Ten people a week die of a drug overdose in Erie County. This statistic drove a crowd of 120 on November 15th to St. Leo the Great Church as they held a special evening of prayer, reflection and education for those family and friends struggling with the disease of addiction and for those who try to rescue them through support and treatment.
Grace and Mercy in the Face of Addiction was organized by Maureen Couche RN, the parish nurse at St. Leo's and Melissa Byron, RN but was a vision of Msgr. Robert E. Zapfel S.T.D. as the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy came to a close in the Catholic Church. Zapfel stated,
"I read several weeks ago in the newspaper about the tragic cost of addiction to people. I looked at the startling numbers and rows of the many beautiful faces of young people who have died in our area from the grip of addiction. The statistics now had faces. I was moved to do something on behalf of the Church to reach out to help the many individuals and families struggling with this disease. The Church has much to offer from an educational and pastoral perspective."
The evening began with a Rosary for Addiction with meditations created by a mother whose son was in bondage from addiction but recovered due to prayer, therapy and medical intervention. It was designed to comfort those present through faith and prayer as a demonstration of God's healing love in the face of the darkness of this epidemic. It's the Church's response to say that you are not alone, God sees you and loves you.
Next, Dr. Paul Updike, the Director of Addiction Medicine and Recovery Services for Catholic Health System, gave a presentation followed by a question and answer session. He focused on the medical and spiritual perspective regarding the illness of addiction and the importance of being merciful in our response to people who are suffering with this disease. He shared hope because progress has been made in our community to save lives. Dr. Updike is married with nine children and practices at Sisters Hospital and can be reached through the Catholic Health System at 893-8550 www.chsbuffalo.org .
At the end of the evening a woman expressed her gratitude, "This was a wonderful presentation, helping my family to realize that we are not alone in dealing with this tragedy."
For more information about where to go for help please contact Catholic Charities' Monsignor Carr Institute (716)835-9745 www.ccwny.org or Addiction Management Services through Catholic Health's Pathways Methadone Clinic (716) 862-1330 or Chemical Dependency-Outpatient STAR in Amherst at (716) 862-2059.
Let us continue to pray for the virtue of self-control among our youth who are most at risk and mercy for all, not just in this Year of Mercy, but always.