Mercy: All in a day’s work for counselors
Counseling the doubtful – those facing challenges who doubt their lives will ever get better, who question their faith in God or their own self-worth – this is the work of counselors at Catholic Charities as they help their clients experience mercy and hope.
"On a daily basis, we deal with individuals who are lost because of behaviors, because of relationships that have gone sideways," said Kevin Kaminsky, director of behavioral health at Catholic Charities’ Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan Center and member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, both in Omaha.
The center provides a variety of services, including adult mental health and substance abuse counseling and treatment, and limited mental health counseling for adolescents, he said.
Helping people grow and change is a work of mercy, said Julie Lord, clinical manager at the Sheehan Center and a member of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Blair. "It’s helping people find what they need in their lives."
"We have people come in who are at the lowest point in their lives, struggling with addiction, with poverty, with other problems," she said. "Being able to help them get to a better place … it’s why I come to work every day."
"Our clients deal with trauma on a daily basis … they don’t feel their lives are worth living and feel that everything bad happens to them," Kaminsky said. "We provide a level of hope that says, ‘while you’re here, you’re okay and nothing bad is going to happen to you.’"
"I also try to incorporate spirituality into my work with most, if not all, of my clients," Kaminsky said. "We talk about where their spirituality is – and if it’s not there, how do we grow it to a point where they can believe there’s a greater being there who can help them?"
From a counselor’s perspective, Kaminsky said, mercy is the ability to say "you are who you are and no matter what has happened, life can get better, and I’m not going to judge you based on what’s happened in the past."
And that pertains to anyone helping another person cope with their struggles.
"That level of acceptance and understanding goes further than anything else we can do," Kaminsky said. "We don’t pass judgment on the person."
"Just listening, being kind, and being willing to help and accept the other person for who they are" – these are ways to show mercy to others, he said.
Lord recalled a past client who felt extremely hopeless about her situation because of mental health issues, addiction, poverty and domestic violence. Through counseling and residential and outpatient treatment, today she is in a much better place, Lord said.
"It was about building a relationship with her and counseling her to make better decisions," Lord said. "And in her case, her doubting was not a bad thing."
Those doubts about her ability to change her life created an internal struggle and ultimately the motivation to seek help with her problems, Lord said. "She was able to take that doubt and use it. It’s what drove her to make those positive changes."
Being supportive of others is something everyone can do, Lord said. "It’s about trying to help people meet their needs – asking, what are their hopes, what do they want out of life and what can you do to help them?"
Living one’s own faith and leading by example also are important, she said. "We can show the way by living the way Jesus taught us to live."
CELEBRATING A SPECIAL YEAR
The Catholic Voice series, "Living the Jubilee Year: Putting Mercy into Action" continues this month with a story and photo by senior writer Mike May about the work Catholic Charities counselors do to show mercy and give hope to the clients they serve.
In addition, Father James Kramper, pastor of St. Peter de Alcántara Parish in Ewing, St. John the Baptist Parish in Deloit Township, rural Holt County, and St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Clearwater, shares his reflections on corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Honoring the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, the series will run each month through September. Story ideas about fellow Catholics making a difference in people’s lives through acts of mercy can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call the newspaper and ask for Mike May at 402-558-6611.