As thousands of prolife demonstrators fill the streets of downtown Washington on January 24 for the annual March for Life, optimism and uncertainty will both be present in abundance. Forty-seven years after the Supreme Court […]
Bamenda, Cameroon, Dec 30, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has promoted an African bishop known for his emphasis on family, community, and traditional values. In an announcement released on Monday, the Holy See Press Office confirmed that the pope has named Bishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya as the new Archbishop of Bamenda in Cameroon.
Bishop Fuanya, 54, has served as the Bishop of Mamfe, also in Cameroon, since 2014. He came to international attention during the 2018 meeting of the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment.
In contrast to the situation in many European countries, Fuanya said during the synod, the Church in Cameroon and in many parts of Africa is growing – including among young peoples.
“My churches are all bursting, and I don’t have space to keep the young people,” Fuanya during a Vatican press conference in October last year. “And my shortest Mass would be about two and a half hours.”
A 2018 study by Pew Research found that church attendance and prayer frequency was highest in sub-Saharan Africa and lowest in Western Europe. Four out of five Christians in Cameroon said that they pray every day.
Bishop Fuanya was born in 1965 and ordained a priest for the Diocese of Buéa, Cameroon, in 1992, at the age of 26. In 2013, he was appointed as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Mamfe, becoming the diocesan bishop the following year.
Fuanya’s new see, Bamenda, was erected as a diocese in 1970 and elevated to a metropolitan archdiocese by St. John Paul II in 1982. In recent years, the archdiocese has shown clear signs of growth and evalgelization. While the population of the archdiocese remained stable at 1.4 million people between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of Catholics rose from 29% to 42% during the same period.
During the Synod on young people, Fuanya credited the Church’s growth in Cameroon to the alignment between Church teaching and the values of wider society, and the strength of the family as a cultural institution.
“People ask me, ‘Why are your churches full?’” Fuanya said in 2018. “Coming from Africa, the family is a very, very strong institution.”
“We come from a culture in which tradition normally is handed from one generation to the other.”
Fuanya has also spoken about the need for the Church to teach unambiguously on issues of morals and sexuality, remarking during the 2018 synod that he would not accept any usage of so-called LGBT terminology in Church documents because “99.9 percent” of the young people in his diocese would “stand at my door and say, ‘What’s this?’”
“Our traditional values still equate to the values of the Church, and so we hand over the tradition to our young people undiluted and uncontaminated,” he continued, noting that a strong sense of community in the Church is something “very important that Europe can learn from Africa.”
In Africa, the newly-named Archbishop said, “there’s still a lot of things we do as community. That is the difference..”
“What we are trying to do in these small Christian communities is to fight the in-creeping of individualism,” he said.
New York City, N.Y., Dec 29, 2019 / 04:02 pm (CNA).- On Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York condemned the recent spate of attacks against Jewish people in New York, following a stabbing that left five people injured during a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home on Saturday night.
“The news of last night’s attack at the home of a Jewish family in Monsey, New York, is the latest in a series of sickening acts of violence against our Jewish brothers and sisters,” Dolan said in a statement.
“Such acts must be condemned completely and without reservation as totally contrary to everything that people of faith stand for,” he added.
More than 100 people were gathered at Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home in the New York suburb of Monsey to celebrate the seventh night of Hanukkah when suspect Grafton Thomas, 38, reportedly broke into the home around 10 p.m. with a knife that looked “almost like a broomstick,” a witness told CNN.
Of the five people wounded in the attack, two were critically injured. One of the victims is reportedly the rabbi’s son. According to the New York Times, one of the critically injured victims suffered a skull fracture.
The suspect was arrested shortly after midnight Sunday after his car was tracked to Harlem. He was charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary. Authorities reported that Thomas has no criminal history and is believed to have acted alone.
“An attack on any individual or group because of his or her religious beliefs is an attack on us all. This hatred has no place in our city, state, or nation, or anywhere else on our planet,” Dolan said in his statement.
“At my Sunday Mass this morning, I prayed in a special way in solidarity with the victims of these heinous acts of violence, and urge all people to come together in a spirit of unity to reject such hatred and bigotry wherever it occurs,” he said.
The Monsey stabbing is the latest in a series of antisemitic attacks throughout New York. According to CNN, at least one antisemitic attack has been reported every day this week. The incidents are being investigated as hate crimes. It also comes two weeks after two gunmen opened fire at a kosher market in Jersey City shot and killed four people on December 13.
The Monsey stabbing and other attacks have been widely condemned by community leaders and advocates for the Jewish community.
U.S. President Donald Trump urged Americans to “come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of antisemitism” after the stabbing, he said in a tweet on Sunday. “Melania and I wish the victims a quick and full recovery,” he added.
On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo condemned the attack as an act of “domestic terrorism.”
“They’re trying to inflict fear. They’re motivated by hate. They are doing mass attacks,” Cuomo said. “These are terrorists in our country perpetrating terrorism on other Americans, and that’s how we should treat it and that’s how I want the laws in this state to treat it.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that he was “saddened, disturbed, and outraged” by the “senseless” attack on Saturday.
“We are calling for increased protection for the Jewish community now and for those in positions of power and leadership to guarantee that the full force of the law is brought down on those who perpetrate these horrific crimes.”
Editor’s note: The following Conference was given by H.E Robert Cardinal Sarah at Église Saint François-Xavier in Paris, May 25, 2019, just hours after he visited the Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris. It was originally posted […]
Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2019 / 12:23 pm (CNA).- Almost 50 years ago, the University of Kansas established a new humanities curriculum. It lasted only about ten years. But those ten years inspired conversions, priestly […]
Vatican City, Dec 29, 2019 / 05:30 am (CNA).- On feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged families to get off their cell phones and talk to one another.
“In your family, do you know how to communicate with each other, or are you like those kids at the table — each one has their own cell phone, chatting? In that table there is a silence as if they were at Mass, but they don’t communicate with each other,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Dec. 29.
“We need to retake communication within the family: parents, children, grandparents and siblings must communicate with each other,” the pope said. “This is your assignment for today for the feast of the Holy Family.”
Pope Francis said that the Holy Family is a model for families today in “following the Gospel, the foundation of holiness in a family,” as they prayed, worked, and communicated with each other.
“The Holy Family of Nazareth represents a choral response to the will of the Father. The three members of this exceptional family help each other to discover and carry out God’s plan,” he said.
“The family is a precious treasure: we must always support and protect it,” the pope said.
The Holy Family was “totally available to God’s will,” he said, providing an example of obedience and openness for families today.
The pope pointed to Mary’s obedience to God at times when she did not fully understand God’s plans for her.
“Mary silently meditates, reflects and worships the divine initiative. Her presence at the foot of the cross consecrates this total availability,” the pope said.
“As for Joseph, the Gospel does not bring us a single word: he does not speak, but acts by obeying,” Francis added.
An example of this was Joseph’s trust in God’s will as he fled with his family to Egypt.
“Under the guidance of God, represented by the Angel, Joseph removes his family from the threats of Herod,” he said. “The Holy Family is thus in solidarity with all the families of the world forced into exile, solidarity with all those who are forced to abandon their land because of repression, violence, war.”
Pope Francis asked for prayers for the victims of a car bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia that killed over 70 people Dec. 28, and expressed his closeness to all family members mourning their loss.
“Let us entrust to Mary, ‘Queen of the family,’ all the families of the world, especially those experiencing suffering or unease, and we invoke her maternal protection on them,” Pope Francis said.
The celebration of Christmas has a way of amplifying our ordinary family experience. For a loving and harmonious family, Christmas tends to be the time when its familial bonds are tightened. The members of such […]
Denver, Colo., Dec 28, 2019 / 03:02 pm (CNA).- On Monday of National Suicide Prevention Week this year, popular evangelical pastor and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson, 30, reportedly committed suicide. Just hours prior to his death, Wilson had posted a message on Twitter about Jesus’ compassion for the depressed and suicidal.
“Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts,” Wilson wrote. “Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure anxiety. But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that,” Wilson tweeted.
Wilson had been a long-time advocate for mental health, and founded “Anthem of Hope,” a Christian outreach for the depressed and suicidal, with his wife. His death this September followed that of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein, another young, vibrant evangelical pastor and mental health advocate, who committed suicide last year.
In the span of just 16 years, suicide rates among working-age Americans (aged 16-64 years) spiked 34% between 2000 and 2016, according to data from the Center for Disease Control. Among Americans aged 10-24, the spike was even more dramatic – CDC data shows a 50% increase in suicides among this group between 2000-2017.
The suicides of these two pastors highlight this concerning upward trend in suicide, especially among young people, even among those who are part of a Christian community.
CNA spoke with three mental health professionals about why suicide rates, particularly among young people, are increasing, and what the Catholic Church and other faith communities can do to help.
Overconnected, and under pressure
Deacon Basil Ryan Balke is a licensed therapist at Mount Tabor Counseling in the Denver area, and the co-host of the podcast “Catholic Psyche,” which aims to educate people on the integration between the psychological sciences and Catholic spirituality, philosophy and theology. He is also a married deacon with the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church.
Balke told CNA that he thinks one of the driving factors of an increase in suicide among teens and young adults is their constant connectedness to the world through mobile devices, coupled with a lack of greater meaning in their lives.
“When I was in high school…I would go home, and I wouldn’t really have any contact with my friends unless I wanted it,” Balke said.
“And now with the saturation of the iPhone…you get the communication that is constantly there and constantly moving and so you can never unplug, and you can never continue on with life outside of the image you have to put out into the world (through social media),” he said.
“They’re always distracted, always moving forward. I was a youth minister for many years as well, and it was just – these kids never had a moment’s peace,” he added.
Tommy Tighe is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Bay area in California, who also hosts a podcast on Catholicism and mental health called “St. Dymphna’s Playbook.” Tighe told CNA that despite having more connections, young people today are more isolated than ever.
“There’s so much more pressure…there’s so much more of a drive to be popular,” Tighe said, but social media connections often do not equate to “a close-knit community of close friends.”
According to a 2015 article from the peer-reviewed research journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, frequent social media use in children and teenagers is associated with poor psychological functioning, as it limits their daily face-to-face interactions, impairing their ability to keep and maintain meaningful relationships.
The study found that students who reported using social media for two or more hours daily were more likely to poorly rate their own mental health, and experienced high levels of psychological distress and suicidal ideation.
“There’s a trend towards superficial relationships, and of course you don’t post on Instagram ‘I’m depressed’ or something like that, so I think people don’t know who to reach out to,” Tighe noted.
Furthermore, Balke said, “I think what is also happening is the younger people have lost meaning in their day-to-day lives as well. I think all of us have lost meaning as a force in our lives.”
Balke said especially for young people, there is an increasingly intense pressure to perform academically or athletically that has replaced the things that used to bring people a sense of greater purpose, such as faith or virtue or close familial connections.
“Whether it be sports, they have to be track stars, they have to be in all AP (advanced placement) classes, they have to have like 30 college credits before they graduate high school, a 4.0 is not good enough anymore it’s gotta be a 4.3 or something,” he said. “I don’t even know how you do that. They’re pushing themselves so aggressively to the point where there’s no meaning behind it all because they don’t have an overarching purpose. These things are substitutes for that.”
“You might do something stupid like literally eating a tide pod, laundry detergent, and you become world-famous for thirty seconds. It’s so crazy,” he said. “It’s like these kids are just waiting for their next big break.”
The lingering stigma of mental health care
Another driving factor in the spike in suicides among young people and other populations is the lingering stigma of seeking out therapy or other mental health interventions, Tighe said.
“I think we try to act like we’ve really changed (as a society) in our perception of mental health, but I don’t think that’s really true,” Tighe said.
“Especially…it seems like every time there’s one of these mass tragedies in our country, mental health gets brought up and I think that pushes people even further away from wanting to reach out or identify as having an issue,” he added.
Additionally, Tighe said, not only do young people today have a harder time making meaningful relationships with their peers, parents are also often afraid to broach the subject of suicide and mental health with their children.
“I’m hoping that the younger generation of parents will be a little bit more willing, but it’s scary, right? That’s super scary to talk about.”
But talk about it parents must, Balke said, and the more specific they are, the better.
“You want to use that exact phrase: ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’ Or ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ You don’t want to use the phrase ‘self harm,’ or ‘Are you thinking about hurting yourself?’” he said. “You want to be very clear.”
Some people fear that bringing up suicide may plant the idea of suicide in their child’s head, or may worsen their depression, but Balke said that studies show that these fears are unfounded.
“Statistically speaking – you can’t catch suicidal thoughts,” Balke said. “You’re not going to be pushing kids to become suicidal by asking, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ That’s actually… helping them come out of that isolation.”
The Soul Shop movement: helping congregations prevent suicide
In 1999, Fe Anam Avis was the pastor of a Presbyterian church in a small suburban town in southern Ohio when the suicide of three students within seven months rocked his community.
Searching for help and resources for his grieving congregants, he found that there was little to nothing when it came to faith-based resources for suicide prevention and mental health. He started traveling to speak about suicide, but noticed that clergy and church leaders weren’t among his audience members.
“He said, ‘I would go to these towns and they would have me in a fire hall and I would give a presentation about suicide and a hundred people would show up in a small town. And not one of them would be a clergy person,’” Michelle Snyder told CNA. Snyder is the director of Soul Shop, an organization founded by Fe that trains clergy and congregations in suicide prevention and interventions. Fe has since retired.
“(Fe) said consistently it felt like people in the church were not connecting this issue of suicide prevention with faith, and pastors were just not showing up to engage with this as an issue as a matter of faith.”
That’s what spurred Fe to found Soul Shop movement, a group which now travels the country to give workshops to congregations on how to speak about suicide, how to prevent it, and what the warning signs are.
“I’ll often say to a group of faith community leaders, if you’re asking yourself the question, ‘Is anybody in my parish thinking about suicide?’ you’re asking yourself the wrong question. Because the right question is, which six people out of the hundred here are thinking about suicide right now?” Snyder said.
Part of the training consists in simply raising the awareness among clergy and church leaders that there are people in desperation within their own congregations who are at risk for suicide and need help. Snyder said they also train congregations on how to support people who have been impacted by the suicide of a family member or friend.
In addition, they study the stories about suicide, or suicidal ideation, found in Bible passages.
“There’s quite a few,” she said. “We’ve got Judas, the story of Judas, and that’s a suicide. But you’ve also got stories like Elijah (who was) praying to die. You’ve got Saul, who fell on his own sword and killed himself…you’ve got Job, who said death would be better than what I’m experiencing. You’ve got lots of heroes in the Bible who thought about (it) or else just said, ‘I’m in so much pain. Death would be better,’ but who didn’t attempt (it). So you’ve got lots of suicide – you’ve got suicide attempts, you’ve got suicides, you’ve got suicide intervention.”
They also train church leaders in spotting some of the warning signs of a person who is at risk for suicide.
Tighe said some of those warning signs include people who have been noticeably depressed for long periods of time, social withdrawal, talking about suicide or self-harm, or the giving away of prized possessions, among other things.
A warning sign that might seem strange, Tighe said, is when someone who has been depressed for a while is suddenly and inexplicably happy again.
“If someone’s been super depressed and then all of a sudden they’re sort of feeling really good…that makes us very nervous, because sometimes it’s because they’ve made the decision like, okay, on Friday, I’m going to do it. And they feel like a burden lifted off their shoulders, because there’s an end in sight,” he said.
When those risk factors are spotted, those are the times to specifically ask people if they’re considering suicide, Tighe added.
During the Soul Shop trainings, Snyder said, the group takes a public health approach to suicide, meaning that they train faith communities to take a collective responsibility for the health of their own people.
“We spend a whole day equipping communities of faith on how to be communities of faith in relationship to this issue,” she said.
One of the biggest suicide prevention tools that communities of faith can provide, Snyder said, is being “soul-safe” communities of faith, where people feel connected and valued as whole people, and not just for one aspect of their identity.
People who are more resilient to suicide are those whose don’t have all of their “eggs in one basket,” Snyder noted.
“If every egg is in the basket of being on a full scholarship for football, and then I get injured, every egg was in that basket. I have no Plan B, and so that becomes a risk. And helping our people in our congregation become well-rounded people with lives that are full and rich and diverse can be a suicide prevention initiative.”
At Soul Shop, church communities that are trained in suicide awareness and prevention are called “soul-safe communities,” Snyder said, which are “communities where people are intentionally connected to each other…communities where everybody knows what to look for. Communities where we are aware of our tendency to shun when we get uncomfortable and are challenged to not do that.”
What else can be done?
Besides hosting a Soul Shop or other suicide prevention training, what else can pastors and parishes do to help prevent suicide?
Balke said he would encourage all pastors to meet with their staff and frequent volunteers in order to familiarize them with locally available mental health resources. They should know the location of clinics, the hours of those clinics, and what crisis numbers to call, he said.
“They need to have quick access to them, so that when someone is coming in their office, or after a bible study or whatever it is when this kind of conversation comes up, they have it on their phone ready to go and they won’t have to go searching for it,” he said.
Tighe said he recommended that parishes have flyers posted on their bulletin boards with information on local mental health resources, as well as local crisis hotlines to call or text. In the United States, texting “741741” will connect users to a crisis text line.
Text lines get great response rates, Tighe said, because “everyone’s like, okay I would send a text, because it’s easier. And they’re incredible. We get people who come to our clinic who are like, ‘I was driving to the bridge, (because that’s a very popular thing here in the Bay Area for people who are suicidal), and for whatever reason texted these people and they told me to come to your clinic before I went.”
Pastors and clergy should also make it a point to build a personal relationship with the mental health professionals in their congregation, Balke said.
“Someone that they can just phone and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this? What should I do in this situation?’” he said. “I have a number of priests and deacons who have phoned me on a regular basis and say, ‘You know, someone came into my office and said this this and this. What’s going on here?’”
Pastors and other church leaders also need to treat suicide and mental health issues with the seriousness they deserve, Balke said, and not treat them as something that is either not a serious issue, or something that can be solved solely by prayer or spiritual direction.
“Mental health in the Church is a real problem, and…it’s not necessarily being addressed with the seriousness, from an institutional level, that it deserves. People are committing suicide in our parishes and in our churches.”
Snyder said that she is confident that, if properly trained, churches and parishes have a key role to play in preventing suicides in their communities.
“We talk a lot about putting your seatbelt on before the accident happens. And that’s kind of what we’re describing here, is how do we do that in faith communities long before crisis strikes,” she said.
This article was originally published on CNA Sept. 15, 2019.
Twice this year I’ve had two students, both new mothers, come to me to request alternate arrangements because they thought they had to miss my classes when childcare arrangements fell through unexpectedly. Twice I refused […]