LAKE VIEW — How do most people see addicts? Do they see them as lazy, unkept, dirty, homeless or jobless? Perhaps some addicts are these things, but that is not the truth of the matter. The truth is that they are all someone's sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, grandparents, friends, family members, coworkers and neighbors. Addiction affects people of all walks of life.
On Saturday, April 29, the social justice branch of the "With One Voice" ministry of St. John Paul ll Parish in Lake View, and WNY United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse Inc., will co-sponsor "Pastoral Response II." The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. with registration, coffee and a light continental breakfast. All are invited to an 8:30 a.m. Mass in the church before the panel begins.
The panel will begin at 9:30 a.m. and features Dr. Paul Updike, director of Addiction Medicine and Recovery Services for Catholic Health Systems; Beth Anzalone, executive director of WNY United Against Drugs and Alcohol Inc.; counselor Beth Gerardi; Avi Israel, founder of Save the Michaels of the World; Deacon Greg Moran, a deacon and pastoral counselor; Aaron Nagley of the Erie County Sheriff's Department; and Cheryll Moore of the Erie County Department of Health.
This panel of experts in the field of addiction will be speaking on topics including understanding addiction from both medical and spiritual perspectives; communities that promote social, emotional, mental, behavioral and spiritual health; understanding, preventing and assisting survivors of suicide; supporting families who are trying to deal with addiction; the view from the sheriff's department; an opiate task force update; and Narcan training. The day will conclude with an ecumenical prayer service led by Father Michael LaMarca, parochial vicar for St. John Paul II Parish.
Pastoral Response II is a follow-up to Pastoral Response, an event held at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora in May 2016. The point of the entire event is to stress the fact that addiction does not care about one's race, age, creed, education or social status. It does not matter if somone is young, old, rich or poor, or if he or she is a student, doctor, police officer, lawyer, teacher, bank teller, server or bartender at a restaurant, and the list goes on. The point is that no one is immune to addiction.
Addiction is a disease of the brain. It is not only a medical, legal and social problem, but a spiritual problem that affects the whole person, plus family and friends. Throughout Western New York and the country, families are struggling because people they love are addicted to alcohol and drugs. An epidemic of opioid use took 247 lives in 2016, and has taken an estimated 50 lives since the beginning of 2017, in Erie County. Since families are turning to faith communities, ministries are expanding to offer comfort to families of deceased individuals and those who are battling daily for recovery.
As a result, individuals from a variety of faith traditions and a variety of ministries are immersing themselves in a conversation that begins with the question, "How can our faith community support those who are suffering and do our part to end this epidemic?"
Faith Holmes, a St. John Paul II parishioner and an organizer of the event, said, "My family and I started this journey about 18 months ago. It was one of the toughest things for us emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. We were probably in denial. We felt alone, shame and embarrassment. How could this happen? Why was this happening and, of course, whose fault was it?"
According to Holmes, the family did not know where to turn, so they went to their priest who has given them much support and many prayers. They also received guidance from others who were going through similar problems, or had gone through similar problems in the past.
"We are so thankful for all of them. We do not meet people by accident. God puts you on each other's path for a reason. Throughout this, we have attended many meetings, counseling sessions, seminars, and training programs/sessions. It is important to never stop learning. There is new information available all the time, but we have always come back to our faith community to share what we have learned, and also for the support, strength and prayers that we receive to help us," Holmes added.
The event is free and open to everyone. To register, go to https://pastoralresponse2.eventbrite.com.