I felt motivated to sign in with an organized and stable volunteer center for several reasons. Some are very basic: stewardship and sharing of gifts and talents. Another is the good example of my wife, who works every Wednesday at Apopka’s Hope CommUnity Center; in fact, she was honored by United Way three weeks ago for her volunteer administrative contributions. She has been there three years and enjoys the community atmosphere, shared faith, and the enthusiastic spirit of the core team. I have learned over the years that permanence and solidarity are critical components to any church ministry, or any service organization, for that matter. Revolving door staffing is a recipe for discouragement and failure.
Another factor is that I like working as a psychotherapist. I don’t want the hours and the paperwork, not to mention the 24-hour liability, of private practice. But the structure and interaction of practicing is intriguing and rarely boring. I was fortunate to have received my theology training before my psychological immersion; the individuality of the human soul is an indispensable insight to bring into psychotherapy. My next continuing education course is an orientation to the DSM-V, the official book of mental disorders and their symptoms. In reading the curriculum, I noted that there is serious philosophical division within my profession about the entire idea of mental “diagnosis,” based upon a fear that practitioners and researchers focus too much upon terminology, for insurance and prescribing protocols, and not enough upon the actual dynamic within the patient, as no two humans are exactly alike.
I believe in the necessity of diagnosis of patients—i.e., attaching a formal name to a constellation of symptoms—as there are treatment strategies with some actual measure of clinical success, and I need a shorthand to communicate with other practitioners. The problems arise when the patient morphs into the diagnosis—as in “I saw three depressives today.” I am old school enough to wonder, with Freud, why a person is depressed or hysterical or mute. And, I am Catholic enough to wonder if the individual I am working with is suffering from chemical imbalance or “disease of the soul.” Congruence, or living what one believes is true or good, is a concept respected in the mental health profession, and I regret that there is not more conversation between therapists and moralists in addressing psychological or spiritual unrest. A surprising number of patients are living in “incongruence” and will admit that if given the time and atmosphere to do so.
While I was in Canada this summer I received a variety of emails from the various offices of my diocese involving theological catechist training reorganization. This past spring, I had written a number of proposals for general reorganization and individual course outlines, particularly regarding our introductory course for new catechists, and copied them to anyone in the chancery with cash in the game. [Don’t ask if any of these requested submissions were acknowledged.] Among my proposals was a recommendation that we shorten our teachers’ curriculum to two pages with a good book recommendation. I have taught both public and private college courses over the years, and a two-page curriculum with an assigned text was pretty much the order of the day.
When I got back in town I had lunch with a teacher colleague who passed on the diocesan recommendation for the introductory course with a request for comments and recommendations. I took it home and counted the pages—there was no pagination. The total came to 142 pages for a five-hour course! On top of this, I received a request from another office to review an entirely different catechist training curriculum package from another diocese.
This experience brought me back to my years as president of my diocesan priests’ council—two terms, no less. We generated volumes of recommendations and documents—the rain forests we destroyed for our labors probably account for much of present day global warming. Looking over our labors—from plans to support Catholic school operations to recommendations for diocesan policy on maternity leave—I can only say that anyone who does not believe in limbo is dead wrong, because that’s where my time and efforts rest today, requiescat in pace. I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth killing more trees to fill the bulging files in limbo yet again.