Set the World on Fire

“Set the World on Fire” – The Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J., Ph.D.

Graduation Day!! I had looked forward to that day since my very first class at Loyola and what a glorious day it was! Sharing that celebration with so many of my classmates added to the joy. Even with such great emotions there was also a sense of uncertainty. What happens next?

President Brian F. Linnane had a suggestion: Set the world on fire!

He made this statement during his closing remarks and those words still resonate with me. As graduating students our time at Loyola has been an incredible and enlightening experience. Yet if it only remains an experience, a moment in time, then I believe that we have not fully embraced what has been taught. We went through this experience so that we could change ourselves and also assist others in the process of positive change. Whatever theory you use, from CBT to Adlerian, positive change for the client is the goal. Well your client is the world and it is in need of some positive change!

Many of us will move on to different parts of the country and in some cases, even the world. I hope that we resolve to do our part to make the world a better place. It may sound like a cliche’ or a song lyric, but that is the goal. It may be through an incredible counseling session with a client or sharing an encouraging word with a stranger. Whatever the case, know that, as graduates, we are being sent out into the world to make a change. And I am confident that we will. (You can contact Dr. Ralph Piedmont for the exact probability within one standard deviation, but trust me it is high!) We have endured reading the equivalent of the Library of Congress, we have used United Nations level cooperation to make group presentations, we have written papers of biblical proportions, and have meticulously prepared APA citations. In addition to all of that, we have also completed years of clinical internships. And we have not only survived; we have thrived.

The world needs our hope, our faith, our service and our presence. It has been my honor to have shared this journey with you, my fellow classmates. I have been enlightened by your conversations and encouraged by your lives. You are truly wonderful and exceptional and I am excited about the great impact that you will have on others. So to echo the words of President Linnane: Set the world on fire!

My Simple Easter Message

by Andrea Noel

As we approach this Easter weekend I decided to spend some time reading and reflecting on Matthew 28:1-20. There are several themes that stand out in scripture’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. On Easter Sunday, we are usually reminded that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven; Jesus overcame death; Jesus was restored to his throne. I remember, when I was a young girl, this depiction of Jesus’ triumph left me wondering “What about those Jesus left behind and equally what about us?”

Today, as I read Matthew chapter 28 I found the answer to my childhood wondering. The last lines in Matthew chapter 28 reads, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus’ resurrection was truly a miraculous sign, one of hope, but his words, “I am with you always…” offer more than hope to me. These words are a reminder of Jesus’ commitment to not just rule in heaven, but to share in our physical experiences here on Earth; our experiences of pain and wellbeing, joy and sorrow, excess and lack. Jesus’ words evoke peace. Jesus reminds us that his return to Glory is not one that leaves us abandoned or forsaken; his ascension is not a miraculous event that separated his presence from us. This Easter, I am reminded that throughout my earthly experiences Jesus is with me till the end of time. I do not breathe, think, or move without his loving presence accompanying me. As you celebrate Easter, and move through the ups and downs of life, recall these simple words, “I am with you always.” Be assured that the peace of Jesus lives with us and in us forever.

What’s Happening – April 2014

Happy Friday Meaning Making Readers!

Continuing this month in Meaning Making we have included the monthly summary of events from March and a list of events coming up in April. If you have something you would like included for May’s addition, please let us know!  Enjoy and thanks for reading!

What you missed in March:

On Thursday March 13, 2014, the Multicultural & Diversity Committee hosted the Colors, Faces, and Tastes of Diversity Celebration. Participants brought food, wore clothing, brought artifacts, and told stories that represent their national, cultural, ethnic, or regional identity. Dr. O’Grady’s delicious Shepherd’s Pie, Dr. LaSure-Bryant’s beautiful African Artifacts and display cloths, and Ken White’s story about his parents’ different backgrounds were highlights. The diversity celebration is a part of the rich history of the Loyola Pastoral Counseling Program. Pencil it in on your calendar for next Spring!  The next event hosted by the Multicultural & Diversity Committee is on April 10th.

-By Rev. Kenneth W. White, M.A., MDiv.

Fr. Charles J. Borges, S.J, an associate professor in history at Loyola University Maryland, spoke on March 25, 2014 at the Columbia campus.  He gave a little information about India, some basics about the religion of Hinduism, and his own background, including where in India he is from.  He then expounded upon a mindfulness technique that he learned in India and continues to practise called Vipassana. Vipassana comes from the Buddhist tradition, but is not itself Buddhist, thereby being open to all faith traditions.  The intent of Vipassana is to become the master of your self and to be at balance.

-By Nicole Snyder

On March 27th Erin Richardson presented her dissertation defence.  She examined the phenomenological experience of faith expression on Facebook for 12 adolescents between 14 and 18.  Erin discovered that the study of adolescent use of social media for religious and spiritual identity through Facebook has yet to be explored.  Erin found that participants perceived Facebook as a community of faith.  Additionally, the freedom of religious expression offered through Facebook was found to be a significant benefit.  Erin saw positive implications for Pastoral Counselors in the use of social media to assist clients with religious and spiritual identity.

-By Nicole Snyder

Coming up:

April 10: Cross-Cultural Counseling: The Importance of Encountering the Liminal Space Loyola Grad. Center Room 270 (RSVP kwwhite@loyola.edu)  12:00 pm-1:30 pm

April 12: 2014 Unity in the Community Diversity Forum: A Just Community…Our Youth, Our Future North Point High School 2500 Davis Road Waldorf, MD 20603 (RSVP Ava Morton amorton@csmd.edu) 8:30am -1pm

April 26: The Pastoral Counseling Departmental Spring Retreat at The Shrine of St. Anthony’s in Ellicott City, MD.  (RSVP rhmozeak@loyola.edu) 9-4 pm

May 2: The Jeffreys Institute For The Study of Loss and Bereavement in Co-sponsorship with the Maryland Psychological Association offers 2 workshops (one morning and one afternoon) for CEs (registration: thefamilycenter.tv; questions: jeffreys3@verizon.net)

Pursuing Religious Freedom

by Rev. Shelly M. Mohnkern

Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.
C.G. Jung

This country’s exploration of the ideas of religious freedom has been on my mind a great deal over the last couple weeks, and different states struggle with what it means to allow the freedom of religion, in balance with legally excusing discrimination. The states will make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them, just as we in our pursuit of knowledge and learning seek to understand our own, and those of our predecessors. I am simply grateful that here, at least, the students and professors seem to get something that lawmakers still fail at.

Over the last two years that I have been in attendance here at Loyola, I have had many opportunities to express myself and my faith, my beliefs and my personal gnosis, this blog being one of them. As a pagan, I am in the minority here, in a sea of more traditional faith-paths, and yet I feel as valued and respected as any of my more traditional colleagues. It is the truest form of religious freedom, to be able to study how to bring Pastoral Counseling skills to a faith that does not have the centuries of established centers of learning and seminary enjoyed by more established churches. I enjoy this religious freedom. I revel in it every day as I attend classes, have discussions with my peers, and challenge the boundaries of established understandings of the universe and traditional views of our place within it. This is truly religious freedom done right.

It is my feeling that it is the atmosphere here at Loyola that America’s forefathers had in mind when they established a new country where faith was not mandated by the government, but was instead the freedom of every individual to keep to and live by as they saw fit. I hope that all of us here at Loyola will remember that when we step out of this world and into the larger one, so that through our practices we can spread our tolerance, acceptance and love to the larger world outside these doors, and let this country see what religious freedom truly means.

You readers may not realize that you are providing this grace to your fellow students, but believe that we have noticed receiving it, and are grateful.

 

Spring Equinox

by Nicole Snyder

Winter with its snow and cold temperatures is holding on.  In a few weeks we will experience the Spring Equinox.  I suspect that the spring will begin to arrive and shortly after the equinox I will begin to experience the buddings of spring.  Every year I enjoy the transformation spring brings.  For perhaps the first time in my life I’m not living in the anticipation of the future.  (Although, I would welcome no more snow days.)  I am instead appreciating the opportunity to winter, to reflect inward, to spend some time in self-discovery and healing.  I am not yet ready to show the world the fruits of my solitude and inward reflections.

I struggle with wintering because I have a tendency focus outwardly.  I see the dysfunction of our world; I see the inequality; I see the costs civilization asks people to pay with their soul; I see the commodification of the sacred.  I see these things and I weep.  I came to this program because I wanted to learn how to be an instrument of healing.  Somehow it never occurred to me, before I got here, the importance of finding my own wholeness.

As I reflect on what the equinox means to me, I am asking myself what do I need to be ready to bloom.  I want to be able to take the wisdom of my wintering into the blooming of my spring.  I want to be able to see the sickness in the world and still be whole.  Holding these seemingly opposing parts makes me think of the quote by Mahatma Gandhi:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

I believe these words point to truth.  I also hold that often we see ourselves through feedback from others.  This is what makes the therapeutic relationship so powerful (according to the six classes I’ve taken thus far) and negative feedback is just as powerful.  Pop culture’s shift of the quote to “Be the change you want to see in the world” glosses over the complexities of life.  In such a way it denies many people’s realities.

If therapy is all about helping others become their whole self, then I want to lead by example.  In this way perhaps my discovery of how to hold seemingly contradictory things together will allow others to honour their realities no matter how contradictory.  In this way I welcome the Spring Equinox, a day that reminds me that winter and spring do (no matter how briefly) co-exist.

What’s Happening – March 2014

Happy Friday Meaning Making Readers!

Starting this month Meaning Making will have a monthly summary of events from the last month and a list of events coming up for the next month.  If you have something you would like included for next month’s addition, please let us know!  Enjoy and thanks for reading!

What you missed last month:

Dinesh Braganza SJ facilitated a workshop in a technique called Core Transformation as developed by Connirae Andreas. It provides a way to resolve inner conflicts and bring oneself to experience inner harmony and alignment.  I found the steps simple, but focusing on the body and getting out of my head challenging.  After the two day training, I felt competent to practice the technique on myself.  I have continued to practice the techniques, each time learning something new about myself.  Since the workshop I seem, without any great effort, to appreciate and value myself more.  This in turn has transformed how I interpret my world.

-By Nicole Snyder

Joanne Miller had her final dissertation defense.  Her dissertation is titled: “Counselor and Theological Identity Formation and the Ethic of Inclusion for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients”.  Using interpretative phenomenological analysis she examined how Christian counselors-in-training engaged their theological beliefs about sexual orientation in relation to the ACA Code of Ethics.  She found that the process of the participants accepting their ability to counsel lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients was facilitated by seeing the client as Jesus would and/or an increasing awareness of the counselor’s limitations and control.

-By Nicole Snyder

Drs. Mickey Fenzel and Tom Rodgerson spoke at the “Chat with the Chair” event.  Topics included the Department of Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care successfully being reaccredited by the AAPC and CACREP, the launch of a community advisory board on how to improve the programs offered, and how the new computer program LiveText will benefit faculty and students.  Additionally, an announcement was made regarding the opening of three full-time visiting faculty positions in the department.  The remaining time was used to facilitate a discussion regarding the names of the department as well as the names of the degrees offered.

-By Nicole Snyder

Upcoming Events:

March 8: God Forgot Where I Was: Using Spiritual/Religious Issues in Therapy with the Traumatized at Timonium (http://www.examassure.com/) 2pm-5pm

March 13: Celebrate Diversity Day in Columbia Campus, Loyola (Questions: drlasurebryant@loyola.edu) Noon – 3pm

March 15: LGMFT discussing Autism: Counseling and Education at John Hopkins University Montgomery Campus (RSVP sgardn14@jhu.edu)  9am-Noon

March 18: Gathering of the M.A. Community at Room 304 Columbia Campus, Loyola University (RSVP rhmozeak@loyola.edu) Current students & Alumni Welcome  12:15pm – 1:15pm

March 20-23: Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington, DC (http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/symposium/2014/)

March 25: Using Eastern Forms of Spirituality and Prayer to Become Wholesome Persons of the Healing at Room 360 Columbia Campus, Loyola University Process (Questions: jfox1@loyola.edu)  Noon – 1pm

 

Finding the Face of God

By David Gosling

“Each thing hath two faces, a face of its own, and a face of its Lord; in respect of its own face it is nothingness, and in respect of the Face of God it is Being. Thus there is nothing in existence save only God and His Face, for everything perisheth but His Face, always and forever.”

-Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

This quote from the famous medieval mystic al-Ghazali, one of the most important figures in historical Islam, demonstrates the curious predicament one finds in the modern application of counseling within a pastoral context. There is the immediate need to treat a person suffering from a variety of psychological conditions, someone deeply hurt by the world and their experiences within it. Yet, there is also the deeper and greater need to treat the soul of the individual, to acknowledge the Face of God that lies behind and beyond each physical being. Indeed, through this statement al-Ghazali demonstrates the ultimate futility of tending to the finite self while ignoring the Infinite: all paths converge on the Oneness of Being despite our intentions to the contrary.

It is an utterly human quality to forget such esoteric realities when concerns of the present come calling, and to our credit (or discredit) we often do such a good job that they are virtually forgotten altogether. On one level, this preoccupation with the present manifests itself in the record number of psychological and psychosomatic problems experienced these days. On a more profound level, and perhaps in conjunction with the previous crisis, our spiritual selves are being denied their rightful place within the framework of a healthy, well-balanced life. Every generation seems to forget anew Christ’s teaching to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. We also seem to forget that it is through this continued remembrance of God in our lives that we are able to truly love our neighbor, thereby fulfilling the remainder of Jesus’ command.

The relevance of pastoral counseling seems more than ever to be in its ability to address both the psychological and spiritual dimensions of the human condition, in this age of continued crisis and lackluster faith in anything beyond the scientific method. May we each continue to search for the uniquely divine Face of God behind every person who seeks our counsel.

Alhamdulillah (Praise to God).

The Need for Adequate and Appropriate Treatment and Care

It was breaking news that flashed across the screen just as I was about to turn off the television and head out the door:  An active shooter was at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC.  I was saddened by the news, but not shocked.  The occurrence of gun violence had happened so frequently in the last few years that a low-grade numbness had begun to take root.  As analysts talked to reporters and television cameras, the issue of the easy access to high-powered weapons was raised once again, and as expected, the state of the perpetrator’s mental health was called into question.

It turned out that the shooter did have mental health issues, and although he had been arrested twice previously, had gun related altercations, and had even sought help at two Veterans Affairs hospitals, he did not receive the necessary treatment that might have kept him and his twelve victims alive.  Maybe there was a concern about confidentiality, and while confidentiality is essential in therapeutic relationships, so is a duty to warn.  Could it be that his symptoms were masked, or were his treatment providers at fault?

As I mulled over this thought, I understood why it might be difficult to take the next step when dealing with the mentally ill.  Indeed, our Loyola community was affected by gun violence and mental illness when Mary Marguerite-Kohn was killed by a mentally ill homeless man in May 2012.   As social services are reduced due to budget cuts, the options for referrals are few, and mental health professionals are hard-pressed to work in a system with varying state laws, and a lack of public funding.  The result is that response to serious mental illness in many cases has been retroactive at best.

Yet I live in hope that eventually, maybe when the debate about gun violence is spent, the focus would shift towards addressing adequate care for the mentally ill.  The solution offered by the National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre on his recent appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press that “they need to be committed” could not possibly be the answer.  As more citizens are exposed to gun violence, some are becoming traumatized, providing a new demographic of citizens with mental illness.  Law makers should realize that mental illness is not a crime, and even when it may not be curable, it is treatable in the proper environment.   It is time for them to respond to the mentally ill with adequate and appropriate treatment and care.  This will be beneficial to both the patients and those whose paths they will cross.

 

How does Meditation influence the development of the Mind, Body, & Spirit: Five Reasons to Join a New Research Group

Meditation and Human Development Research Team Openings

meditationMeditation has long been a divisive conversation in interfaith discussions. There are some who believe meditation opens the mind and spirit to be present with the Divine, and others that believe it opens a person to opposing forces. As researchers, we are exploring the questions surrounding meditation and other centering practices; questions about the influence meditation and prayer have on development.

If you have interest in this topic, an experience to share, or more research questions, I wanted to let you know that we are starting a new research group here in the pastoral counseling department. The Meditation and Human Development Research Team we will be opening up the discussion to investigate meaningful questions about meditation.

Meditation and Human Development

This research group is devoted to understanding how meditation (and similar practices such as contemplative prayer) influences the development of mind, body and spirit. The goals of the group are to secure grant funding to support the research and subsequent peer reviewed publication and presentation of data investigating how meditation influences our lives and how it can be used to better the lives of clients who seek help in counseling. Students who are interested in becoming a part of the research team should submit a resume or curriculum vitae to Jesse Fox, Ph.D., at jfox1@loyola.edu.

Top Five Reasons to join this group:

  1. CONTRIBUTE to the research and development that is changing the social sciences understanding of spirituality and centering prayer.
  2. INSPIRE These ground floor discussions on the emergent research topic of mediation may just inspire your research as we cultivate ours.
  3. EXPERIENCE Be a part of a lively discussion, academic debates, and developing research
  4. ACQUISITION new skills, as the team is exploring grant funding, writing, and proposals.
  5. LEARN about applying for grant funding, writing a research proposal, and study outcomes

Social Media Revisits The Intensive Prayer Unit

Recently a friend posted news of her illness on Facebook. Within hours she had many “Likes” and it was heartening to note that many friends had offered to pray. This is not a unique situation. Those who utilize social media can attest to similar incidents where prayerful support is offered to those in need. Various forms of social media have made it easier to connect in prayer, and while technology has caused greater visibility, the practice of group intercessory prayer is not new.

Several years ago, Dr. Frank Richardson, a professor at Loyola University Maryland, founded The Intensive Prayer Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore which offered prayerful support for patients upon request.  Praying for patients provides them comfort and hope by partnering spiritually with their treatment plans.

Such a partnership is similar to what pastoral counselors bring to clients. Like other mental health counselors, we provide psychological care, and we offer something more. Pastoral counselors who graduate from Loyola University’s program are equipped to provide mental health care through the integration of spirituality and psychology. Being a pastoral counselor goes beyond having a career; it is a vocation, a calling to respond to the needs of our clients holistically.

It is this holistic response which I bring to my practice with a goal of providing the best possible care. Although my way of intervention reflects my clients’ spiritual foundation, I look to the Bible for personal guidance and recognize that:

  • I am humbled by my clients’ willingness to trust me as they share their deep emotions. I find support in Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord and do good.”

  • I value the gift of hope. When clients carry feelings of hopelessness, I hold hope for them until they can accept it themselves. I find support in St. Paul’s blessing in Romans 15:13:  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.”

  • I appreciate the power of prayer. While I do not pray with my clients during session, I pray for them often. I find support in Mark 11:24, when Jesus said “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Prayer is a powerful tool. The Intensive Prayer Unit reflected an insightful and influential element in establishing an organized medium for intercessory prayer that still exists, expanded through social media. It is possible for those in need to receive prayerful support universally and immediately. So the next time you find an online friend standing in need of prayer, join the Intensive Prayer Unit, and don’t just “Like,” – PRAY.