By Marilyn Jackson, Director of Pastoral Services, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon
Have you ever been awake in the middle of the night, worrying about something that seems insurmountable, only to find it doesn’t seem quite as bad the next morning? What is it about the seemingly endless darkness that makes us afraid and insecure? Obviously, we can’t see much in the dark and it isn’t until the light of dawn appears, that we can see things more clearly.
At the diocesan Fall Congress on Oct. 19, 2023, we welcomed Bryana Russell from Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries. She talked about the beautiful cacophony of sound called the morning chorus, when birds sing loudly just before dawn. There is a folktale style story about birds singing at dawn… Mama bird goes on a mission to save the forest and the babies are left alone. They miss her, and learning to sing gives them hope that she will return – and she does.
As followers of Christ, we are called to walk with others through the darkest times and show them the hope that the light of the dawn brings. People are coming to us – “the Church” – and we need to be equipped to respond.
We need to hold hope for others when they are unable to feel it for themselves. Our God is a God of comfort and a source of all joy. May we all be that for one another.
Breaking Down the Walls
Fall Congress was the beginning of an important conversation and it is my hope and prayer that the conversations will continue in our families, our parishes and our communities. Bryana gave us some simple tools to start with on our journey to breaking down the “WALLS”:
W – Watch your language: Say that “Paul has depression,” rather than “Paul suffers from depression;” say they “live with depression,” rather than they “struggle with depression.”
A – Ask questions: What do I need to know about your illness? How can I help you?
L and L – Listen and Learn: Every interaction matters; practice active listening; learn what people need, and attend to it
S – Speak up: Tell others what you have learned about language, etc.
This is an oversimplified summary, obviously, but it is a start to becoming aware of how we approach and accompany others who have mental health challenges.
If you want to learn more about how you can gather with others in your parish and participate in a free course, check out The Sanctuary Course – a study guide for small groups, designed to raise awareness and start conversations in local churches regarding mental health: https://sanctuarymentalhealth.org/catholics/
[Editor’s Note: This article is part of Marilyn Jackson’s regular “Fuel Up Friday” e-mail series in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – to subscribe, contact diocesan Director of Ministry Services Marilyn Jackson at email@example.com]