, “Job Loss: For Families, Friends and Persons Who Have Lost Their Jobs,” takes place Jan. 14, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., and 5:30-6:30 p.m.; and Jan. 25, 11 a.m. to noon. All events include a meal.

David’s presentation will deal with loss, the stages of loss, recovery, motivation and spirituality.

In New York City
St. Francis of Assisi of New York will offer a support group that helps people come to terms with their anger, worry and grief, as well as understand their journey as one that inspires hope. Meeting Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m., beginning Feb. 3, St. Francis’ free six-week workshop will explore the following topics:

  • coming to terms with job-loss
  • a spiritual journey that inspires hope
  • stress-reduction techniques
  • coping with change
  • fine-tuning an effective resume
  • reflecting on your future
  • developing an action plan

The group will be led by Julie Berwick, director of the St. Francis counseling outreach, Fr. Joseph Cavoto, SA, of the Counseling Center, and Marie Harrington, director of parish outreach programs.  Registration is required, according to Harrington.

In Florida

Sacred Heart Church in Tampa, Fla., has also started a monthly meeting for the unemployed or underemployed. Meeting for the first time on Dec. 3, the group drew seven people, according to Andrew Reitz, OFM, pastor.

A licensed counselor moderated the meeting, and the group plans to get together on the first Wednesday of each month. Sean O’Brien, OFM, coordinates the group.

“It was meant to serve as an opportunity for people to discuss the ways they cope, and to offer personal experiences of their unemployment,” said Sean.  “People were not afraid to chime in about what they were going through, and were willing to voice how they could help others.”

One thing was very apparent, said Sean. “A few people were somewhat emotional about their experiences. I think the social worker was able to set up some appointments to help them,” he said.

The group also agreed to continue meeting. “All in all, it went well and I believe everyone benefited,” said Sean.

In North Carolina
The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh, N.C., is adding to its 50 pastoral care ministries by starting the Job Connections Ministry. The ministry’s mission is to provide spiritual and practical guidance to people experiencing job transitions.

The ministry is not only going to provide spiritual support and encouragement, according to Megan Nerz, director of pastoral ministries, it will also provide practical, hands-on guidance and skills training.

In addition to prayer, encouragement and spiritual support, the ministry will provide job-search skills training, career counseling, networking, advice on finding job leads, resume-review and assistance, financial counseling, and guidance for online employment searches.

Nerz is assembling a team of expert volunteers, parishioners with backgrounds in human resources, recruitment and employment skills to offer seminars and training.

The group will meet for the first time on Jan. 28, and will gather on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 8 a.m. at the parish’s LaVerna Center. The program is open to the community.

Nerz is working on a topic list that includes maintaining a positive outlook, interviewing tips, networking, resume-writing, preparing a 30-second “elevator” introduction, using the Internet, job-search etiquette, non-profit opportunities, interviewing techniques, and finding the job one wants.

The mission is two-fold, said Nerz. “We want to provide the spiritual support that people need, and the practical guidance that will help participants get a job.”

The Province is also embracing the staggering U.S. joblessness as an opportunity to reach men who may be ready for a career change, or a new calling to the Franciscan life.

For the first time, the Province’s Vocation Office began advertising on subways in New York City last month, asking men to consider a career switch. The ad reads, “Day Shift, Night Shift: How About A Life Shift?”  The ad is visible on the vocation page of the Province’s Web site.

Information about the Province’s programs can be obtained by contacting the churches:

  • St. Anthony Shrine, Boston:  617-542-6440
  • St. Francis of Assisi, New York City: 212-736-8500 ext. 290 or ext. 354.
  • St. Francis, Raleigh: 919-848-3217
  • Sacred Heart, Tampa: 813-229-1595

As  Jim Kelly said, “God won’t find them the job but he will help them believe that they’re worthy of a job”

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.