Feed aggregator

Smullin Foundation awards $500,000 grant to CDSP for tech upgrades

ENS Headlines - Monday, September 15, 2014

Church Divinity School of the Pacific has been awarded a grant of $500,000 by the Patricia D. & William B. Smullin Foundation, a family foundation based in Berkeley, California. The funds will support CDSP’s upgrading of information technology, human resources, accounting, student services, financial aid and registration systems.

“This extraordinarily generous grant makes it possible for CDSP to develop and implement systems that will make our life together more efficient, affordable, and consistent with the practices of 21st century institutions,” said the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s dean and president. “These new systems will permit us to participate in the Graduate Theological Union and the wider church in more sustainable ways.”

William B. Smullin was a communications pioneer who introduced commercial radio, television and cable television to Southern Oregon and Northern California. He established the foundation, which supports higher education, health education and the Episcopal Church in Northern California and Southern Oregon, in 1990.

Over the summer, Vice President Amy Vogelsang and a team of CDSP staff worked with contractors to launch the new online system for student registration and begin work on many other CDSP administrative functions. When complete, these new systems will provide CDSP students with more responsive and efficient ways to register for classes, apply for financial aid, pay tuition and fees, and handle other administrative tasks.

“I am grateful for the work of the staff, students, vendors and volunteers who have worked hard to help CDSP realize the promise of the Smullin Foundation’s generosity,” says Vogelsang. “Our new systems will give us the flexibility to pioneer new programs and partnerships that will continue to transform CDSP.”

“This grant allows us to implement a modernized suite of services for students, faculty and staff,” said Patrick Delahunt, CDSP’s director of development. “We are deeply indebted to the Smullin Foundation for their commitment to the Episcopal Church and education at CDSP.”

Church Divinity School of the Pacific, a seminary of the Episcopal Church and a member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, educates students in an ecumenical and interreligious context to develop leaders who can proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world through traditional and emerging ministries. Learn more at www.cdsp.edu.


Palmer Trinity hires new associate head of school, real estate director

ENS Headlines - Monday, September 15, 2014

[Palmer Trinity School] Palmer Trinity School in Miami, Florida, has hired Paul Zamek as its new Associate Head of School and Director of Real Estate. He will report directly to the Head of School, Patrick H.F. Roberts, and will work closely with both the School’s Business and Development offices.

“We are pleased to be welcoming Paul to Palmer Trinity and look forward to his contributions in this capacity. He has been a successful businessman, and his experience in this sector will be an invaluable asset as we work to reach our short-term goals as well as accomplish what our long-range vision is for the School,” stated Head of School, Patrick H. F. Roberts.

Zamek has more than 20 years of experience in site selection and acquisition, entitlement and land use approvals, project management, public advocacy, master planning and architecture. His experience also includes academic institutions in campus planning, development and construction. He was most recently founder and president of Zamek Development, a real estate development services firm in Coral Gables.

In addition, he is an Adjunct Professor for the University of Miami’s School of Architecture. His community involvement includes: Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and the Coral Gables Landscape Beautification Advisory Board as well as other organizations.

Zamek holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in both architecture and urban studies from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He earned a master’s in architecture from Columbia University and is the recipient of an Alpha Rho Chi Medal which recognizes graduating architecture students for their leadership and potential in the profession.

About Palmer Trinity School:
Palmer Trinity School—a coeducational, Episcopal day school—provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum that integrates knowledge, compassion and social responsibility, an essential goal of the school’s mission. Palmer Trinity School serves students from a broad range of socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds in grades 6-12. For more information about the school, visit www.palmertrinity.org.

Archbishop of Canterbury on the pilgrimage of justice and peace

ENS Headlines - Monday, September 15, 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby preaching at the Anglican Holy Trinity Church in São Paulo. Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

[World Council of Churches] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby generously granted an interview on the subject of “the pilgrimage of justice and peace” last week in São Paulo, Brazil. His visit to Brazil was part of a personal journey that has taken Welby to 31 Anglican provinces around the world since his enthronement as archbishop in March 2013.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is primate of the Church of England, a founding member church of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The concept “pilgrimage of justice and peace” is found in a call to Christians and others of good will from the 10th Assembly of the WCC, an event in the Republic of Korea addressed by Welby in November 2013.

This pilgrimage comes with encouragements and challenges.

The more I travel, I observe that the world is less capable of dealing with the diversity. Rather than embracing the “other” who is different, it seems we grab each other by the throat. Over the past years there has been conflict at a number of levels, including violent conflicts. In places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, I have heard the horrible stories of killings, rape and torture of women and children.

Another aspect of conflict is the conflict over the environment. While I was in the Solomon Islands, I observed that the problem is not simple. This nation has experienced a war recently and is struggling with reconciliation. The overwhelming issue there is rising sea levels. Whether we let countries submerge in water or bomb them, both actions count as injustice.

Injustice and lack of peace go together. Therefore peace includes justice.

In this pilgrimage, there are encouragements in the life of the church. Yes, there are divisions, but we see that the Spirit of God is at work in moving people into a deep commitment to justice and peace. Let me give you some examples. The church leaders in South Sudan, rather than taking sides in the war, are calling for reconciliation at great personal risk. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the African Great Lakes Initiative, led by church leaders particularly from Catholic, Anglican, Protestant and Pentecostal traditions, is generating the first signs of hope amidst the conflict, not just in the Congo, but also in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

I will soon meet with leaders from the mining industry to discuss the meaning of operating well in the extraction industry. The initiative comes from Christians in the mining industry.

Spirit of God at work

The Spirit of God is at work overcoming denominational differences to address the issue of human trafficking and slavery. The dialogue between Pope Francis and me on this particular subject has been positive. He is a man with humour and a depth of spiritual life which is challenging and wonderful. We spoke about an initiative between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion on human trafficking and human slavery. The project is supported by an Australian source deeply committed to end human trafficking and slavery.

This is for the first time since the Reformation that we have a major joint global project to challenge human trafficking and slavery, together with the NGOs, charities and churches that have been working on these issues for many years. This is a massive challenge.

The Anglican Communion has a global network for a campaign against domestic violence and gender-based violence, particularly in conflict situations. This summer in England, there was a conference organized by the British government against gender-based violence. Cardinal Nichols, the Cardinal Archbishop in England, and I addressed this issue.

I really want to say that a global church that seeks afresh the presence of Jesus Christ will find itself centred by the Spirit in a pilgrimage of justice and peace and will change the world.

Fundamentalism, and relationships between Christianity and Islam

Fundamentalism is more of a sociological issue than merely a religious one. It can exist in any religion. Fundamentalism, in the sense we use it today, is usually a response from a group of people who find it difficult to cope with change in the society around them. So they try to create a place in which there is no change, in which they are safe. On exclusion from the society, fundamentalists end up very quickly opposed to the mainstream of society. So fundamentalism is a general characteristic that we find throughout history.

Following my meeting with the Christian leaders from the Middle East in England, we describe the trauma faced by people in Iraq and Syria as worse as anything that has hit the Christian community in the region since the invasion of Genghis Khan in 1259.

So how should we respond to that?

We have seen a number of young Muslims in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom who find a purpose in life by being involved in Jihad. This understanding of Jihad which implies violence is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims. The only way we can address this issue is not to simplify but to take into consideration all aspects. This issue must be addressed in a way that brings together all religious traditions that value a nonviolent approach to dealing with conflict.

The question that was raised with Pope Francis was how we should respond immediately to these issues. And he said he was not calling for bombing, nor am I, but we do need to look at all possible means of creating a safe haven for Christians in that region. That may involve soldiers and intelligence operations. The governments need to decide how that is done. But one of the things that changed my mind came after a meeting with leaders in the Middle East who said, “we don’t want asylum. We want to be in the area in which we lived for 2000 years.”

Finally, relations with Islam are complicated because there is this particular, very small minority, who are incredibly dangerous. But on the 3rd of September there was a meeting outside Westminster Abbey with Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders in a vigil for peace in Iraq and Syria.

One danger is to simplify what is an incredibly complicated problem. The other danger is to think that we can deal with this quickly. It’s going to take years of building relationships, of dealing with social and economic problems, but, above all, of enabling young people to tackle issues of materialism in society so that they realize a spiritual purpose in which they can serve God faithfully within the great tradition of an internal Jihad for peace and justice in our lives.

–  Marcelo Schneider works as WCC communication liaison for Latin America and is based in Brazil.

Church grants provided to assist Ferguson, Missouri

ENS Headlines - Monday, September 15, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Bishop Stacy F. Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, announced that The Episcopal Church is providing $40,000 in support of the Diocese of Missouri for immediate domestic poverty, pastoral and community work in Ferguson, MO.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, through the Office of Justice and Advocacy Ministries, is offering $30,000 with the remainder provided by Episcopal Relief & Development.

“The proposal addresses both immediate need and long term issues related to the cycle of poverty,” noted Bishop Stacy Sauls, Episcopal Church Chief Operating Officer. “This joint effort helps restock food pantry shelves to feed the hungry today, but it also provides nutritional counseling and food preparation education for a more healthy future; it helps local businesses get back on their feet, but it also partners with public and private groups to encourage entrepreneurship and sustainability; it provides a mechanism to deliver food and other assistance to shut-ins, but it does so by offering skills training to young adults and older youth that will help improve their lives for years to come.”

The grant emerged as a result of on-the-ground collaboration and conversation between staff of The Missionary Society and the bishop and staff of the Diocese of Missouri in the wake of the events of August in Ferguson. Bishop Wayne Smith of Missouri said, “These funds bring resources into a place experiencing such brokenness. This moment shows the power of belonging to something larger than the merely local. Indeed, we are one Body, and it is always good to remember that truth.”

According to Katie Mears, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Director for US Preparedness and Response, the organization is partnering with the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri to offer emergency assistance to replenish and increase food and personal care products in three food pantries operated by St. Stephen’s, All Saints’ and Ascension Episcopal churches. The food pantries have been affected by recent unrest in Ferguson and the surrounding area.

Funding will be distributed in September.

Three Episcopal parishes – St. Stephen’s (Ferguson), Ascension (Northwoods), and All Saints’ (St. Louis City) –  serve St Louis and North St. Louis County and have been have been significantly impacted by the upheaval in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the community’s response to it.

These churches have been at the forefront of mobilizing resources for the community, ministering to the needs of protestors and police alike and simply “being the church” for all whose lives have been touched by this tragedy.

Objectives of the proposal include:

• To implement nutrition education, counseling and food preparation programs at All Saints’ and Ascension Episcopal Churches, as well as replenish and expand the food and personal care products provided through the pantries operated by St. Stephen’s, All Saints’ and Ascension.

• To develop and implement a community collaborative to assist in funding the economic recovery and revitalization of Ferguson-area businesses.

• To develop and implement a public/private sector partnership to extend the reach of the St. Stephen’s, All Saints’ and Ascension food pantries to the homebound in North St. Louis County and City through a mobile service staffed by trained, mentored and compensated young residents of the community.

For more information contact the Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, Episcopal Church Domestic Poverty Missioner, mstevenson@episcopalchurch.org


Diverse churches to address persecution faced by Christians

ENS Headlines - Monday, September 15, 2014

[World Council of Churches] A recent meeting of representatives from ecumenical organizations, Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Strasbourg, France has promised to address more effectively discrimination, persecution and violence faced by Christians around the world. This theme will be explored in depth through an international consultation to be held in 2015.

The meeting in Strasbourg was convened by the Global Christian Forum (GCF) with participation from the representatives of the Vatican, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal World Fellowship. The meeting was held from 8 to 9 September.

The planned 2015 consultation will address the theme “Christian discrimination, persecution and martyrdom”. The event will bring together representatives of the churches and Christian communities who have faced discrimination and persecution in their local contexts.

As part of the planning for the consultation, organizers will collect data on religious persecution sourced from international organizations. Production of a glossary and examination on the use of the language of discrimination, persecution and martyrdom will also be developed given that some words and concepts are often ill-defined and employed in various ways. Team visits to a number of countries will be planned to explore the different natures of religious persecution.

The process of planning for the consultation will also examine cases of discrimination and persecution in secular societies, especially within first world nations.

Rev. Hielke Wolters, WCC associate general secretary, said, “It is a strong sign of hope that churches and ecumenical organizations with such a diverse background are ready to work together to support Christians who go through difficult times.” He said that “religious freedom is important for all of us, whether Christian, Muslim or adherents of any other religion”.

Wolters went on to say that this joint initiative is very much in line with the WCC’s efforts to accompany Christians and churches in countries like Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria. “We are grateful that we can strengthen this important work in cooperation with the churches and organizations from the Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical traditions,” he added.

Larry Miller, secretary of the GCF, said “The GCF exists to enable churches of all traditions to face common challenges together. It is highly fitting that the first of these initiatives is to support Christians around the world as they face discrimination, persecution and martyrdom in their communities.”

Pastor Ingolf Ellssel from the Pentecostal World Fellowship said that he was “excited about this initiative of the Global Christian Forum bringing world Christianity together and lifting up the voices of those suffering discrimination, persecution and martyrdom. I hope this is the beginning of a new process of unity in the Body of Christ.”

Valle Crucis names Margaret Lumpkin executive director

ENS Headlines - Friday, September 12, 2014

[Valle Crucis Conference Center] The Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor along with The Board of Directors of the Valle Crucis Conference Center, in Banner Elk, North Carolina, are pleased to announce the selection of the next Executive Director as Margaret Lumpkin Love. Margaret will succeed Tom Eshelman who has been the Executive Director for the past 18 years and is retiring in October to join his wife The Rev. Dean Jeanne Finan in Burlington Vermont.

After a extensive national search Margaret was chosen, from a large pool of candidates and lots of hard work and long meetings, by the board of directors. Margaret will start her new position onOctober 7, 2014. She will overlap with Tom for about 3 weeks while she learns the in’s and out’s of this sacred and historic place. Margaret will experience first hand a Wisdom School with the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault and our wonderful Valle Country Fair, a collaborative effort to help those in need put on with Holy Cross Episcopal Church.

Margaret is a native of Columbia, South Carolina and holds a BA in History from Davidson College. She has worked in conference planning, education and training, and grants management for 15 years. She has extensive experience in working with Board of Directors, fiscal management, human resources, and professional education and training. She has been fortunate to have lived in Anchorage, Alaska; North Yorkshire, England; and most recently, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan.

Margaret is a cradle Episcopalian coming from a large South Carolina family which have included quite a few Episcopal Priests. She has a strong sense of community and a desire to deepen her faith through study, prayer, music, and service to others. Her hobbies include singing, reading, volunteer service, photography, cooking, gardening, and running. Margaret and her husband Kurt have a 2 year old daughter, Ada.

Margaret’s professional background and varied living experiences will be combined in the unique role of the Valle Crucis Conference Center’s next Executive Director. She and her family are truly delighted to have been welcomed so warmly into the Valle Crucis family. Please keep Margaret and her family in your prayers as they make this new transition in their lives and as she takes The Valle Crucis Conference Center into a new phase of its long and varied history in this place and in our Diocese.

Anglican voices in defence of the planet

ENS Headlines - Friday, September 12, 2014

A group from Grenada gathers to pray in solidarity with those “most at risk from climate change.” Photo: Courtesy of Our Voices

[Anglican Journal] Anglicans are being urged to join the global conversation on climate change. The online campaign Our Voices: Bringing faith to the climate  “is a profound invitation to people of all faiths around the world to raise their voices and add their perspectives in political discussions about climate change,” says the Rev. Canon Ken Gray, secretary and communications manager of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN).

“The Our Voices project is not an ACEN initiative, but we are seminally involved, and we are encouraging Anglicans globally to sign on,” adds Gray, rector of the Church of the Advent in Colwood, B.C., and the ecclesiastical province of Canada’s representative in the ACEN.

The campaign’s website urges people of religious faith and moral conviction “to sign and pray in their own tradition for the Paris 2015 UN Climate Summit to succeed where all past talks have failed.” Among the campaign’s global ambassadors is South Africa’s Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, chairman of the ACEN and convenor of the Eco-bishops’ Dialogue, in which some 20 Anglican bishops will meet in Cape Town in February 2015.

According to the Our Voices site, 97 per cent of the world’s climate scientists agree that human activity is causing global warming and threatening life on the planet. It is not just an environmental problem but also “a humanitarian and development emergency…already affecting vulnerable communities.” While previous climate summits have failed to achieve significant agreement, “the UN believes there is hope of global agreement in Paris 2015 if the moral call for action is so loud that politicians can’t ignore it,” the site says. The UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) will meet in Paris in November-December of 2015.

A challenge to the world’s faith communities to add a much-needed moral dimension to ecological discussions came from the FCCC’s executive director, Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, who spoke to the St. Paul’s Institute at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London this past May.

For the year leading up to the 2015 summit, many awareness-raising and action-triggering events have been planned.

On Sept. 21, in New York City, people will assemble in the massive, “history-making” People’s Climate March. Representing more than 1,000 business, labour, faith, environmental and educational groups, the march is inviting people from all over to attend or to organize solidarity marches in their local communities. A live-streamed faith celebration will follow the march on the evening of the 21st at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The official launch of Our Voices will be timed to the People’s Climate March, and the campaign will run to the end of this year.

The New York march is timed to put ethical pressure on political leaders as the UN’s secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, convenes a one-day leaders’ climate summit  in New York on Sept. 23. “This conference, some say, has the potential to be major turning point in global climate change policy,” says Gray.

The Sept. 23 meeting is a prelude to the 2015 summit. “That particular meetings summit should crystallize the future of conversations around climate change,” says Gray, adding that it is expected to be as important as the FCCC’s 1992 conference in Rio de Janeiro. He notes that several existing international agreements are due to expire in November 2015.

“The Our Voices campaign is designed to take us from where we are now up to the 2015 conference,” says Gray. “To raise our moral voices and demand that policy makers come up with something that is fair, binding and effective.”

– See more here.

Animando los espíritus, rompiendo el silencio

ENS Headlines - Friday, September 12, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] Estados Unidos y Canadá pueden estar separados por una frontera, pero los nativoamericanos de ambos lados de ella comparten una pavorosa realidad: su tasa de suicidios sobrepasa la de la población general.

En tal medida que “recientemente tuvimos una consulta internacional con personas de Estados Unidos y Canadá aquí en Six Nations [la reserva indígena de Seis Naciones Iroquesas]”, cerca de Brantford, Ontario, según el Rvdmo. Mark MacDonald, obispo para los indígenas de toda la nación de la Iglesia Anglicana del Canadá.

“Sabemos que existe una frontera oficial entre nosotros, pero estamos tratando con muchos de los mismos problemas”, dijo. “En términos generales, hay una tasa mucho más elevada de suicidios entre la población indígena de Norteamérica que en la población en general (véase un artículo relacionado aquí) y las causas son muchas y complejas”.

Por ejemplo, dijo MacDonald: “todas las personas presentes en esta reunión internacional se han visto afectadas por un suicidio de una manera íntima y personal, de manera que se trata de una impresión que nunca desaparece. Siempre está ahí y es una martirizante realidad para la mayoría de los indígenas”.

“Cuando un suicidio ocurre en una familia, a una familia, [sus miembros] se quedan callados”, según dice el Rdo. Norman Casey, rector de la parroquia de Seis Naciones [Parish of Six Nations] y miembro de la nación micmac, de Quebec.

“Lo ocultan, no saben cómo reaccionar, no saben cómo expresarlo. Es el tipo de tragedia que te hace pasar a la clandestinidad, y queremos cambiar esa actitud, ayudar a la gente a recuperarse, y la única manera de hacerlo es hablar sobre el tema, poder llorar por eso, lograr que la comunidad los acoja”.

Pasar del silencio a participar en la conciencia de la prevención y de las asociaciones comunitarias conlleva un intenso dolor, pero es el camino para recuperarse”, dijo Casey.

“Queremos llegar a un punto donde las personas puedan hablar sobre esto. Ciertamente lastima y resulta difícil. Pero, si podemos lograr que las personas se sinceren y conversen, eso ayudará a aliviar a algunos del dolor y podemos percibir que de eso brotan algunas cosas buenas”.

En Seattle: expresándose, tomando conciencia
El día antes de que le pusiera fin a su vida, James, de 18 años y su madre Elsie Dennis llenaron juntos sus solicitudes de becas universitarias.

“Sin embargo, en lugar de ir al desayuno de graduandos [de la Escuela Superior] y tomarse la foto con sus compañeros de curso, tuvimos un funeral y un oficio de entierro para él. Fue devastador”, dijo Dennis, asesora de comunicaciones de la Oficina del Ministerio Indígena de la Iglesia Episcopal que vive en Seattle.

La última foto de Elsie con su hijo James, de 18 años, quien le puso fin a su vida en junio de 2013. 

Eso fue el 7 de junio de 2013, y todavía estamos estupefactos. Pero también queremos ayudar a otros y ayudar a otras familias a comunicarse. Si podemos evitar que una persona se suicide, podríamos considerarnos exitosos”, afirmó.

Luminaria en memoria de James en la caminata ‘Salir de las Tinieblas’ que tuvo lugar en Seattle en junio.

Ella aboga porque haya liturgias y oraciones para los “sobrevivientes de pérdidas” como ella y su familia, y ha recaudado dinero para crear conciencia de prevención a través de la caminata “Salir de las Tinieblas” de la Fundación Americana para la Prevención del Suicidio (AFSP) que tuvo lugar en Seattle en junio.

El objetivo principal “es eliminar el estigma de la enfermedad mental y del suicidio”, dijo Dennis. “Quiero que las personas reciban ayuda porque el suicidio es prevenible y mientras ese estigma se mantenga, las personas se sentirán muy indecisas y evitarán buscar ayuda”, agregó.

Carol Gallagher, obispa auxiliar de Montana, dijo que la toma de conciencia para prevenir el suicidio se incluye entre los materiales para la Colaboración Nativa de los Obispos (BNC), un programa de preparación para clérigos nativoamericanos dentro de la Iglesia Episcopal, y también con Bisonte Blanco [White Bison], una agencia de recuperación y bienestar sin fines de lucro asociada la Oficina del Ministerio Indígena.

“Una de nuestras esperanzas es ofrecerles papeles de liderazgo positivo a nuestros jóvenes y encontrar formas de ayudarlos a aprender los instrumentos que podrían necesitar para trascender los sitios tenebrosos donde parece no haber ni esperanza ni futuro… echando a un lado la vergüenza y dando testimonio de cómo Dios nos acoge a pesar de esas cosas por las que podríamos sentirnos avergonzados o fracasados”, dijo Gallagher, un chéroqui, que también es obispo misionero de la BNC.

Dennis, miembro de la nación shuswap, se pregunta qué llevó a su hijo James a quitarse la vida, ya que él no pidió ayuda ni buscó consejo.

Aunque las tasas de suicidio son “elevadas para la juventud nativa en la reserva”, la familia de Dennis vivía fuera de la reserva y ella imagina que “era difícil para [James] ser un joven nativo y tratar de adaptarse [a su entorno]. Es como tener los pies puestos en dos mundos, el mundo anglosajón y el mundo nativo y tratar de encajar y vivir en ambos”.

Ella cree que él, al igual que otros que contemplan el suicidio, resistió el mayor tiempo posible. Cada día se vive en las tinieblas. Creo que James resistió tanto como pudo, hasta el último día de su último año de secundaria; pienso que lo hizo por mí y por su papá”.

Standing Rock: vigilante y proactivo
El Rdo. John Floberg, canónigo misionero para la comunidad de la Iglesia Episcopal en la Reserva Sioux de Standing Rock, en Dakota del Norte, dijo que siete u ocho suicidios el año pasado han incrementado la vigilancia porque “con frecuencia no recibimos muchas señales de advertencia”. El número de suicidios fue “muy traumático” para la comunidad de unas 8.000 personas. “Siempre está en la pantalla de nuestro radar”, dijo Floberg. “El horror de eso se ha silenciado, y es algo horrible que está teniendo lugar”.

Hace unos pocos años, él se estaba preparando para asistir al funeral de su sobrino de 17 años —que se había quitado la vida— cuando advirtió lo que sonaba como ideas suicidas en la página de Facebook de una joven de la reserva.

“De manera que, mientras me dirigía en el auto al funeral de mi sobrino, me puse en contacto telefónico con algunas personas para que fueran e intervinieran, y se llegaran a su casa, y lograran algún contacto físico con ella o con uno de los padres o un tutor”, contó. “Si tengo la sospecha de que alguien [algún joven] está contemplando el suicidio, busco un adulto que se ponga de inmediato en contacto con él [o ella]. No los dejaríamos solos a menos que puedan decirnos que están en un lugar donde se sienten seguros y no tienen planes de hacerse ningún daño.

“Si un joven no puede prometer eso, entonces tomamos las siguientes medidas, o vamos al salón de emergencia donde pueden ser atendidos por un médico o a una instalación sanitaria para abordar lo que está pasando, pero no se lo dejamos a la casualidad”, apuntó.

Asociaciones comunitarias con consejeros escolares, asistentes sociales y otras [entidades o personas] intervienen en los empeños para prevenir el suicido, añadió. Si un suicidio se consuma, “el terapeuta nos llamará para trabajar mano a mano con los consejeros, a sabiendas de que muchísimos chicos y chicas tienen conexiones con nosotros a través de nuestro ministerio de los jóvenes. Con frecuencia, somos los primeros en acudir al lado de menores que están lidiando con el suicidio de otra persona”.

Conforme a su experiencia, el suicidio “no se basa en un incidente. A veces se basa en una serie de incidentes a lo largo de toda la vida. Lo que sucedió en el pasado que no llegó a resolverse. Es la sensación de que eso nunca va acabarse y el suicidio se convierte en un modo de terminar las cosas”.

Siempre que un suicidio se consuma, Floberg busca inmediatamente a los amigos íntimos de esa persona, por las dudas, dice, añadiendo: “queremos intervenir”.

‘Los suicidios son incesantes’
Unas pocas semanas después de que la Rda. Nancy Bruyere se convirtiera en coordinadora de tiempo parcial del Programa de Prevención de Suicidios para el Ministerio Indígena de la Iglesia Anglicana del Canadá, una prima suya se quitó la vida.

Eso fue en junio de 2013 y Bruyere aún no puede reprimir las lágrimas. En el curso de los últimos meses, “hemos tenido dos suicidios y uno de ellos en mi propia familia”, dijo.

“Mi propio sobrino —tenía sólo 25 años. En verdad nos dejó pasmados. Ninguno de nosotros esperaba que él hiciera algo así— y luego otro hombre joven, exactamente una semana después. Los suicidios son incesantes”.

Bruyere, de 54 años y de la nación ojibwe, que intentó suicidarse en dos ocasiones cuando joven, dijo que, si bien “puedo relacionarlo con los sentimientos de desesperación, depresión, vergüenza…” insiste en crear conciencia y ofrecer esperanza.

“Aunque a la gente no le gusta hablar del suicidio, debemos empezar a hablar de eso”, señaló. “Uno de los temores, creo yo, es que si comienzas a hablar de eso, más personas intentarán hacerlo en nuestra comunidad. Necesitamos hablar más sobre ese tema”.

Ella y la Rda. Cynthia Patterson, que no es nativa, ofrecen materiales para la prevención del suicidio y ayudan a poner en marcha los talleres y las sesiones de capacitación locales en el oeste y el este de Canadá respectivamente. La alta incidencia de suicidios proviene del legado del colonialismo y de los internados “con remoción multigeneracional de la cultura y privación de la vida comunitaria y del cuidado de los padres”, dijo Patterson a ENS. “Fue como un genocidio social”.

El sistema de internados comenzó a mediados del siglo XIX y terminó en los años 70 del siglo XX. El primer ministro canadiense Stephen Harper, en una disculpa oficial en 2008, dijo que dos objetivos fundamentales del sistema de escuelas internas “eran separar y aislar a los niños de la influencia de sus hogares, familias, tradiciones y culturas y asimilarlos en la cultura dominante.

“Estos objetivos se basaban en el supuesto de que las culturas y las creencias espirituales aborígenes eran inferiores e inadecuadas… Hoy reconocemos que esta política de asimilación fue errónea, que causó graves daños y que no tiene cabida en nuestro país”.

Casey dijo que las escuelas despojaron a varias generaciones de cultura, autoestima, amor y orientación paternos, creando subsecuentemente patrones de desesperación generacional heredada y… dando lugar al alto índice de suicidios del país entre los habitantes de la Primera Nación”.

Las iglesias ahora tienen un papel que desempeñar, ya sea mediante la creación de liturgias y oraciones, o auspiciando foros de adultos para promover la toma de conciencia, o reflexiones de Cuaresma, dijo Patterson.

“Uno no quiere que la familia sienta que Jesús abandona a su ser querido, porque Jesús ama a todos y uno quiere hacer hincapié en eso”.

Música, danza y espíritus animosos
Un campamento musical de verano para niños de 8 a 14 años de edad, que tuvo lugar en agosto en la parroquia de las Seis Naciones [de la confederación iroquesa] surgió de un suicidio devastador y se ha mantenido en ascenso.

El campamento musical de verano celebrado en agosto en la parroquia de Seis Naciones, cerca de Brantford, Ontario.

Bajo el lema de “Animando los espíritus, rompiendo el silencio”, la iglesia y la comunidad se reunieron para hacer uso de instrumentos donados —violines, grabadoras, tambores, mandolinas, guitarras y teclados— “porque los niños están muy afectados por el suicidio en esta comunidad y aquí no tenemos ningún programa de artes en la escuela, debido principalmente a la falta de fondos”, dijo Casey.

“Aprendemos bailes campesinos típicos y danzas de cuadrilla y canto”, dijo él refiriéndose al evento de una semana de duración. “Esperamos que resulte contagioso. Intentamos no sólo animar el espíritu de los jóvenes, sino realzar su autoestima, para hacerles sentir bien ante sí mismos, darles un futuro, hacerles sentir importantes, que ellos pertenecen [a una cultura]. Eso nos ayudará y los ayudará a cambiar su futuro”.

Dorothy Russell-Patterson dijo que la idea para el campamento se le ocurrió un buen día. “Me pareció que era lo que había que hacer…tender la mano y tratar de darle algún sentido a lo que uno experimenta y no abandonarse a la desesperación y al aislamiento”.

Pero es más que un programa, “es una relación con la comunidad”, explicó. “Se desarrolló por sí solo porque yo perdí a mi hijo. Él se suicidó y no estaríamos donde estamos como una familia sin esa relación, sin la comunidad y sin mi familia, sin nuestros vecinos, sin nuestra familia de la iglesia”, dijo Russell-Patterson, de 68 años.

“Sé personalmente de cinco suicidios en el curso de este año”, añadió. “Según otras personas experimentan pérdidas, parece casi natural querer acercarse a ellas y ayudarlas a compartir, ayudarlas a compartir su aflicción y a que no se sientan aisladas”.

El campamento se convirtió en un modo de lograrlo; ahora hay planes en marcha para una oportunidad semejante después de clases. Los 22 niños que asistieron en agosto “van a ser nuestro grupo básico para que participen después de la escuela y empiecen a plantar algunas semillas y estimulen a otros”.

Con ayuda económica del Fondo de Recuperación de la Iglesia Anglicana, ella espera que “será un modelo que podría compartirse con las otras naciones indígenas a través del Canadá”. Rusell-Patterson, miembro de la nación payuga, concibe la creación de círculos de conversación, servicios de sanación y la posterior creación de un centro de recuperación —en el contexto de la prevención del suicidio.

Más inmediato, el 10 de septiembre, Día Mundial de la Prevención del Suicidio, “vamos a hacer 200 almuerzos, a ponerlos en bolsas y a obsequiarlos en el parque en el corazón de la aldea a cualquiera que quiera venir, y les contaremos lo que estamos haciendo”.

De muchas formas, el campamento musical y las iniciativas para después de clase le rinden tributo a su hijo, Adam, que tenía 37 años cuando se quitó la vida el 7 de febrero de 2011. “Él no mostró ningún signo de nada, no hubo ninguna señal de advertencia”, dijo Russell-Patterson, enfermera jubilada que ha enseñado en el Mohawk College y en la Universidad de Columbia Británica.

“Era el más amable y gentil de los hombres”, recordaba ella. “Se había diplomado en música clásica. Tocaba la guitarra y el piano, interpretaba música, podía contarte la historia de una pieza y era un atleta fantástico. No era bebedor, no consumía drogas, no tenía problemas que salieran a relucir por actividades relacionadas con el estrés”, afirmó.

Entró en el negocio de la construcción y “trabajó la semana ante de quitarse la vida. Sincero con Dios, simplemente salió a caminar una mañana por el bosque y …” Rompiendo a sollozar, continuó: “yo no sé por qué. Mi esposo lo encontró”.

Recobrando fuerzas, añadió: “viviendo eso y conociendo el dolor más profundo que una madre podría sentir, pensé que en alguna parte podía encontrar a alguien más que también estuviera pasando por este dolor”.

Consolada por la certeza de que Adam “está en un buen lugar”, agregó: “es importante reconocer a la persona que has perdido. No a la muerte, sino a la vida, sus contribuciones a las vidas a las que se han acercado con amor, a la bondad que han dejado tras sí. Podemos ayudarnos mutuamente a través de esto y enfrentarnos con el dolor.

“En cualquier caso, eso es lo que me permite seguir adelante”.

–La Rda. Pat McCaughan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri

Atlanta bishop models ministry of presence at ICE detention center

ENS Headlines - Friday, September 12, 2014

[Dioceses of Atlanta - Lumpkin, Georgia] “… I was in prison and you visited me.”   Matthew 25:36

After driving 30 minutes south from Columbus, Bishop Rob Wright of the Diocese of Atlanta navigates nearly deserted streets lined with boarded up businesses then turns his white Ford onto a manicured lane and past a sign announcing Corrections Corporation of America – Stewart Detention Center.

The corporately-operated Immigration and Customs Enforcement center is one of the nation’s largest, housing more than 1,500 men being detained awaiting decisions on whether they will remain in the U.S. or be deported to the countries most fled to escape poverty and violence.

Bishop Wright visited Stewart Detention Center early last Sunday (9/7/2014) to keep a promise he made to one of the founders of El Refugio, which offers hospitality to the men of the Stewart ICE center and their families.

So, as some went to church and others slept, or ran or recovered from Saturday, Wright met El Refugio volunteer weekend leader Marie Marquardt and three young people from Emory University outside the squat, cream-colored stucco complex surrounded by high fences being circled by patrol vehicles.

“We were led behind razor wire and steel doors by a woman trying to live out Jesus’ words, ‘I was in prison and you visited me,’ ” Wright said. “Visitors are a welcome relief for these men. Detainees don’t have much to do there; up at 5 a.m., some TV, some exercise, lots of wondering, lots of prayer.”

After surrendering cellphones, wallets and anything capable of being used to record their conversations, Wright and the other pilgrims from Atlanta took off their shoes, belts and anything made of metal and passed through airport-style metal detectors.

Each was then ushered into a small booth separated from those they were visiting by glass the thickness of a thumb. As a guard closed the door behind each visitor, a man entered from the other side, his face a mixture of hope and fear. Picking up the phone linking him to the detainee, Wright smiled and began a gentle, low-key conversation.

“Through the glass and the interpreter I saw a young man brought to tears by one short sentence from me,” Wright said: “I want you to know people are thinking about you and praying for you.”

Marquardt, who with other volunteers coordinates everything from messages to making sure the right-size clothes are in the proper backpacks, said while El Refugio needs help providing food for visiting families and departure clothing for the men, the most important need among the detainees is for outside human contact.

“The men often comment how much they appreciate the company of others,” she told Bishop Wright. “Thank you for making time to meet these men.”

For Wright, who has made ministry to immigrants, children, prisoners and soldiers his priorities, his commitment to ongoing person-to-person contact is essential.

“ To ‘respect the dignity of every human being’ that day was as simple as a visit, as simple as listening to someone talk, as simple as reminding someone that life may be hard, but you are not alone,” he said after leaving the detention center. “Through glass and my interpreter I was privileged to see again Jesus at work, and the way forward for His church.”

Based in a two-bedroom, shotgun cottage near the prison, the all-volunteer-run El Refugio provides a place to stay overnight and meals for families from throughout the Southeast visiting a husband, father, brother or son.

The El Refugio volunteers also schedule mostly church groups for weekend visits, relay messages for the detainees and their families and make sure that anyone leaving Stewart has clean clothes and properly fitting shoes. It’s a modest ministry, but one that provides a vital service for those of meager means.

To learn more about El Refugio, visit their website. and like their Facebook page at. Contact a volunteer coordinator by e-mail at info@elrefugioministry.org.

– Don Plummer coordinates media and community relations for the Diocese of Atlanta. He is a member of St. Teresa’s, Acworth, Georgia.

Leon Spencer is serving at St. Augustine in Botswana

ENS Headlines - Friday, September 12, 2014

The Rev. Dr. Leon Spencer, who previously served as an Episcopal mission appointee in theological education to the Anglican Church of Kenya, is teaching at the St. Augustine Theological School of the Diocese of Botswana as part of the companion link between Botswana and the Diocese of North Carolina. He writes regularly reflections of his experiences in the Church in Botswana, called “Botswana Diary.”

Palmer Trinity School welcomes Patrick H. F. Roberts as new head

ENS Headlines - Thursday, September 11, 2014

[Palmer Trinity School press release] “After an extensive nationwide search, Palmer Trinity has found the right person to lead the school and continue our mission of academic excellence and social responsibility. Patrick’s exceptional record of success in institutional advancement is a strong asset that complements the traditions of our school and meets the needs of our diverse community. We are thrilled to welcome Patrick and his family to our community,” stated Michael Baiamonte, Chairman of the Board.

Roberts has more than twenty years of educational leadership and administrative experience in the private school sector. He and his wife and four children moved from Nashville, Tennessee, where he most recently served as Associate Head of School and Head of Advancement for Battle Ground Academy. Additionally, Roberts was Headmaster of St. James Episcopal School in Texas; Head of Middle School, Episcopal School of Arcadiana in Louisiana; Director of Admissions and Financial Assistance at the University Liggett School, and spent several years in various roles including educator, admissions, external relations, and development at Montgomery Bell Academy in Tennessee.

“My vision for Palmer Trinity School is that all members of the community, in and out of the classroom, learn with curiosity and critical examination. Moreover, it is my belief that each of our graduates should leave the School with a commitment to service learning, environmental stewardship, and a greater understanding of themselves and of their responsibilities in a global society,” stated Roberts.

Roberts holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Richmond, and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration and Supervision from Lipscomb University in Tennessee. He is a resident of Palmetto Bay, Florida.

About Palmer Trinity School:
Palmer Trinity School—a coeducational, Episcopal day school—provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum that integrates knowledge, compassion and social responsibility, an essential goal of the school’s mission. Palmer Trinity School serves students from a broad range of socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds in grades 6-12. For more information about the school, visit www.palmertrinity.org. To follow Palmer Trinity School on Facebook, click here.

Palmer Trinity School welcomes the Rev. Mary Ellen Cassini as chaplain

ENS Headlines - Thursday, September 11, 2014

[Palmer Trinity School press release] “It is with great pleasure that we welcome The Reverend Dr. Mary Ellen Cassini to our faculty at Palmer Trinity School. She is highly esteemed and has decades of experience working in the Episcopal educational system. We are confident she will be a tremendous asset in both her administrative and pastoral roles,” stated Head of School, Patrick H. F. Roberts

Cassini joins Palmer Trinity with over 35 years of experience in education as a teacher and an administrator. After teaching English, history and drama for 20 years, she became the Head of Middle School at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida. After her seven-year tenure, Cassini completed a year of Anglican Studies and was ordained to the deaconate in 2006 and to the priesthood in 2007. She returned to Saint Andrew’s in 2005 where she served as Chaplain for an additional seven years.

Following her time at Saint Andrew’s, Cassini became the Associate Rector at St. Mark’s Church and School in Ft. Lauderdale where she served in pastoral work, outreach and mission experiences. Soon after, she returned to education and became the Head of School at St. Christopher’s Montessori Church and School.

Cassini earned her Bachelor of Arts in history, with a secondary teaching certificate from Barry University. She later earned a Master’s of Arts degree in English and a Doctorate of Ministry also from Barry University.

About Palmer Trinity School:
Palmer Trinity School—a coeducational, Episcopal day school—provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum that integrates knowledge, compassion and social responsibility, an essential goal of the school’s mission. Palmer Trinity School serves students from a broad range of socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds in grades 6-12. For more information about the school, visit www.palmertrinity.org. To follow Palmer Trinity School on Facebook, click here.

Western Massachusettes takes bold environmental stand

ENS Headlines - Thursday, September 11, 2014

[Diocese of Western Massachusetts press release] The Trustees for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts passed a resolution at their meeting on August 27, 2014, “to reduce fossil fuel exposure and to invest in renewable energy projects as objectives for our portfolio going forward.” The initial reduction of the diocese’s and parishes’ investments in fossil fuels will be immediate [November 12, 2014], and the first step in an ongoing process to align their investments more closely with their Christian faith and values.

This resolution is the fruit of an eighteen-month process that was begun in February of 2013 and that was carried out with the full support of the bishop, the Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher. Under the leadership of Sue Ellen Lovejoy, President, the Trustees engaged in a lengthy period of research, prayer and discussion before voting to make this change to their investment portfolio.

They were aided in this dialogue by the Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care. Deciding to redirect a portion of financial resources to renewable energy projects is a proactive, faith-based move that acknowledges that care of the earth is not an option but a moral imperative. As the resolution states in the opening paragraph, “Scripture tells us that all the world is God’s precious creation, and our place within it is to respect and care for its health.

We therefore have a spiritual and moral obligation not to profit from damage inflicted on God’s creation by the production and use of fuels that hurt the environment, and a corresponding obligation to seek out and invest in ways to promote its healing and health.”i

Ms. Lovejoy stated that the Trustees took on this responsibility in sober appreciation of their fiduciary duty, in full understanding of the responsible leadership expected of their body, and in clear devotion to their Christian role as good stewards of God’s earth.

As a diocese committed to social justice, the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts is proud to be part of the growing movement of religious groups that have declared their commitment to reduce or eliminate holdings in fossil fuel companies. With the World Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Anglican Church in New Zealand and Polynesia, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, and many other regional and local religious groups worldwide, the diocese has made a thoughtful, prayerful decision to re-align its investments and to underscore the urgency of building a sustainable, just, and low-carbon future.

Read the full text of the resolution here.

Episcopales buscan borrar el estigma del suicido e inspirar el respaldo de la Iglesia

ENS Headlines - Thursday, September 11, 2014

La Rda. Elaine Ellis Thomas se prepara para la caminata ‘Salir de las Tinieblas’ en Filadelfia.

[Episcopal News Service] Caminar por las calles de Filadelfia hasta que la oscuridad de la noche se disolvió al amanecer significó para la Rda. Elaine Ellis Thomas recaudar cerca de $6.000 para ayudar a la prevención del suicidio y “sacar a la luz todo el tema de la enfermedad mental y la depresión de manera que la gente ya no le tenga miedo”.

“El miedo es una de las mayores barreras” para ayudar a los afectados por el suicidio, según Thomas, sacerdote auxiliar en la iglesia episcopal de San Eduardo [St. Edward’s Episcopal Church] en Lancaster, Pensilvania. Ella participó a fines de junio en la caminata “Salir de las Tinieblas”, de más de 25 kilómetros, organizada por la Fundación Americana para la Prevención del Suicidio (AFSP) en memoria de su hijo Seth Alan Peterson, que tenía 24 años cuando se quitó la vida hace cinco años.

Septiembre es el Mes de la Prevención del Suicidio y el 10 de septiembre es el Día Mundial de la Prevención del Suicido. Episcopal News Service (ENS) habló con algunos episcopales que se esfuerzan en lograr que las comunidades religiosas participen en la campaña de toma de conciencia sobre el tema.

El suicidio afecta a personas de todas las categorías sociales, económicas y raciales; en 2011, alrededor de una persona se suicidó en Estados Unidos cada 13 minutos, según datos estadísticos de la AFSP. Para los nativoamericanos, en términos generales, las cifras son incluso más elevadas (véase un artículo relacionado aquí).

‘Las personas no eligen hacer esto’

El tan comentado fallecimiento, el pasado 11 de agosto, del actor y comediante Robin Williams, quien era episcopal, encarna los estigmas y malentendidos  respecto al suicidio y a la enfermedad mental que frecuentemente lo inducen, según dijera Thomas.

Según las estadísticas de la AFSP, alrededor del 60 por ciento de las personas que se suicidan padecen de grave depresión; si el alcoholismo es un factor a tener en cuenta en la ecuación, la cifra se eleva a un 75 por ciento.

Una idea equivocada, dijo Thomas, es que el suicidio es una opción. “Williams fue muy franco respecto a su lucha con la adicción y la depresión, las cuales van de la mano”, agregó. “Pero incluso él llegó a un punto donde no había ninguna salida para él, y él no estaba tomando ninguna decisión. Quiero que la gente entienda que las personas no eligen hacer esto. No es un acto racional. Es la enfermedad la que toma la decisión por la persona que sufre”.

Es inmensamente trágico, añadió “que aquí está esta persona maravillosa, llena de vida, que llevó tanta alegría a tanta gente, pero que no pudo tener esa alegría en su propia vida”.

Seth Alan Peterson, hijo de la Rda. Elaine Ellis Thomas, en cuya memoria ella hizo la caminata.

Del mismo modo, su hijo Seth, que aspiraba a ser actor, era una persona ingeniosa, brillante, encantadora, llena de vida, pero tuvo un grave acceso de depresión desde su primer año en la universidad. Extendió su carrera universitaria pero “luchó durante los próximos cinco años para imponerse un poco sobre sus episodios depresivos”, dijo ella.

“Podíamos creer que él estaba bien; que tomaba sus medicinas, que iba a la terapia, y luego más tarde descubríamos que no estaba durmiendo por la noche y que no estaba yendo a clases”.

Murió el 9 de febrero de 2009, poco después de una conversación telefónica con Thomas. “Mi hijo pensaba que no le importaba a nadie”, dijo ella. “En su funeral sólo había sitio para estar de pie, con amigos y seres queridos afligidos y lamentándose y diciendo ‘¡ojalá yo lo hubiera sabido!’”.

Con frecuencia, los que contemplan el ponerle fin a su vida —y sus sobrevivientes— sufren en doloroso silencio, debido a la vergüenza y el estigma asociados  a las enfermedades mentales y al suicidio, dijo Thomas.

“Si bien nunca he intentado ocultar el hecho de que la muerte de Seth fue un suicidio, conozco la sensación de que incluso algunos amigos cercanos me hayan evitado, o de personas bien intencionadas a quienes les faltan las palabras o dicen algo realmente inapropiado, de participantes en grupos de apoyo que perdieron hijos de otras enfermedades y que me miran de reojo como si Seth no hubiera padecido también de una enfermedad” escribió ella en su blog.

En su 73ª. Convención General en 2000, la Iglesia Episcopal aprobó la Resolución D008, en que se compromete a orar, apoyar y promover la conciencia para prevenir el suicido.

Pero incluso las comunidades de fe “han evitado el difícil tema del suicidio o incluso han enseñado activamente que los que se suicidan están condenados al infierno”, explicó Thomas. “En verdad”, agregó, que algunos “ya han cumplido su condena en el infierno mientras andaban en esta tierra”.

Participantes de la caminata “Salir de las Tinieblas” en Filadelfia se reúnen frente al Museo de Arte. Foto de la FAPS.

Con el ánimo en el suelo, juegan a tener una apariencia feliz

Participantes de la caminata “Salir de las Tinieblas” en Filadelfia se reúnen frente al Museo de Arte. Foto de la FAPS.

Katharina Johnson, de 35 años y a la espera de su segundo hijo, le contó a ENS que “las cosas le están yendo muy bien ahora”, pero reconoció que hace seis años “pasé por dos intentos de suicidio en lo que otros dirían que era “el momento más feliz de tu vida”.

Ella estaba recién casada y su marido, Matt, lo habían ordenado hacía poco al sacerdocio Episcopal. Sin embargo “me sentía profundamente deprimida”, recuerda. “Pero, al igual que muchos otros, jugaba a poner buena cara, aunque tenía el ánimo en el suelo”.

La terapia no me ayudaba y finalmente, “tomé sobredosis en dos ocasiones”, contó ella. “No es racional. Tenía una gigantesca cantidad de factores de estrés y siempre hay componentes externos también. Al final era la enfermedad la que no podía tolerar más. Cualquier cosa era mejor que tener que seguir pasando por eso”.

Finalmente, los medicamentos aliviaron la depresión. “Tomó un tiempo, pero he estado bien, y doy gracias, todas las mañanas al despertar, por eso. No es una solución para todo el mundo, pero a mí me funcionó”.

Ella también se dio cuenta, bastante pronto, que guardar silencio sobre la enfermedad era fatal, no sólo para ella, sino potencialmente también para los demás. Se volvió hacia su comunidad de fe. “Me di cuenta de que no iba a ayudarme ni ayudar a nadie reprimir mis experiencias, de manera que, lentamente, comencé en un pequeño grupo, reconociendo algunas de las cosas por las que estaba pasando y el sufrimiento [que padecía]”.

La respuesta fue abrumadora. “la gente acudió de donde menos la esperaba”, recordaba Johnson. “Me decían cosas como ‘cierto, he experimentado algo como eso, con mi hermano, con mi padre, y nunca hablamos de ello”.

“Nadie en la iglesia jamás supo nada de eso porque creían que eran los únicos. Es sorprendente cuánto dolor existe en torno a estos problemas y cuánto sufrimiento, y si la iglesia no es un lugar para eso, entonces ¿cuál lo es?”.

Ella participó en los esfuerzos educativos creados por la comisión de la salud mental de la Diócesis de Virginia.

Paul Ackerman, psicólogo y copresidente de la comisión la salud, dijo a ENS que “estamos trabajando para incluir a personas con problemas de salud mental en las congregaciones. Encontramos que uno de los grandes problemas en el momento actual era el suicidio y que era algo de lo que nadie hablaba… Nos dimos cuenta de que la Iglesia tenía más responsabilidad para ayudar a prevenir esto”.

Presentaron un taller y “casi ningún clérigo se apareció. Asistieron fundamentalmente laicos que habían tenido la experiencia de suicidio en sus familias”, recordó Ackerman. “Nos dimos cuenta de que aunque todo el mundo allí había estado en iglesias que habían tenido entre uno y siete suicidios en los últimos años, nadie sabía qué hacer y resultaba algo muy doloroso de que hablar. Filmamos todas las presentaciones y las pusimos en cuatro unidades docentes que podrían exhibirse en clases de educación de adultos en las iglesias”.

No obstante lo desalentador, “un intento de suicidio es una oportunidad para el clérigo de empezar a educar a las personas de la congregación acerca de lo que es el suicidio y también a ayudarles a responder a él”, afirmó. “Hay cosas que pueden hacerse”.

Johnson convino en que hay cosas sencillas, tales como cambiar el lenguaje cargado de una actitud condenatoria como “suicidio” al más neutral de “ponerle fin a su vida”, e incluso convertir el suicidio en un verbo, ayuda a reducir el estigma.

Después que Robin Williams le pusiera fin a su vida, los comentarios en Internet revelaban “cuán poco sabemos acerca de las enfermedades mentales”, dijo Johnson.

“Había una absoluta incredulidad de cómo una persona como ésa, una persona exitosa, podía terminar quitándose la vida”, recordaba ella. “Otra reacción era, ‘si sólo él hubiera sabido cuánto lo amaban’. Él probablemente sabía en alguna parte en algún nivel lo querido que era, y también que tenía una carrera enormemente exitosa, pero eso no cambiaba la manera en que se sentía”.

Esas son de las peores cosas que se le pueden decir a una persona deprimida, agregó Johnson. Cosas como “¿por qué te sientes así?  Tienes un gran empleo, una familia amorosa, ¿cuál es tu problema?”.

“Un pastor de la Universidad de Nueva York cuando yo estaba hospitalizada allí vino y me dijo, “yo no tengo idea de cómo usted se siente’. Esa fue la cosa más provechosa que jamás había oído. No alguien que esté tratando de arreglar superficialmente lo que tú no puedes arreglar”, dijo Johnson.

La esperanza reside, afirmó ella, no “en decirle a alguien que se reconcilie consigo mismo… sino en reconocer con aquellos que están deprimidos, y también con los supervivientes de un [intento de] suicidio, que yo no tengo idea por lo que estás pasando. Realmente, ¿hay alguna otra cosa que decir?”.

Escuchar, hacerse vulnerable, estar dispuesto a caminar con los que sufren son actitudes esenciales. Con frecuencia, agregó ella, los demás temen lo que no entienden. “Temen que les vaya a afectar en algo. Hay un gigantesco temor de ese sentimiento de tristeza y pesar insondables que uno no puede controlar”.

Ella combate sus propios temores, reconoció Johnson. “Aún vivo con el temor de que ese infierno vuelva”, dijo. “No creo que se vaya del todo. Es como ser diabética y estar sujeta a un estupendo régimen medicinal y que todo funcione, siempre tienes presente que eres diabético. Eso nunca va a desaparecer, siempre va a ser parte de tu vida y también de la vida de tu familia.

“Pero es ahí donde la Iglesia puede desempeñar un papel”, añadió. “En la Iglesia tuve experiencias magníficas y atroces. Podemos ayudar reconociendo que la vida es desastrosa y, como cristianos, nuestra tarea no consiste en ponerle orden, porque no podemos. Como cristianos, nuestra tarea consiste en caminar con las personas en ese desastre. Eso es lo que hizo Jesús”.

Bolsones de esperanza, ministerios de presencia

Becky Williams recurrió a su propia experiencia con el suicidio en una ocasión que le permitió enseñarle algo a sus hijos y en un taller para su comunidad de fe, la iglesia de San Lucas [St. Luke’s Church] en Baton Rouge, Luisiana.

Directora del ministerio de salud de la parroquia y facilitadora del cuidado pastoral, Williams organizó un taller parroquial, hace varios años, para crear conciencia sobre la prevención del suicidio, pero ella llora aún cuando cuenta cómo tanteaba las palabras para explicar el suicidio de su cuñado Brian a sus hijos que entonces cursaban el cuarto y el octavo grados.

“Ayer fue el 20º. Aniversario de la muerte de Brian”, le dijo a ENS. “Recuerdo haberle preguntado a mi hijo John: ‘¿entiendes lo que hizo Tío Brian?’ Le dije ‘quiero que sepas esto…   si sufres puedes hablar con nosotros, con el sacerdote, con tu hermana, con tus maestros, y si no tenemos la información para ayudarte, te ayudaremos a encontrarla’”.

“Él dejó sus Legos y me contestó: ‘bueno, Mamá, tal vez Tío Brian simplemente no supo a quien llamar’”.

Para ilustrar el increíble costo que el suicidio le impone a las familias, Williams contó: “volamos a Dallas y traíamos las cenizas de Brian cuando mi marido sufrió un ataque cardíaco en el aeropuerto”.

Hace cuatro años su suegro, médico jubilado que padecía de intensos dolores crónicos, le puso fin a su vida. Williams se enfurece cuando recuerda una nota que le enviara alguien en la que sugería  que los suicidas estaban realmente jugando a ser Dios. Como sobrevivientes, “no necesitamos saber eso”, dijo Williams, de 62 años.

Mirando retrospectivamente, “lo que nos ayudó fue ese ministerio de presencia, y que la gente no juzgara”, subrayó. Nunca jamás esperé recorrer ese camino una vez, mucho menos dos veces”.

Wyoming: un amplio llamado diocesano a la acción

John Smylie, el obispo de Wyoming, ha llamado a toda la comunidad diocesana a tomar conciencia de que septiembre es el Mes de la Prevención del Suicidio mediante la oración, el culto y la liturgia. En una carta del 2 de septiembre. calificó la tasa de suicidios en Wyoming como una epidemia de salud pública.

“No sólo encabezamos la nación en casos de suicidio, sino que nuestra tasa de suicidios se encuentra entre las más elevadas del mundo”, según dice en la carta. Él creó un comité para contemplar formas en que “nuestra diócesis pueda sentar una pauta decisiva al ofrecer esperanza donde no hay ninguna”.

La Rda. Bernadine Craft, presidenta de un comité, dijo a ENS que la diócesis acababa de firmar un memorando de entendimiento con funcionarios del estado para hacer posible un programa conjunto de prevención del suicidio.

Wyoming tiene la tasa más elevada de suicidio entre todos los estados, con 23,2 muertes por suicidio por cada 100.000 residentes, según estadísticas de 2010.

Alaska tiene el segundo lugar con 23,1.

Craft, senador del estado, psicoterapeuta y sacerdote en la iglesia de la Santa Comunión [Church of the Holy Communion] en Rock Springs, dijo que había muchísimas conjeturas respecto a las causas de esa dudosa distinción de Wyoming, entre ellas el consumo de bebidas alcohólicas y otras substancias estupefacientes, el fácil acceso a las armas de fuego y, geográficamente, el ser “ un estado muy aislado”.

Los asistentes a la convención diocesana el 4 de octubre también recibirán paquetes de información y materiales de entrenamiento. “Es una labor progresiva”, dijo Craft. “Estamos intentando proporcionar avenidas de apoyo para personas que sufren y que luchan”.

Entre tanto, Thomas, de Filadelfia, espera que más congregaciones y diócesis se comprometerán también en prevenciones de conciencia como las caminatas “Salir de las Tinieblas” así como con “la creación de ministerios para los que sufren; sería una gran obra de compasión por nuestra parte”.

Ella añadió que: “Es asombroso, cuando hablo acerca de mi hijo o de las enfermedades mentales, el número de personas que dice que su hijo o su hija o su tío o su mamá se suicidó.

“Al igual que les di permiso para exponerlo, y eso es algo valioso, dejen que las personas lo saquen a la luz. No sólo les ayuda a ellos, sino que ayuda a la comunidad. No hay motivo para esconderlo”.

— La Rda. Pat McCaughan es corresponsal de Episcopal News Service. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.


ENS Headlines - Thursday, September 11, 2014

Los obispos venezolanos han rechazado la parodia del Padrenuestro dirigido al difunto presidente Hugo Chávez y que se dio a la publicidad recientemente. La oración invoca a Chávez y pide que sus ideales revolucionarios se cumplan en la tierra. Fue preparada durante  el Diseño del Sistema de Formación Socialista. Los obispos han dicho que esta parodia da pie a la idolatría algo contrario a la fe cristiana.

El 105º arzobispo de Canterbury y primado de Inglaterra, Justin Welby, está realizando una  visita pastoral por Brasil y Chile. En Sao Paulo fue recibido por el primado de Brasil Francisco de Assis da Silva y un grupo de clérigos y fieles. Le acompaña su esposa Caroline. En  un encuentro con líderes de otras iglesias y dirigentes locales habló de “El rol de la fe en el progreso de la sociedad”. En Chile puso la primera piedra del Centro Comunitario de Batuco, una comunidad del Gran Santiago, y encabezó una ceremonia litúrgica de Acción de Gracias para recordar al capitán Allan Gardiner, pionero y mártir de la misión anglicana que falleció el 6 de septiembre de 1851 en la Patagonia.

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) considerado el principal arquitecto de la liturgia anglicana y líder de la Reforma Inglesa como arzobispo de Cantórbery, muchos cambios que han influenciado a la iglesia hasta el día de hoy. Él reformó la Eucaristía, el celibato sacerdotal, el papel de las imágenes en las iglesias y la veneración de los santos. Murió en la hoguera en 1556. En resumen se puede decir que Cranmer: Unificó todos los libros de oficios de la iglesia en su solo volumen: el Libro de Oración Común, puso el culto en la lengua del pueblo,  purificó el culto inglés purgándolo de todo error y de todo cuanto no fuera escriturario e hizo del culto celebraciones sencillas donde el pueblo podía participar de manera activa.

Dos sacerdotes episcopales con profundas raíces personales en dos de los países que están siendo devastados por el ébola dicen que los empeños por contener la propagación del virus mortal están siendo obstaculizados por la lentitud de la respuesta, la falta de suministros médicos, el analfabetismo, la pobreza y la desinformación. “El problema que hemos tenido es que los liberianos no toman medidas preventivas”, dijo James Tetegba Yarsiah al Servicio Episcopal de Prensa. Liberia junto con Sierra Leona y Guinea se encuentran en el centro del peor brote de ébola de la historia. Poco a poco los residentes de estos países están despertando a la realidad de este mortal virus.

Después de 22 años de guerras y luchas internas nació en el 2012 la nación de Sudán del Sur. El obispo anglicano Moses Deng Bal de  la diócesis de Wau ha dicho que la mejor manera de honrar a los mártires de la guerra es vivir en “amor y unidad” debido a que todavía hay zonas donde abunda la violencia. El obispo añadió que la única manera de vivir en paz y tranquilidad es “perdonándonos los unos a los otros”.

El semanario británico The Economist informa que Cuba ha recibido más de 700 millones de dólares de Brasil en un año como pago por los servicios prestados por los miles de médicos que sirven en el país suramericano. Grupos opositores al régimen de La Habana han dicho que Cuba explota a esos profesionales y por eso muchos han desertado de los centros médicos. Es una verdadera “trata de blancos” la llamada misión médica, dicen médicos que han podido escaparse. El número total de profesionales de la medicina desde que se inició el programa asciende a 440,000, dice la revista.

La situación de Cuba se agrava por día. La prensa ha informado que 17 balseros que salieron de Cuba por Manzanillo en la antigua provincia de Oriente, perecieron en su travesía ahogados frente a las costas de Yucatán, México. La marina mexicana logró rescatar 17 otras personas que probablemente serán deportados a Cuba.

El ex presidente de Israel, Simón Péres, ha propuesto al papa Francisco la formación de una “ONU de religiones” ante la ineficiencia de la actual organización internacional. Péres  dijo que cada rato estallan guerras  con la excusa de la religión.  “Hay miles de movimientos terroristas que pretenden matar en nombre de la religión”, dijo Péres.

Los abusos contra las mujeres y los niños son noticias frecuentes en la prensa mundial. El Oriente Medio parece ser el principal lugar donde las mujeres no gozan de ningún derecho y son maltratadas y hasta asesinadas. Hay varias organizaciones luchando contra este flagelo pero hasta ahora todo se ha quedado en “letra muerta”.

MANDAMIENTO: Ama a tu prójimo como a ti mismo.

Jim Dannals to be installed vicar at St. Mark’s in Port Royal, SC

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Reverend James Clark (Jim) Dannals will be installed as the first vicar of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Port Royal, South Carolina on Thursday, September 18 by the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg. St. Mark’s was made a mission at the 222nd Annual Diocesan Convention of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina in March 2013. Jim most recently served as Rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Virgina. He retired from that position in August 2013.

Episcopal Church announces major gifts officers

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Bishop Stacy F. Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of The Episcopal Church, has announced that Victoria Manley and Karen A. Wibrew have been named Episcopal Church Major Gifts Officers. The Major Gifts Officers, members of the Episcopal Church Development Office, are responsible for identifying, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding prospective major donors.

Victoria Manley

Victoria Manley, a resident of New York, has extensive experience in fundraising in New York City non-profits including the Manhattan School of Music, the ASPCA, and CARE USA, as well as non-profits in Atlanta GA.  A graduate of Sewanee, the University of the South with a BA in English, Manley has been active in her Episcopal Churches.  She is conversant in Spanish. Manley began her duties on August 11; her office is based in New York City. She can be reached at vmanley@episcopalchurch.org.

Karen A. Wibrew

Karen A. Wibrew resides in Colorado and boasts more than 15 years’ experience in building donor, client, and professional advisor relationships at such organizations as The National World War II Museum, University of Houston in TX, the Tennyson Center for Children in Denver, CO, University of Denver and the Denver Botanic Gardens.  She is a graduate of the University of Denver and the University of Houston. Wibrew began her new position on September 9; she is based in Denver CO. She can be reached at kwibrew@episcopalchurch.org.

Episcopalians seek to erase stigma of suicide, inspire church advocacy

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas prepares for the Out of the Darkness walk in Philadelphia.

[Episcopal News Service] Walking Philadelphia streets until the evening darkness dissolved into dawn meant raising nearly $6,000 to aid in suicide prevention and “bringing the whole subject of mental illness and depression into the light where people aren’t afraid of it anymore” for the Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas.

“Fear is one of the biggest barriers” to helping those affected by suicide, according to Thomas, a curate at St. Edward’s Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She participated in the 16-mile American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) “Out of Darkness” walk in late June in memory of her son, Seth Alan Peterson, who was 24 when he ended his life five years ago.

September is Suicide Prevention Month and Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. The Episcopal News Service (ENS) spoke with Episcopalians working to get faith communities involved in raising awareness.

Suicide affects people across social, economic and racial categories; in 2011 a person died by suicide nearly every 13 minutes in the United States, according to AFSP statistics. For Native Americans, generally speaking, the numbers are even higher (see related story here).

‘People don’t choose to do this’
The much-publicized Aug. 11 death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, an Episcopalian, epitomizes the misunderstandings and stigmas about suicide and the mental illness that frequently fuels it, according to Thomas.

According to AFSP statistics, about 60 percent of those who die by suicide suffer from major depression; if alcoholism is factored into the equation, the number rises to 75 percent.

One misconception, said Thomas, is that suicide is a choice. “Williams was very open about his struggle with addiction and depression, which go hand in hand,” she said. “But even he reached a point where there was no way forward for him, and it was not him making the choice. I want people to understand that people don’t choose to do this. It’s not a rational act. It’s the illness making the choice for the person who is suffering.”

It is hugely tragic, she added, “that here is this wonderful, full-of-life person who brought such joy to so many lives but could not have that joy in his own life.”

Seth Alan Peterson, the Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas’s son in whose memory she walked.

Similarly, her son Seth was an aspiring actor, a witty, vibrant, engaging person, full of life but who had a severe bout of depression his first year away at college. He extended his college career but “struggled for the next five years to get some traction over his depressive episodes,” she said.

“We would think he was OK; that he was taking his meds, going to therapy and then later we’d find out he hadn’t been sleeping at night and wasn’t going to classes.”

He died Feb. 9, 2009, shortly after a phone call with Thomas. “My son thought nobody cared about him,” she said. “At his funeral, it was standing room only, with friends and loved ones grieving and mourning and saying ‘I wish I had known.’”

Often, those contemplating ending their lives – and their survivors – suffer in painful silence, because of the shame and stigma associated with both mental illness and suicide, Thomas said.

“While I have never tried to hide the fact that Seth’s death was a suicide, I know the feeling of having even close friends avoid me, of well-meaning people at a loss for words or saying something really inappropriate, of support group participants who lost children to some other disease looking at me askance as if Seth did not also suffer from a disease,” she wrote in a blog entry.

At its 73rd General Convention in 2000, the Episcopal Church approved Resolution D008, pledging prayer, support and advocacy for suicide prevention awareness.

But even faith communities “have avoided the difficult subject of suicide or even actively taught that those who die by suicide are condemned to hell,” Thomas said. “In truth,” he added, some “have already served their time in hell while walking on this earth.”

The Philadelphia Out of the Darkness walk convenes at the Art Museum. Photo: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Horribly in the pits, playing the happy face
Katharina Johnson, 35 and expecting her second child, told ENS “things are going great right now” but acknowledged that six years ago “I experienced my two suicide attempts during what other people would say should be the most happy time of your life.”

She was a newlywed and her husband Matt was newly ordained to the Episcopal priesthood. Yet “I was deeply depressed,” she recalled. “But, like so many others, I played the happy face even though I was horribly in the pits.”

Therapy didn’t help and ultimately, “I overdosed twice,” she said. “It’s not rational. I had a huge amount of stressors and there are always outside components as well. In the end it was the disease that was just not bearable anymore. Anything else was better than having to go through this.”

Finally, medication alleviated her depression. “It took awhile, but I’ve been well, and I give thanks every morning when I wake up, for that. It’s not a solution for everyone, but it worked for me.”

She also realized, fairly early on, that staying silent about the disease was deadly, not only for her, but potentially also for others. She turned to her faith community. “I realized that it was not going to help me or anybody to bottle up my experiences, so I slowly started in a small group, acknowledging some of the stuff I was going through and the pain.”

The response was overwhelming. “People came out of the woodwork,” Johnson recalled. “They were telling me things like, ‘yes, I’ve experienced something like that, with my brother, my father, and we never talked about it.’

“Nobody in the church ever knew anything about it because they thought they were alone in it. It’s amazing how much pain there is around these issues and how much suffering there is, and if the church is not a place for that, then what is?”

She participated in educational efforts developed by the mental health commission of the Diocese of Virginia.

Paul Ackerman, a psychologist and health commission co-chair, told ENS, “We were working to include people with mental health issues in congregations. We found that one of the big problems at the time was suicide and that it was something nobody talked about. … We realized the church had more responsibility to help prevent this.”

They offered a workshop and “almost no clergy showed up for it. It was mostly lay people with experience of suicide in their families,” Ackerman recalled. “We realized that even though everybody there had been in churches that had had between one and seven suicides in the last few years, nobody knew what to do and it was a very painful thing to talk about. We videotaped all of the presentations and made it into four teaching units that could be shown in adult education classes in churches.”

Albeit grim, “an attempted suicide is an opportunity for clergy to start educating people in the congregation about what suicide is and also to help them with their response to it,” he said. “There are things that can be done.”

Johnson agreed that simple things, such as moving from sin-laden language like “committed” suicide to the more neutral “ending a life,” and even rendering suicide a verb, help to reduce the stigma.

After Robin Williams ended his life online comments revealed, “how little we know about mental illness,” Johnson said.

“There was utter disbelief at how a person like that, a successful person, could end up taking his own life,” she recalled. “Another one was, ‘If he’d only known how much he was loved.’ He probably knew somewhere on some level that he was loved, that he had a hugely successful career, but that didn’t change his feelings.”

Those are among the worst things to say to a depressed person, Johnson added. Things like “why do you feel that way? You have a great job, a loving family, what’s wrong with you?”

“One pastor at New York University when I was hospitalized there came and he said, ‘I have no idea how you feel. But, I’m so sorry you are where you are.’ That was the most helpful thing I’ve ever heard. Not somebody who’s trying to superficially fix what you can’t fix,” Johnson said.

Hope lies, she said, not “in telling someone to get their act together … but acknowledging with those who are depressed, and also with the survivors of suicide, that I have no idea what you’re going through. Really, is there anything else to say?”

Listening, becoming vulnerable, being willing to walk with those who are suffering are key. Often, she said, people fear what they don’t understand. “They’re afraid that it’s going to touch something in you. There’s a huge fear of that feeling of bottomless sadness and grief that you can’t control,” she said.

She battles her own fears, Johnson acknowledged. “We still live in this fear of that hell coming back,” she said. “I don’t think it will ever go away. It’s like if you’re a diabetic and you’re on a great medicine regimen and everything works, you always have in the back of your mind, you are a diabetic. It’s never going to go away, it’s always going to be a part of your life and your family’s life, too.

“But that’s where the church can play a role,” she added. “I had great experiences in the church and awful experiences in the church. We can help by acknowledging that life is messy and as Christians our job is not to clean it up, because we can’t. As Christians our job is to walk with people in that messiness. That’s what Jesus did.”

Pockets of hope, ministries of presence
Becky Williams turned her own experience with suicide into a teachable moment for her children and a workshop for her faith community, St. Luke’s Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The parish health ministries director and pastoral care facilitator organized a parish suicide prevention awareness workshop several years ago, but she still cries when describing how she groped for words to explain her brother-in-law Brian’s suicide to her children, then fourth- and eighth-graders.

“Yesterday was the 20-year anniversary of Brian’s death,” she told ENS. “I remember asking my son John, ‘Do you understand what Uncle Brian did?’ I told him, ‘I want you to know that … if you’re hurting you can talk to us, to the priest, to your sister, your teachers and if we don’t have the information to help you, we will help you find it.’

“He put down his Legos and said, ‘Well, Mama, maybe Uncle Brian just didn’t know who to call.’”

Recognizing the incredible toll suicide takes on families, Williams said, “We flew to Dallas and were bringing Brian’s ashes back and my husband had a heart attack in the airport.”

Four years ago her father-in-law, a retired physician suffering with severe chronic pain, ended his life. Williams bristles when recalling a note sent to her by someone suggesting that those who end their lives by suicide are really playing God. As survivors, “we don’t need to see that,” said Williams, 62.

Looking back, “what helped us was that ministry of presence, and people not judging,” she said. “I didn’t ever expect to be going down this path once, much less twice.”

Wyoming: a diocesan-wide call to action
Wyoming Bishop John Smylie has called upon the entire diocesan community to incorporate awareness of September as Suicide Prevention Month through prayer, worship and liturgy. In a Sept. 2 letter he called the suicide rate in Wyoming a public health epidemic.

“We not only lead the nation in instances of suicide but our rate of suicide is among the highest in the world,” according to the letter. He created a committee to consider ways “our diocese can make a difference in offering hope where there is none.”

The Rev. Bernadine Craft, a committee chair, told ENS the diocese had just signed a memorandum of understanding with state officials to facilitate a joint suicide prevention program.

Wyoming has the highest suicide rate among states, at 23.2 suicide deaths per 100,000 residents, according to 2010 statistics. Alaska ranked second, at 23.1.

Craft, a state senator, psychotherapist and priest at the Church of the Holy Communion in Rock Springs, said there is a lot of conjecture about the causes of Wyoming’s dubious distinction, including alcohol and other substance abuse, easy access to firearms and, geographically, “we’re a very isolated state.”

Those attending the Oct. 4 diocesan convention will also receive packets of resources, and training materials. “It’s a work in progress,” Craft said. “We’re trying to provide avenues of support for people who are suffering and struggling.”

Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s Thomas hopes more congregations and dioceses will also engage awareness prevention like “Out of Darkness Walks” as well as “develop ministries for those who suffer; it would be a great compassionate work on our part.”

She added that: “It’s amazing to me, when I talk about my son or mental illness, the number of people who say my son or daughter or uncle or mom died by suicide.

“Like I gave them permission to voice that, and that is a valuable thing – letting people bring that out into the open. It not only helps them but it helps the community. There’s no reason to hide.”

– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

Brightening the spirits, breaking the silence

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

[Episcopal News Service] The United States and Canada may be separated by a border but Native Americans on both sides of it share a deadly reality: their rate of suicide surpasses that of the general population.

So much so that “we recently had an international consultation with people both from the States and Canada here at Six Nations” near Brantford, Ontario, according to the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s national indigenous bishop.

“We realize there’s an official border between us, but we’re dealing with many of the same issues,” he said. “In general terms, there’s a much higher suicide rate among indigenous people in North America than the general population (see related story here) and the causes are many and complex.”

For example, said MacDonald: “every single person at this international gathering had been struck by suicide in a very intimate and personal way, so there’s just a sense that it never goes away. It’s just always there and it’s a tormenting reality for most indigenous people.”

“When suicide happens in a family, to a family, they sort of go quiet,” according to the Rev. Norman Casey, rector of the Parish of Six Nations and a member of the Micmac Nation, of Quebec.

“They hide; they don’t know how to react, don’t know how to say it out loud. It’s the kind of tragedy that makes you go underground and we want to change that, to help people to heal and the only way to heal is to talk about it, to be able to cry about it, to be able to get hugged by the community.”

Moving through the silence to engaging prevention awareness and community partnerships involves excruciating pain but it is the path to healing, Casey said.

“We want to get to a point where people can talk about this. Yes, it hurts and yes, it’s hard. But, if we can get people to open up and talk, that will help to alleviate some of the pain, and we can feel good things grow out of that.”

In Seattle: Speaking out, raising awareness
The day before he ended his life, 18-year-old James and his mom Elsie Dennis filled out his applications for college scholarships together.

“Yet, instead of him going to his senior breakfast and having his senior class photo taken, we were having funeral and burial services for him. It was devastating,” said Dennis, a communications consultant for the Episcopal Church’s Indigenous Ministries Office who lives in Seattle.

Elsie’s last photo taken with her son James, 18, who ended his life in June 2013.

That was June 7, 2013, and “we’re still numb. But we also want to help others and help other families reach out. If we can prevent one person from dying by suicide, we’ve been successful,” she said.

Luminaria commemorating James at the Out of Darkness Walk in Seattle in June

She advocates for liturgies and prayers designed for “loss survivors” like her and her family, and raised money for prevention awareness through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Out of Darkness Walk” in Seattle in June.

The whole goal “is to remove the stigma from mental illness and suicide,” Dennis said. “I want people to get help because suicide is preventable and as long as that stigma is in place, then people are very hesitant and avoid seeking help,” she said.

Montana Assisting Bishop Carol Gallagher said suicide prevention awareness is included among materials for the Bishops Native Collaborative (BNC), a training initiative for Native American clergy within the Episcopal Church, and also with White Bison, a recovery and wellness nonprofit agency that partners with the Office of Indigenous Ministries.

“One of our hopes is to bring positive leadership roles to our young people and find ways to help them learn the tools they might need to get beyond the dark places that seem like there’s no hope and no future … stepping aside from shame and talking about how God embraces us despite those things we might feel ashamed of or a failure about,” said Gallagher, a Cherokee, who is also BNC bishop missioner.

Dennis, a member of the Shuswap Nation, is left to wonder what caused her son James to end his life, since he didn’t ask for help or seek counseling.

Although suicide rates are “high for Native youth on the reservation,” Dennis’s family lived off-reservation and she imagines “it was difficult for [James], being a young Native man and trying to fit in. It’s like having your feet in two worlds, the Anglo world and the Native world and trying to mesh those and live those out.”

She believes he, like others contemplating suicide, “held on for as long as possible. Each day is lived in darkness. I think James held on as long as he could, until the last day of his senior year of high school; I think he did that for me and for his dad.”

Standing Rock: vigilant and proactive
The Rev. Canon John Floberg, canon missioner for the Episcopal Church community on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, said seven or eight suicides in the last year or so have heightened vigilance because “often we don’t get a lot of warning.” The number of suicides was “pretty traumatic” for the community of about 8,000.

“It’s always on our radar screen,” said Floberg. “The horror of it has been muted, and that’s a pretty horrible thing that’s taking place.”

A few years ago, he was preparing to go to the funeral of his 17-year-old nephew – who had ended his own life – when he noticed what sounded like suicidal thoughts on the Facebook page of a reservation youth.

“So, while I’m driving to my nephew’s funeral, I’m on the phone with people to go and intervene, to get to her house, to get in physical contact with her or a parent or guardian,” he said. “If I have suspicions anyone is considering it, we get an adult in immediate contact with them. We will not leave them alone unless they’re able to tell us they’re at a place where they feel safe and not planning to do themselves any harm.

“If a kid can’t promise that, then we take the next steps, either going to the emergency room where they can be followed up by a doctor or to a medical facility to address what’s going on, but we don’t leave it to chance,” he said.

Community partnerships with school counselors, hospital social workers and others factor into suicide prevention efforts, he added. If a suicide is completed, “the therapist will call us in to work side by side with counselors, knowing that a lot of the kids have a connection to us through youth ministry. Often, we are first responders to kids who are dealing with somebody else’s suicide.”

In his experience, suicide “is not based on an incident. Sometimes, it is based on a lifelong series of incidents. What happened in the past didn’t get resolved. It feels like it’s never going to come to an end and suicide becomes a way of making things stop.”

Whenever a suicide is completed, Floberg immediately seeks out that person’s closest friends, just in case, he says, adding: “We want to intervene.”

‘The suicides just don’t stop’
A few weeks after the Rev. Nancy Bruyere became a part-time program coordinator for the Anglican Church of Canada’s Suicide Prevention Program for Indigenous Ministries, a cousin took her own life.

That was in June 2013 and Bruyere is unable to hold back the tears. Within the past few months, “we’ve had two suicides and one of them in my own family,” she said.

“My own nephew – he was just 25. It really shook us up. None of us expected him to do something like that – and then another young man, exactly a week later. The suicides just don’t stop.”

Bruyere, 54, an Ojibwe, who herself attempted suicide twice as a young person, said that, while “I can relate to the feelings of hopelessness, depression, shame …” she presses on, to raise awareness, offer hope.

“Even though people don’t like talking about suicide, we need to start talking about it,” she said. “One of the fears, I think, is that if you start talking about it, that more people will attempt it in our community. We need to talk more about it.”

She and the Rev. Cynthia Patterson, a non-native, offer suicide prevention resources and help implement local workshops and trainings in western and eastern Canada, respectively. The high incidence of suicide stems from the legacy of colonialism and residential schools “with multi-generational removal from culture and removal from community living and parenting skills,” Patterson told ENS. “It was like cultural genocide.”

The residential school system began in the mid 1800s and ended in the 1970s; Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a 2008 official apology, said two primary objectives of the residential school system “were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures and to assimilate them into the dominant culture.

“These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal … Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.”

Casey said the schools stripped several generations of culture, self-esteem, parental love and guidance, subsequently creating patterns of inherited generational despair and … resulting in the high suicide rates across the country among First Nation peoples.”

Churches now have a role to play, whether through creating liturgies and prayers, or hosting awareness-raising adult forums or Lenten studies, Patterson said.

“You don’t want the family to feel that their loved one is abandoned by Jesus, because Jesus loves everyone and you want to reinforce that.”

The music camp held in August at the Parish of Six Nations near Brantford, Ontario.

Music, dance and brightening spirits
A summer music camp for children aged 8 to 14 in August at the Parish of Six Nations grew out of a devastating suicide, and it just keeps on growing.

Called “Brightening the Spirits, Breaking the Silence,” the church and community came together to make use of donated instruments – fiddles, recorders, drums, mandolins, guitars and keyboards – “because children are affected by suicide greatly in this community and we have no arts program in the school here, mostly because of lack of funding,” said Casey.

“We learned barn dancing and square dancing and singing,” he said of the weeklong experience. “We hope it goes viral. We’re trying to not only brighten the spirits of young people, but to raise their self-esteem, to make them feel good about themselves, to give them a future, make them feel important, that they belong. That will help us and help them to change their future.”

Dorothy Russell-Patterson said the idea for the camp just came to her one day. “It seemed this would be the right thing to do … to reach out and try and make some sense of what one is experiencing and not be left in despair and isolation.”

But it’s more than a program, “it’s a relationship with the community,” she said. “It evolved on its own because I lost my son. He suicided and we wouldn’t be as far as we are today as a family without that relationship, without the community and my family, our neighbors, our church family,” said Russell-Patterson, 68.

“I know personally about five suicides within the last year,” she added. “As other people experienced loss, it seemed almost natural to want to reach out to them and help them share, help share their grief so that they wouldn’t feel isolated.”

The camp became a way to do that; now plans are underway for a similar afterschool opportunity. The 22 children who attended in August “are going to be our core group to come in after school and begin to plant some seeds and to encourage others.”

With financial support from the Anglican Church’s Healing Fund she hopes “it will be a model that could be shared with other First Nations across Canada.” A member of the Payuga Nation, Russell-Patterson envisions talking circles, healing services and the eventual creation of a healing center – with suicide prevention as a backdrop.

More immediately, on Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, “we’re going to make 200 lunches, bag them up and have a giveaway in the park in the heart of the village for anyone who wants to come, and we’ll tell them about what we’re doing.”

In many ways, the music camp and afterschool initiatives pay tribute to her son, Adam, who was 37 when he ended his life Feb. 7, 2011. “He showed no sign of anything, there was no warning,” said Russell-Patterson, a retired nurse who has taught at the Mohawk College and at the University of British Columbia.

“He was the kindest, gentlest man,” she recalled. “He had a degree in classical music. He played guitar and piano, interpreted music, could tell you the history of a piece and was a terrific athlete. He was not a drinker; he didn’t take drugs, he didn’t have problems that were shown by stress-related activities,” she said.

He had gone into the construction business and “worked the week before he took his own life. Honest to God, he just simply walked out one morning and into the bush and … ” Breaking into sobs, she continued: “I just don’t know why. My husband found him.”

Gathering strength, she added: “In living through it and knowing the deepest pain a mother could feel, I think I could find it somewhere to maybe help somebody else that’s also in that pain.”

Comforted by the knowledge Adam “is in a good place,” she added: “It’s important to recognize the person you’ve lost. Not the death, but the life, their contributions to the lives they’ve touched with love, to the goodness they’ve left. We can help each other through it and deal with the pain.

“That is what keeps me going, anyway.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

Jason Lucas named priest-in-charge of St. Edward, Wayzata, MN

ENS Headlines - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Rev. Jason Lucas has been called as priest-in-charge of St. Edward the Confessor Episcopal Church in Wayzata, Minnesota. Lucas was raised in Arizona in a small copper mining town, a predominately Hispanic community. He grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition and worked for several years with youth. However, as he grew in his faith journey he was challenged theologically by the teaching of the Roman Church. After much prayer and discernment he left the Roman Catholic Church and later took up a youth minister position at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. Lucas entered seminary in August 2010 and completed his Master of Divinity degree at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, in May 2013. Minnesota Bishop Brian Prior ordained him a transitional deacon in June 2012 and a priest in June 2013.