The Chicago Archdiocesan Commission on Mental Illness is pleased to offer Moving Forward in Hope, a monthly series of evening prayer, connection, and hope. Our goal is to create a safe place for those living with or those caring for someone with mental health concerns to come together to pray and share with one another. We know connection is paramount to mental health and well-being. These virtual meetings wilL be held on the fourth Tuesday of each month. For the registration link send an email to Deacon Tom Lambert at



May is mental health awareness month and the feast day of St Dymphna, patron saint of people with mental illnesses, falls on May 15th. The story of St Dymphna is both a tragic yet inspiring story about how a community can support those with mental illnesses. As we know, during this time of pandemic there is an increase in anxiety over the future. Mental health is and should be a key concern for all of us as we deal with the unknown. We can learn from what happened in the town of Gheel, Belgium back in the 13th Century. Communities of faith can be instrumental in helping one another.

The story begins with the heartbreaking part in the 7th Century, when St Dymphnas father, a Celtic king, became deeply depressed over the death of his wife. Tragically, he came to see his daughter as the re-incarnation of his wife and tried to force her to marry him. St Dympna fled to Belgium and the king followed her to Gheel, flew into a rage and murdered her. There in Gheel Belgium she was buried in a crypt beneath the local Church. Six Centuries later workmen uncovered the crypt and found a tomb made of a shining white stone that is only found hundreds of miles away from Gheel. The towns people considered it a miracle believing that God had provided for her in this way. Soon reports of healings spread across the area, in particular healings of people with mental illnesses.

The site became a pilgrimage center. In the 13th Century, a new church was built, the Church of St Dymphna, and a makeshift hospital was located at the Church. People were coming from all over Europe to find comfort and care for their loved ones with mental illness. The church soon was overwhelmed with patients and the parish priest began to ask people to take patients into their homes. In the way of life of the middle ages, this meant that the person accepted into the home was involved in the cooking, cleaning, farming and total way of life. Thus they had their basic needs taken care of plus found purpose and meaning in life. For those who were too sick to work, there was a hospital that the townspeople supported but most were cared for in the homes of the villagers. Thus what we know today as foster care began in 13th Century Gheel. People were given a place in society, supported, and found purpose to life.

One of the many remarkable things about this story is that during this period of time, in other parts of Europe, people who exhibited symptoms of mental illnesses were thought to be possessed by demons or that they were witches. They were either locked away in prisons or banished from their homes and communities. Yet in Gheel, truly a miracle of understanding and acceptance was taking place as people with mental illnesses were treated with a dignity and compassion that enabled them to experience recovery from their illness. It should also be noted that in the early 19th Century, Napoleon ordered that all people who were mentally ill be committed to asylums. Despite that order, the people of Gheel refused to hand over the ones they considered to be part of their family.

Today in Gheel, the support continues. For over eight centuries Gheel has maintained a history of compassionate loving care for those society often ignores or shuns. Today they have modern hospitals and care. The support and housing is still a part of the recovery process. Gheel’s town symbol is a clock with no hands. This means that you have care for as long as you need! An ideal much needed today.

Let us pray: St Dymphna during this time of heightened anxiety over the future, we ask you to intercede for us with God: that we may be given peace and strength of mind, body and spirit during this time of crisis and that we may experience the love and support of the community we are part of. Amen.



On October 25th, 2:00 pm, the Archdiocesan Commission and Faith and Fellowship hosted The Annual Mass for Mental Illness Awareness. In these unprecedented times, mental health is in the forefront of our concerns. We know our faith is a key part of our being well. Whether you are experiencing mental health conditions for the first time or for a long time, the annual mass is a time for all to pray together and share our similar journeys.

The mass is online now and as an opportunity to pray with and for others. Click on the link to see the Cardinal's welcome and the mass

For more information contact: Deacon Tom Lambert at

Sponsored by:

Archdiocese of Chicago Commission on Mental Illness and Faith & Fellowship



Mary Seat of Wisdom Parish in Park Ridge hosted an evening on supporting people with mental illness and their families. Speakers presented on Faith and mental illness, family members, person with a mental illness, what spiritual support, and support programs. Click on the link to see the presentation


Schedule a ZOOM Presentation For Your Parish on Pastoral Accompaniment for People with a mental Illness and their Families

Contact Deacon Tom Lambert at
to schedule a presentation via Zoom on accompanying people with a mental illness and their families. The program covers what mental illnesses are, how they affect the person and their familiy, spirituality and recovery, and how we accompanying people and their famlies.


Tips for Reducing Anxiety During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Ground yourself in science. Science-based facts will ground you in a reality where truth, hope, and interventions exist. Resist sensational news or social media, where facts are often blurred or exaggerated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information and frequent updates.

Limit your consumption of the news. A near-constant stream of news reports can cause anyone to feel anxious or distressed. Instead, seek CDC updates and practical guidelines at specific times during the day.

Isolate but stay connected to others. Protect yourself and others by wearing a mask, and social distancing. Make sure to keep your attachments to friends, family, and loved ones by calling, texting, using FaceTime, Zoom, Skype or other social media.

Keep your emotional support system in place. Maintain familiar routines in daily life as much as possible; Routines and schedules reduce stress and anxiety in our lives. Keep your list of support people or tools at your fingertips so you can draw on them easily if needed.

Think locally, not globally. Focus on what is happening in your local community and what you can do to keep yourself and neigh-bors healthy and safe. A sense of community is vital for moving through traumatic situations and builds resiliency in children and adults.

Practice self-care and make sure others do too. Be mindful about eating well, keeping a healthy sleep cycle, exercising, and other soothing self-care behaviors. Make sure to avoid using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress. And limit caffeine as it heightens anxiety and irritability.

Fight helplessness by finding purpose. The uncertainty that COVID-19 brings can leave many of us feeling unspeakably helpless. Finding purpose can alleviate restlessness and anxiety. Choose things you can control, be it shifting negative thoughts into positive ones, deciding what to cook for lunch, reading a good book, picking what movie you and the kids will watch, or other activities you have power over.

Let your faith be a beacon of hope. In addition to prayer and watching online daily Mass, scripture mantras, that is, repetitive words from scripture can be helpful to ease moments of anxiety. For example - Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 - I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 There are excellent spiritual resources online that you can tap into.


Chicago Catholic Interview on ways of coping during Covet 19

Chicago Catholic did an interview with Deacon Tom Lambert on ways of coping during this period of "sheltering in place." To view the article click on: Chicago Catholic Magazine Interview



A short reflection on the Gospel of the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24 vs 13-35)

I can relate!

The two disciples were dealing with confusion and an unknown future. They had just witnessed Jesus being crucified. They did not seem to be able to make sense of the things they heard about Jesus being alive. Undoubtedly they were experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. So much so that they do not even recognize Jesus when He appears before them.

As the story unfolds, Jesus helps them work through their anxieties. He reassures them by taking them back to the basics of their belief. He walks them through the Old Testament scriptures, patiently going through all that the prophets spoke. Then in the evening, He shares a meal with them. In the breaking of the bread their eyes are opened and they recognize him. They say - were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke the scriptures.

A couple of things speak to me about this story and our faith, especially now as we go through dealing with the pandemic, social unrest, and face the uncertainty of the future. When we have doubts, it is good to go back to the basics. Scripture tells us the story of salvation. How God is always with us through thick and thin. That is a fundamental message of the bible. Another take away from this story is how long it took for the two disciples to recognize Jesus and how patient Jesus was with them. It was not an instant understanding. They had to work through the emotions that clouded their thinking. All the while, Jesus patiently accompanied them like a true friend. The ultimate point of understanding came in the Eucharistic meal, something still available to us even if now a spiritual communion. We are still participating in the gift God gives to us.

Lastly, they were not alone. The two disciples had each other and Jesus as do you and I. How important a community and relationships are for each of us. It is so important to stay in touch with each other and support one another. If not inperson then a phone call, an email, even a written letter or card can mean so much. We do not have all the answers but we do have each other.

My prayer is that God may continue to touch our hearts, through our prayer and through our relationships.

Deacon Tom



US Catholic Magazine Interview on Accompanying People with a Mental Illness

US Catholic Magazine did an interview with Deacon Tom Lambert regarding acccompaning people with mental illness and their families. To view the article click on: US Catholic Magazine Interview on Accompanying People with a Mental Illness



The California Bishops Conference pastoral letter on outreach to people with Mental Illness and their families

The California Bishops Conference letter "Hope and Healing" is an excellent statement calling us as church to reach out to people with mental Illness and theur families. The Bishops state "As pastors and bishops, we understand that mental health is a critical component of wellbeing. Therefore, ministering to those who suffer from mental illness is an essential part of the pastoral care of the Church. This letter represents a statement by Catholic pastors, in consultation with those who suffer from mental illness, their families and loved ones, health care practitioners, and other caregivers. We acknowledge and thank our collaborators�patients, families, mental health professionals, and pastoral care workers�who assisted with this statement."

This is an excellent teaching tool for parish ministry. It is available on their website at


National Catholic Reporter Interview on Recovery Model and the Catholic Church

The National Catholic Reporter did an interview with Deacon Tom Lambert, from the Archdiocese of Chicago's Commission on Mental Illness, Jan Benton from the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, Archbishop Wenski from Miami and several mental health professionals about how the Church can be a key component in the recovery model for helping people with mental illnesses. To view the article click on: National Catholic Reporter article "Catholic church can aid treatment of mental illness"




Death by suicide is a critical issue for our communities. The following is an excellent pastoral resource for those grieving the loss of a person who died by suicide. LOSS of Catholic Charities Chicago, Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide,is a non-denominational program supporting those who have lost a loved one by suicide. Click here to go to their website: LOSS PROGRAM ____________________________________________________________________________

Catholic Social Teaching and Mental Illness

The following is written by Mair Moran who completed her training in pastoral ministry for the Diocese of Oakland, California. She tells a compelling story on why we as church are called to reach out to people with mental illness and their families from both a real life situation and our Catholic social teaching. Thank you Mair for sharing this with us.

Catholic Social Teaching and Mental Illness by Mair Moran


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