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If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Inspired by Spiritus Christi Church

Dear Blog Visitors:

I was deeply moved by a feature story that appeared in our local newspaper this morning. It focused on a group of volunteers who donate their time to the Spiritus Christi Mental Health Center.

The Mental Health Center is just one of many outreach ministries offered by Spiritus Christi Church in Rochester, New York. This is a parish that truly walks the talk, in that it takes the Gospel message of Jesus Christ very seriously. Jesus instructed us to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, take care of the disenfranchised, and welcome the stranger. Spiritus Christi continues to be a model for those of us who wish to be true disciples of Jesus.

For those of you not familiar with the story, Spiritus Christi began several years ago, as an offshoot of Corpus Christi Church (diocesan parish). Through its independent status, the parish has two ordained female priests (Mary Ramerman and Denise Donato), in addition to having the services of Fr. James Callan, who moved from his role as a diocesan priest to a leader of the Spiritus Christi community.

Many diocesan parishes can only wish they had the capacity to offer all the outreach ministries that are a trademark of Spiritus Christi. In addition to the many ministries offered, Spiritus Christi also has a model tithing program, whereby 15% of its annual budget goes to charitable/non-profit organizations.

Since my ordination as a married priest in December, 2006, many of my friends and colleagues have encouraged me to join the Spiritus Christi community. This is certainly a future possibility for me, especially if the Vatican should make a negative decision concerning my ordination. However, at least for the time being, I remain a diocesan Catholic.

When I made the decision to pursue my ordination as a married priest, Spiritus Christi was admittedly part of my discernment. When one reads the history of the parish, one learns that it came to a point where a decision was reached that if change was to take place, it was time to stop talking about ordainding women, and simply do it. I made a similar decision concerning my ordination. (Rather than simply talking about the ordination of married men, I simply did it.)

What follows is today's inspiring story about the Spiritus Christi Mental Health Center:

Spiritus Christi center is proof of gaps in health care
Mark Hare
Democrat and Chronicle
Rochester, New York

(February 20, 2007) — New Unto Others is a consignment shop for "gently used" home furnishings, says the store's manager, Nancy Carlucci. But it is more than that.You can pick up a custom made sofa or easy chair, a china cabinet, lamps, end tables, original paintings, beautiful pieces of blown glass art, even a Russian samovar, or teapot. Then there's the jewelry — bracelets, earrings and necklaces.

"A young woman who benefited from the mental health center made this jewelry for us," Carlucci says. The materials are donated and all the proceeds go to the Spiritus Christi Mental Health Center, at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church, 121 N. Fitzhugh St.

New Unto Others, which opened at 141 State St. in December, isn't a business, but a ministry. Every penny it clears supports the church's mental health center, just a block away.

Carlucci says she's never run a consignment shop, ("I do have a black belt in consignment shopping, however.") but she's had a lot of volunteer help setting up the shop. "I have a real interest in mental health" she says, "We have a son with two substantial mental illnesses, and my husband and I are very familiar with the problems some people have getting access to care."

The lack of access to mental health care is why Spiritus Christi opened its center six years ago, says director Maureen Marlow.A week ago, I wrote about the Mercy Outreach Center on Webster Avenue. With a staff of volunteer doctors and other medical professionals, it fills in the gaps — offering care to people who go without care.

It's a wonderful ministry, but its existence is proof that we need a system of universal care in this country — so that people in need do not have to rely on finding volunteers to help them out.

The same can be said of the Spiritus Mental Health Center. New York's new Timothy's Law requires that insurance policies include mental health treatment coverage comparable to the medical coverage it offers. But the problem is there are people with no insurance or whose coverage limits have been reached, Marlow says.
She tells me of a woman in her mid 50s, a housewife and mother whose husband left her — and left her with nothing. She moved in with a kind friend, but "she was too depressed to work," Marlow says. She had no insurance and no access to care, until she found her way to Spiritus. She saw a volunteer psychiatrist, eventually found the right medication to help her, got counseling and found a job.

"Most of our clients are high functioning," says Amy Durkee, the center's administrative associate, "but they can't afford therapy."A mother brought her 11-year-old son to the center. He had been expelled from school because of anger and uncontrollable tantrums. The family had insurance, Marlow says, but not for mental health care. "His mom just wanted him to be able to control his anger and stay in school," she says. And with proper care, that's just what happened. "When he left here, he was in school, was helping out at home and had started his own lawn mowing business."

The center has 26 volunteer therapists; two psychiatrists can prescribe drugs. The center has two large and comfortable counseling rooms and a waiting list for clients, Marlow says.

If they had more space and more volunteer help, "we'd be able to use it," she says.The center offers loving and supportive service, but it exists because so many fall through the cracks in our system.

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