VOICES

Preserving our mission

Each year, Catholics in the United States collectively give tens of millions of dollars to national collections that carry out the Gospel call to assist the poor and vulnerable by addressing pastoral and human development challenges impacting people domestically and internationally. Our donations show our solidarity, assist people at their most vulnerable and help to evangelize and teach the faith. While we also support our local parish and diocese, national collections allow modest gifts to the collection basket to make multi-million-dollar differences on lives and communities here at home and around the world.

A Catholic dictionary for pastoral planning

As we enter into a more public phase of the archdiocese’s pastoral planning process, I want to review some language. This may seem elementary, but it is important that when we hear and use certain words, we operate with common definitions.

A habit to break: ‘Doomscrolling’

A June 25 WIRED magazine article described a new and dangerous habit that has become part of popular technology practices. “Doomscrolling” refers to the pattern of scrolling through social media in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest and being flooded with morbid messages that elicit an almost physical discomfort.

A call to address racism in our hearts and community

The Catholic bishops of the United States recently issued a pastoral letter against racism entitled Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love. In this instruction, we call for a conversion of hearts, minds and institutions to address the evils of racism that still exist in our country and communities. As we wrote in the letter:

“Racism occurs because a person ignores the fundamental truth that, because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God. When this truth is ignored, the consequence is prejudice and fear of the other, and—all too often—hatred.”

The killing of George Floyd in Minnesota on Monday, May 25, was very traumatic and appalling. I wish to acknowledge the anger, pain and sadness this and other encounters between police officers and black men evoke not only in Minnesota, but throughout the country and in our own faith family as well.

These deaths are tragic, and they expose a symptomatic and deep-seated connection between institutional racism and the continued erosion of the sanctity of life. If we do not respond appropriately as a society, we will be tacitly acquiescing to the ongoing killing of unarmed black men.

The senseless taking of life defies the fundamental principles of justice, every notion of dignity and the fact that all of our lives are connected. As human beings, we are responsible for each other.

As Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said in her May 27 statement to the SPD, “policing is an honorable profession filled with honorable public servants, committed to protecting life and serving the community.” Chief Best also told her officers that if they see a coworker doing something that is unsafe, out of policy, unacceptable and illegal, they need to act, and that if someone’s life is unnecessarily in danger, it is their responsibility to intervene.

As Catholics, we are called to the same standards of behavior. We cannot stand by and not respond to incidents of racism and inhuman treatment of our black brothers and sisters, or anyone else.

Whether citizens or officers of the law, we are all part of a community that is responsible to care for each other. Our time-honored Catholic social teaching about the common good demands no less of any of us.

The fact that we were created in the image of God teaches us that each person is a living expression of God who must be respected and preserved and never dishonored. Let us continue to pray and work together for the personal and societal conversions necessary to address the evils of racism. 

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - July/August 2020

The sacrament of the Virgin

Every morning as I get ready to start a new day, an inevitable part of my attire is my wristwatch. Apart from being very useful in telling time, it is for me a true sacrament of my father, may he rest in peace. On the back, I had engraved my father’s name, the date of his death and the phrase “With eternal gratitude.” Most probably, we all have sacraments like this in our lives.

Supporting mental health during the pandemic

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental illness impacts 1 in 5 Americans, indicating that this is a widespread issue that affects all communities. One in 25 adults in America live with a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth and young adults ages 10–24. And all this is before you factor in the impact of a global pandemic.

For the last eight years, the Archdiocese of Seattle, through its Mental Health Ministry Committee, has sought to educate parish and school communities on mental health and reduce the stigma for those suffering from mental illness. Among its many offerings are workshops on suicide prevention and mental health first aid trainings that equip people to respond appropriately to situations where mental illness may be in play. The ministry hopes to use this Mental Health Awareness Month to amplify resources and practices that improve mental health.

Our Lady of the Lake School in Seattle has taken seriously the need to foster mental health support during the pandemic. The school organized a virtual Mental Health and Movement Monday for all its students, preschool through eighth grade. The day was filled with activities aimed at improving personal well-being. Students learned about finding calm moments and mindful exercises. Students did creative projects to help express themselves in positive ways. One student practiced mindfulness by gently keeping a balloon in the air. Another made a cube with sides indicating different feelings such as “grateful” and “loving life.” Still another found wellness via sidewalk chalk and the sharing of a hopeful message.

Each grade had a scheduled Zoom call with the school counselor, Katie Denniston, to check in and learn about staying physically and emotionally healthy during this time of quarantine. “All feelings are valid,” Denniston said, “and in order to stay emotionally healthy, we need to reach out to others when we need help, be it in big or small ways.” Parents expressed deep gratitude for the event, noting that the activities helped emphasize positivity and served as a perfect way to return from spring break.

OLL’s Mental Health and Movement event is timely for multiple reasons. For one, it directly speaks to an intensified need for self-care due to the pandemic that has isolated so many. Secondly, it came just before May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S.

Sandy Barton Smith, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools and a member of the archdiocesan mental health committee, applauded the efforts of Our Lady of the Lake. “Events like OLL’s Mental Health and Movement Monday are of paramount importance, especially now,” she said. “This issue affects all of our students, faculty and staff, parents and communities, and — if not addressed — small things can become more serious.” She hopes that this initiative can be replicated at other schools and parishes.

As Catholics, we continue to be in communion with one another, caring for all people, especially our brothers and sisters living with mental illness. During Mental Health Awareness Month, the archdiocesan Mental Health Ministry Committee invites you, your family, your parish and school community to continue to pray for all people impacted by mental health and find creative ways to practice mental wellness, like our students and staff at Our Lady of the Lake School!

As stay-at-home orders continue during the pandemic, enthusiasm for online events seems to be waning, but not in this case. “This was the best distance learning day yet,” exclaimed one OLL student, “and I hope for another one again soon!”

Erica Cohen Moore is the Archdiocese of Seattle’s director of pastoral ministries.