Martina Hart Photo
Lindsay Acree, Pharm D., assistant professor, Pharmacy Practice at the University of Charleston, discusses how to administer naloxone for opioid overdoses at the Social Ministries Conference at Blessed Sacrament Parish in South Charleston.
By Martina Hart
SOUTH CHARLESTON—A social ministries conference with the focus on creating connections in response to the opiod epidemic was held at Blessed Sacrament Parish in South Charleston Dec. 1. It was the second in a four-part series being held around the state to promote healing and reducing stigma with substance abuse.
“Faith, Hope, Love—Creating Connections for Healing” is co-sponsored by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa), and the West Virginia Council of Churches. The event brought together participants from various parishes, churches, and other organizations in the Charleston, Huntington and Parkersburg area, who have been personally affected by substance abuse in their families and communities.
“I feel like we’re at the beginning of the conversation, at least in the Catholic Church in West Virginia,” said Kate Kosydar, Parish Social Ministry coordinator of CCWVa. “This, we hope, will be a way for people to learn more about addiction as a disease and how we can come together as a community to fight the disease.”
Keynote speaker was Rev. Barry Steiner Ball, a United Methodist minister who has served with the Maryland Natural Resources Police, including their Drug Enforcement Administration. He explained the origins and development of the various types of opioids, their effects on the brain’s neurotransmitters, what causes them to be highly addictive, and the physiological reasons behind the struggles in detoxification and long-term rehabilitation. Ball compared the effort of staying sober to walking a tight rope and described the role of faith communities “to be in community with those in recovery, helping them walk the walk, moment by moment.”
He encouraged them also to not judge, but to recognize and welcome the multitude of family members suffering with their loved ones, to remind them that “you are a child of God, blessed and beloved.” Ball suggested helping out in recovery centers and sober living houses or to provide homework help to drug endangered children in their schools as ways to get involved, to “go undercover, plain clothes, as the love of Christ.”
Further ideas were discussed in three breakout sessions. One presentation focused on the foster care system, grandparents and other family members taking custody of children and the various structures needed to sustain them. Motivating recovery was a second topic with the idea for parishes to host support groups for family members or friends of people who are struggling with substance abuse disorders or to offer facilitators for such groups. The third dealt with “prodigal forgiveness.”
Kosydar explained how the story of the prodigal son is very relevant for the opioid crisis. “We have family members and friends who are squandering the love that they’ve been given,” she said. “And we are taught that it is our job as Christians to continue to offer that love even when it’s hard, and we hope that that breakout session in particular will give people the strength and the courage to continue to love even when it’s so difficult.”
A variety of other presentations and small group discussions gave participants the opportunity to connect with each other throughout the day and explore together a variety of strategies and initiatives that promise hope of a better future.
Two more conferences will be held in the series—at St. Joseph Retreat Center in Wheeling March 9 and St. Francis de Sales Parish in Morgantown May 18—both from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Though the conference is free of charge, those interested are asked to RSVP so provisions of materials and lunch may be made. The conference will feature prayer, sharing, stories, a keynote presentation, as well as breakout sessions. Each will end with prayer. Register online at http://bit.ly/connectionsforhealing.