Providing local, Catholic solutions to complex human problems
Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of articles about Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and its role as the social-service arm of the Catholic Church.
Many ask, what sets Catholic Charities apart from other philanthropic organizations in our community? This is the question addressed in this series.
First, it is important to know that Catholic Charities is guided by Catholic social teaching, which instructs it to view those it serves in their full humanity — that is, as people who have both great needs and great potential. As a result, Catholic Charities strives to be a model of God’s love and mercy, offering true compassion to those in need while empowering them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to live as full a life as their capabilities will allow.
Many Catholic Charities clients are facing some short-term crisis in meeting basic needs, such as adequate food, clothing or shelter. The organization refers to this initial intervention as a Phase 1 Service (see the Service Pyramid), which typically lasts less than one year.
However, the real focus of its work is why someone comes to Catholic Charities under such circumstances. Those unmet basic needs are often symptomatic of more complex, long-term issues that prevent them from moving ahead in their lives. These secondary interventions are described as Phase 2 Services, which often require years of professional support to address successfully.
Failure to confront long-term issues can have dire social and personal consequences. Consider those who are in need of professional counseling for emotional, psychological or mental health reasons. Without these vital services, a marriage might end in divorce or a student might face expulsion from school.
Many parish priests in the diocese tell Catholic Charities that their greatest need is for trustworthy, professional counselors to whom they can refer parishioners, school children and families. To address this need, it has recently added clinical liaison Jess Adams, whose job is to work directly with the parish priest or his designee to secure counseling services for the individual or family involved. It is important to note that Adams only works directly with the priest.
So many of the vulnerable in communities within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend still have complex needs beyond food, clothing and shelter. It is Catholic Charities’ Catholic mission to address the long-term issues they face, so they can live up to their God-given potential. Professional counseling is one more way they strengthen families and alleviate poverty.
Meet Jess Adams, clinical liaison
Jess Adams is the newest addition to the Catholic Charities staff. She serves in a brand-new role deemed vital by many priests: clinical liaison.
When it was discovered from surveys, interviews and research that mental health services were a great need, the clinical liaison position was created. Adams’ position serves as the first step in responding to the many counseling needs identified in local parishes and Catholic schools.
Every week parish priests and school staff encounter many families, some of whom desperately need more help than they can give. As a result, they see a great demand for professional counselors. Many of the families have complex, ongoing problems, such as marital and parenting issues.
“The most important thing is that the priest can trust the counselor,” said Adams. “So, my job is to connect people with those counselors who will always approach a case from a Catholic point of view.”
To understand how this works, consider the fictional Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They go to their pastor seeking help with their marriage. He observes that the two are struggling with communication and would like to refer them to a qualified professional. Most importantly, he wants to make certain this counselor understands and honors the Catholic point of view of marriage as a sacrament.
After receiving the referral from the priest or his designee, Adams will contact the party to discuss their needs. She may ask if they have a preference for a male or female counselor, or perhaps one who speaks Spanish. With this information, she will seek out the right fit for their circumstances.
“People want someone they can open up to with the most personal details of their lives,” said Adams. “It’s my job to match them with a professional who is both competent and trustworthy.”
The clinical liaison position provides the diocese’s priests with ongoing support when they need assistance accessing community mental health resources for their parish or school families. Catholic Charities sees this as a vital service so that the church can better respond to the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of Catholics in the diocese. Long term, the agency hopes to develop a broader array of counseling.
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