I've had the great opportunity, over the past month, to report and write for the BC Catholic newspaper on the issue of loneliness and isolation. All the pieces are below, in chronological order. I hope you find them informative and, ultimately, helpful!
HOME ALONE – introduction Isolated and lonely: we can do better than this
April 21, 2020
It came as no surprise to me when the Angus Reid Institute reported earlier this month that the number-one thing most people are looking forward to, once pandemic-prevention measures are lifted, is a simple hug.
After all, we humans are social animals, and we ache because we are not allowed to shake hands, to hug, or to hold anyone but the family members with whom we live. No e-facsimile can replace an encouraging pat on the back, let alone a warm embrace from a loved one.
For me, so-called social distancing (it’s now physical distancing, right?) has boxed me in at exactly the time I would normally have cooed and cuddled with my newest grandchild, born April 5, and given my ever-more-fragile father a gentle hug on his 92nd birthday, celebrated April 20.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m fine. There’s actually a far larger and more important issue at stake: the unknown impact that the widespread quasi-quarantine is having and will have on members of our society, especially those who were already isolated and lonely.
This is no small problem. Loneliness and isolation are growing, and with them grow adverse physical and psychological impacts. And no amount of hyper-connected, 5G wizardry can take the place of physical presence and physical contact.
We’ve been seeing the problem worsen for decades now. It’s one of the reasons a little group of us at St. Joseph’s Parish in Port Moody started the Easter Flowers project more than a quarter of a century ago. Now called Blooms into Rooms, the project’s aim is to cheer up the sick and the elderly on Easter weekend by bringing them flowering plants, homemade greeting cards, and a bit of companionship. It’s also an important way we “bring to life” the Prayer for Reverence of Life.
Our teams visited 1,200 seniors a year ago, and we were making plans to visit 1,500 this Easter when we had to cancel the whole 2020 campaign because of the COVID crisis. How sadly ironic: at the exact time when the sick and the elderly were most vulnerable and could have most benefitted from some love, they were denied it.
Our increasingly fractured and isolated society was on my radar several years ago when, as a member of Coquitlam City Council, I wrote a report for my colleagues and senior staff with a proposal to help bring our community closer together.
Three troubling trends needed addressing, said the report: growing isolation of seniors; barriers to integration of new Canadians; and the rise of the “gig economy,” which meant the loss of traditional workplace communities and the corresponding isolation of workers.
My proposal was to enhance and tie together programs that the City already had in place, with the overarching goal of increasing a sense of belonging. If Vancouver could aim to be the greenest city on the planet, why couldn’t Coquitlam become the city where you best belonged? I even came up with a slogan: “Coquitlam: You belong here.”
Alas, after two years of internal discussions, reports, and even the hiring of an outside “facilitator,” the idea ground to a halt, reasons for which were stunningly varied and don’t warrant elaboration in this space.
The coronavirus crisis can and will worsen all the problems I identified above. At the same time, though, the crisis also seems to have led to a recognition that isolation, lack of community, and loneliness are real problems. One hopes that such recognition endures once the crisis ends.
I will be doing my part to keep the issue in the public eye in future issues of The B.C. Catholic as I examine these problems in greater depth and suggest ways to address them.
Meantime, it’s back to Zoom, Signal, and FaceTime for me as I embrace, not my friends and family, but pale imitations of human contact, all while humming the tune to Where Two or Three are Gathered.
HOME ALONE – Part 1: pandemic is forcing us to address our isolation crisis
April 28, 2020
Click on a news website, watch a TV news broadcast, or open a newspaper, and you will invariably encounter a story about the adverse psychological effects related to the quasi-quarantine regulations society is enduring in an effort to thwart the COVID-19 pandemic.
Headlines such as, “Lockdown tougher for singles,” “Residents of B.C. feeling stressed,” “Despair deaths rise during economic crisis,” “COVID-19 pandemic could Increase social isolation,” and “Half of Canadians say mental health has worsened during COVID-19 pandemic” are prevalent in the papers, as anxiety escalates over the damage being done to the mental health, not only of society’s most vulnerable, but also of a general population that is being forced to severely limit its social interactions.
What’s worse, the enforced isolation appears to compound an existing and growing problem of social isolation and loneliness. The fact is, well before the current coronavirus crisis descended upon us, experts were warning of the troubling growth in the number of people who feel disconnected, isolated, and alone.
The trend first gained widespread notice in 2000 with the publication of the book Bowling Alone. The title of author Robert D. Putnam’s book refers to the fact that as more Americans take up bowling than two decades earlier, fewer were joining leagues – which meant they experienced less social interaction.
Yet, amid the almost-universal hand-wringing over how the COVID-19 quarantine is worsening this problem, rays of hope are brightening the gloom. At Star of the Sea Parish in Surrey, for example, Elaine Webb heads a team that’s been placing regular calls to isolated seniors, even buying groceries for them. “It’s incredible to hear the gratitude from the folks – [they say] ‘Oh, wow! This is wonderful,’” Webb says. All in all, the program has been “wonderful” for both the volunteers and the seniors.
Even in the face of the ongoing and unprecedented loss of our physical faith community – most notably, the closing of churches and the cessation of shared celebration of the Eucharist – there’s evidence aplenty that a strong connection to God not only makes us more resilient to the sort of turmoil currently buffeting our lives, but also positions us to actually take advantage of quiet times through meaningful self-reflection.
Even so, we shouldn’t get too comfortable in our Catholic pews. There’s a very real pain being felt, worsening the loneliness and isolation that has been eating away at our culture for several decades. Concern over this is reflected in Archbishop Michael J. Miller’s joining with more than 100 other Christian leaders last month to issue a statement addressing address the situation.
“We recognize how worrying the global pandemic is,” they declared. “It is a crisis which provides uncertainty, panic, loss, discouragement, and loneliness.” The statement continued: “We pray that the Spirit of Christ will bring you peace and an abiding sense of calm. The promise of scripture offers us hope: ‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you. You are in the palm of my hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10).”
If a social-connections crisis now exists, it surely exacerbates an existing one. Bowling Alone revealed a drastic decline in “social capital” – organizations from clubs to labour unions, in which people with shared interests come together. The reasons? Author Putnam cites the modern economy’s pressures on personal time, urban sprawl, too much television, and generational divides.
Putnam’s research centred on the U.S., but there are complementary findings in Canada. In June of last year, the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute conducted a survey in partnership with Cardus (a non-partisan, faith-based think tank) exploring the quality and quantity of human connection in the lives of Canadians. They found “significant segments of society in need of the emotional, social and material benefits” that connectedness can bring.
Sixty per cent of Canadians responded that they would like their friends and family to spend more time with them, and just 14 per cent described the current state of their social lives as “very good.” In addition, one-third were unable to identify friends or family members they could count on to provide financial assistance in an emergency, and nearly two-fifths were not certain they could count on someone for emotional support during times of personal crisis.
“Social isolation and loneliness are one of the biggest challenges of our time,” Cardus executive vice president Ray Pennings said regarding the survey. “They’re a symptom of our culture’s obsession with personal autonomy, leaving us living life as ‘I’ instead of ‘we.’ In doing so, we reap the poorer financial, mental, and physical health associated with isolation and loneliness, possibly making us more vulnerable to things like drug abuse, suicide, and the debt spiral caused by payday loan use.”
Similarly, the Vancouver Foundation’s Connect &Engage report, released in 2017, found that “across almost every measure in our survey, people in Metro Vancouver are taking part less in community-related activities.” As well, “fewer than half are willing to respond to a question from a stranger (48 per cent), and only 23 per cent will ask a question or initiate a conversation.”
“I think people are challenging the status quo that led us to the space of people feeling lonely and isolated,” says Kemeny, the foundation’s director of partnerships, grants and community initiatives.
“And what I’m seeing is people recognizing the importance of reaching out to each other, and a lot of very hopeful signs of people really feeling how important it is to connect with each other.”
Moreover, there’s something good in the current state of affairs even for those who are struggling, says Kemeny. “By virtue of this being a universal experience right now, I think we’re also pulling [loneliness] out from behind the shadows in a way.”
She says, “I see people talking about this a lot more. I think there’s an ease and comfort, in acknowledging that we are lonely, that isn’t as stigmatized as it was before.”
Of course many challenges remain and the future is uncertain. How we Catholics cope with, respond to, and overcome those challenges will be the focus of this series in the next few weeks.
We’ll examine the ways Catholics are responding to the current trying times – how parishioners and priests alike are finding new ways to connect with each other and maintain their faith communities.
We will also further explore the powerful connection between faith and resilience – a connection that makes us stronger in the face of adversity.
Finally, we’ll look at the opportunities for spiritual growth that enforced isolation presents to us. As American Bishop Robert Barron recently suggested during one of his popular video addresses, “Perhaps we could all think of this time of semi-quarantine as an invitation to some monastic introspection, some serious confrontation with the questions that matter – some purposeful sitting alone in a room.”
A good thought. Moreover, if what 17th-century French theologian Blaise Pascal wrote is true – that “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” – then it must also be true that those who follow Bishop Barron’s advice to, in effect, “sit quietly in a room alone,” surely have the potential to solve more than just their own problems. We shall see.
HOME ALONE – Part 2: Catholics find ways to stay connected in pandemic
May 7, 2020
When asked what she misses most about not being able to attend 9 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Joseph’s Parish in Port Moody, 88-year-old Leona Ransom doesn’t miss a beat when she answers, “the choir.”
A three-decades-long member of one of the parish’s choral groups, Ransom says nothing can replace the positive feeling she experiences when she joins with her fellow choristers to sing a hymn in four-part harmony.
“Singing is such a marvellous way of expressing everything,” says Ransom, a soprano. “Being surrounded by music is such a tonic. Surrounded by music, and contributing to it, you come away feeling ‘I’ve accomplished something or given something’ or ‘I’ve been alive and well for the five minutes.’”
A widow who lives with one of her adult children, Ransom confides that she also misses the camaraderie of the choir, and she certainly hopes for an early end to the social isolation mandated by health authorities to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.
A retired counsellor, Ransom is well aware of the social and health benefits of being part of a faith community, but says she is content with the weekly homiletic email she receives from her pastor Father Thomas Arackal, and with using the phone to stay in touch with loved ones. “Everybody seems to be OK,” she shares. “I think we’re all kind of lonesome, but we’ll get through it.”
Helping the isolated and lonely withstand the stresses and strains of the COVID crisis has been a concern of priests and parish groups alike.
Resilient and optimistic, and with friends and family to support her, Ransom is in a good position to withstand the stresses and strains of the COVID crisis. Others may not be so fortunate, and that’s been a concern of priests and parish groups alike since the beginning of the pandemic crisis.
Questions on how best to keep faith communities alive as well as serve needy individuals have been answered with solutions ranging from the adoption of new communication technologies to the restructuring of existing programs.
At Church of the Assumption Parish in Powell River, for example, Father Patrick Tepoorten responded quickly to the closing of churches and cessation of public services by staging daily outdoor adoration of the Holy Eucharist and by livestreaming daily Mass on Facebook – one of 47 parishes in the Archdiocese of Vancouver currently doing so.
Adopting the unfamiliar technology didn’t come without its problems, though. “I learned that if you push the ‘magic wand’ on Facebook, it adds beards and faces,” Father Tepoorten confides, noting that at least one priest in Italy became an Internet sensation after mistakenly engaging the feature. “For me, it was Good Friday when I ended up sporting a [virtual] blue beard. Some of our parishioners thought it was hilarious.”
Overall reaction to televised Masses, whether on social media or television, has been positive. “Our parishioners are very appreciative that they have the Mass on Facebook,” he says. “They say, ‘I’m so grateful you’re doing this. I’m just so grateful – it’s contact with the Mass.’”
Father Tepoorten has concerns, however, about the long-term impact on his parishioners, the majority of whom are seniors. He and his assistant have not been able to provide the pastoral care – visiting homes and hospitals – that they usually perform, and phone calls seem to him to be more intrusive than helpful. “I don’t want to disturb them in their cocoon of self-isolation.”
Nevertheless, he is optimistic that parish life will return to normal when the crisis ends because he senses that his parishioners’ faith is making them hungry to get things back up to speed. “I think we really feel the need in our community,” he says. “I think, in a strange way, it’s a great lesson in the need we have for each other – it’s a real affirmation – and how much we miss each other.”
At Star of the Sea Parish in White Rock the COVID-19 crisis led an existing parish group to pivot in how it delivers spiritual and social support to isolated and lonely seniors. Elaine Webb, a retired nurse, says the parish formed a Pastoral Care Visitation ministry a year ago, training 50 men and women in how “to provide a little bit of company and companionship with lonely and frail seniors” in homes or residential-care facilities, and to better connect them to parish life.
“The issues are common,” Webb says, “One of them is loneliness, another is fear.” Reaction was overwhelmingly positive. “They are just so grateful. You can see the little spark of joy that we bring,” Webb says.
But it seemed that no sooner did the ministry start rolling than it was forced to suspend operations because of the coronavirus crisis. Working with a 250-name list of seniors provided by the parish office, the visitation team joined with members of the Catholic Women’s League and Knights of Columbus to keep connections alive through regular phone calls. It seems to be working.
“All those who were called expressed gratitude, surprise, and were generally pleased that the Church had reached out and taken the time to connect,” Webb says. As well, almost all said they were fine and had support from adult children, friends, and neighbours. Surprisingly, “no one asked for assistance with groceries or medication runs. But some wanted the parish bulletin [because they didn’t have internet access] and a few wanted holy water. Generally folks were positive and accepting of the current circumstances.”
In fact, the response has been so positive that “it could inform a new way to go forward with support of our senior parishioners,” Webb says.
The pandemic’s impacts on social and spiritual life are not limited to isolated seniors, of course. Patrick Calderon, who serves on the core team of the Holy Rosary Cathedral Young Adults group, says that, pre-COVID, the group could have up to three events a week, as well as a monthly social gathering.
The pandemic’s no-group-gathering order struck at the very heart of the group’s mandate “to cultivate faith and create friendships through fellowship,” as well as providing educational and service opportunities, says Calderon, a 26-year-old consultant who is a graduate of both Notre Dame Regional Secondary in Vancouver and Notre Dame University in Indiana.
“We were very conflicted as to how to proceed when the quarantine first started,” he says. “We thought that we can’t just disappear. We need to show to the people that we were serving that Church doesn’t stop for you, that there’s still an opportunity for you to engage as Catholic young adults.”
Now the group meets every Monday via the Zoom app, focusing on faith issues related to the Holy Spirit. Attendance is limited to 15, which is about five fewer than normal meetings, but the virtual gatherings help fill a void. “I think there’s a great longing for in-person interaction and for real community,” Calderon says.
“But, you know, I think it’s a time for us, as young adults, to put into practice skills we grew up with all our entire lives – skills of connecting via technology, and to show that there are ways of getting together even without being physically present.”
Calderon admits that some aspects of the meetings are lost because a vital part of gathering together has always been socialization, but “it’s important for us – because there’s a real longing for community – to do whatever we can do to provide something in the interim.”
As for Calderon personally, he describes himself as “rolling with the punches and appreciating the grace that is present in this particular moment.” In fact, he believes there’s an opportunity to pursue a more contemplative path than the one he was living.
“But I know that absence makes the heart grow fonder, as well,” he says, “And I think our return will be even better than what we had in the past. I think we have really gotten to see the value of this community. And we’ll come back when this is over with a newfound appreciation for all that we have around us, and just be grateful for it.”
The crisis is affecting parishes and parishioners in countless ways, and no one knows what the “new normal” will look like when it finally ends and parishes can resume in-person operations. Meanwhile many Catholics seem to be finding a silver lining in the COVID cloud, embracing new technologies to stay in touch, finding new ways to serve fellow parishioners, using quiet times to better themselves, or simply being determined to make the best of a sad situation.
During a time when isolation and loneliness can be corrosive, the hopefulness that animates these actions is surely showing itself to be a crucial element of the Catholic character.
HOME ALONE – Part 3: the psychology of hope and resilience amid isolation
May 12, 2020
In his 2017 book The Catholic Guide to Loneliness, author Kevin Vost cautioned readers not to let virtual conversations take the place of real, face-to-face meetings with friends and loved ones.
Today, as society is in its third month of enforced social isolation precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vost notes the irony of social-media platforms such as Facetime and Zoom actually becoming invaluable tools to help people stay connected and feel less lonely.
“So, now those have become valuable things that we do need to cultivate, perhaps even with people we didn’t cultivate before,” Vost said in a telephone interview from his home in Springfield, Illinois. “Show those people that we do care about them. If you’ve just texted them in the past, pick up the phone now and talk to them. This crisis can prompt us to interact in more significant ways.”
Moreover, the crisis may also lead people to realize that they had been taking their friendships for granted. “I hope it will really help us to realize what we are missing – that absence makes the heart grow fonder,” says Vost, who holds a doctorate in psychology.
Vost is one of several faith-based experts contacted by The B.C. Catholic in recent weeks to offer insight into pandemic-related psychological issues that society in general and Catholics in particular might be experiencing. The latter focus arises from the fact that, as members of a faith whose essential features include a regular “mass” gathering at which a physical “communion” with God is celebrated, Catholics might be especially hard hit by the loss of social interaction resulting from the quasi-quarantine that officials imposed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The good news, however, is that the same faith uniting Catholics in communion also tends to position Catholics to better take advantage of the imposed isolation, as well as to make us more resilient in the face of adversity. It’s one of the fruits of the virtue of hope.
Michael Hryniuk, a Toronto-based theologian, author and educator, says it’s certainly true that Catholics may be grieving the loss of their physical faith communities – and that such sorrow may be especially acute when compared with a general, non-religious population that has not suffered such a profound disconnection.
However, Hryniuk believes that loss is more than offset by the strength that Catholic believers can draw on because of their faith. It starts with a deep connection to the Church’s 2,000-year history. “It’s not something we think about consciously, but we feel it – we feel it in the depths of our psyche,” he says. Combined with our embrace of “that sense of the sacred,” it’s a powerful defence to loneliness.
As well, “really fresh research in the last five years shows that, in terms of resilience, how children who have experienced a sense of connection to a higher power – not just belief and values – but a real experiential grounding in faith, their outcomes are just vastly better,” he says.
Hryniuk explains this through an analysis of “attachment theory,” which is usually cited to show the importance of the connection between parents and children. “What the infant needs most, to fund their human development, is the foundation of primal trust in their caregiver,” he says. “And what that amounts to is, ultimately, a sense that the universe in friendly.” Similarly, a strong relationship between God and his children produces the same beneficial effects.
Rev. Dr. Nathan White, the executive director of the Institute for Faith and Resilience, based in Lafayette, Louisiana, says a number of factors explain why people of faith are better able to endure and prosper in difficult times. “At the personal level, faith can provide things like meaning and hope, and kind of a larger meta-narrative in which we can understand our lives,” says White, a former U.S. Army chaplain.
“There’s also the community side, where being in a faith community – being surrounded by others who help support us and who have similar views of life, and with whom we can process our own emotions and thoughts – produces a powerful [effect].”
White has also said that his most recent book, Biblical and Theological Visions of Resilience, is designed to encourage readers by explaining that the Judeo-Christian tradition “has a wealth of resources to help individuals understand and resiliently navigate experiences of adversity.”
Author Vost says his book, on Catholics and loneliness, has multiple goals. The first is a message to those who are feeling lonely. “There is one thing you can be sure of,” he says, “and that’s that you are not alone, because one of the great ironies of loneliness now is that it is extremely rampant around the world. So this book is for people who are lonely, to help them find ways to bear it, to endure it, or possibly to reach out and overcome it.”
The book is also aimed at people who want to reach out and help those who are lonely. “Another of the big ironies of the book is that the things that people should do to help other people who are lonely, some of those are exactly the things that the people who are lonely should be doing to reach out to other lonely people,” he says.
In one of the book’s chapters, called “The Loneliness of Christ,” Vost describes how “the Gospel itself shows us how Christ himself experienced loneliness on earth … where Christ endured loneliness, not only on the cross but also during the night of his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.”
He also provides practical advice for overcoming loneliness, including a list of “Thirty Ways to Love Your Brother.” These include such activities as praying, playing, smiling, greeting, reconciling, sharing meals, submitting to God, slowing the pace of one’s life, and listening.
An important chapter in the book deals with something Vost calls “The Solace of Solitude.” It draws on the examples of saints “to show us, in times when we must be isolate, what positives can come from that – in what ways we can use that time to grow closer to God, to grow more careful in our thinking about how we can relate to others, once we are finally set from our restrictions,” he says, noting that the advice is especially relevant during the current COVID crisis.
Hryniuk agrees. “I think the greatest gift of this whole [pandemic] is not just about expanding our tools and platforms for connecting. It’s about solitude, and I think what’s going on here is that people are learning how to connect in a more deeply, prayerful way, with God and with themselves, and with their families and friends.”
He continues: “It’s remarkable. When I talk to people now, I am interacting with people who are not tired, who are not wiped out by the pace of their life, who are not too busy, who are taking walks in nature, playing with their kids. It’s a different world, and I think it has helped people to kind of go deeper into their faith.”
Ultimately, Hryniuk believes we will emerge stronger from the current crisis. “I think we are going to adapt and maybe even ultimately expand our repertoire, so to speak, of how we express our life in the body of Christ in the world,” he says.
“We are a global church, and we’re connecting with people from all over the world in ways we probably never would have. But this [pandemic] has kind of rocked our world. So I’m hopeful that we’re going to adapt, and then, when we meet again, there’s going to be some new awareness of how we can connect in other ways.”
This adversity, then, should end up bringing us together and, in so doing, make us stronger – just as the Church’s “National Prayer for Canada in the Wake of the COVID-19 Crisis” envisions “the more together we are, the better and stronger we will emerge.” If so, it will surely be a strength built on a foundation of a faith, animated by the virtue of hope, and sustained by an ever-loving God who promised never to leave nor forsake us.
Exercise is good, but sharing is better
May 12, 2020
Psychologist and counsellor Denis Boyd, a member of All Saints Parish in Coquitlam, offers some useful advice to people who are suffering increased stress, sadness, or anxiety during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. In fact, he says there are two simple but important ways to release stress and grief from your system.
“One is to talk about it,” Boyd says. “And the second is to write about it. So, I would be encouraging people to talk out loud with somebody they consider a reasonably good listener – and hopefully they also listen well to them – about that they’re feeling overwhelmed, or bad, or frustrated, or whatever it might be.”
He continues, “Or, if the people they’re with are already stressed or are not available, they can become short-term journal writers, where they write down what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, and they’ll get a nice release from doing that.”
Boyd notes that another outlet which is often talked about is exercise, but he believes exercise doesn’t really release a lot of stress. “Walking is very good, but it can’t compete with writing and or talking,” he says. “So I would get people thinking out loud about what they’re going through, even if it gets repetitive. It helps them unwind.”
He also believes that people can help themselves overcome the negativity in their lives through a shift in their attitude. He points to the example of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who survived concentration camps in the Second World War, “because he came to the conclusion that we have no control over what happens to us. Our only control is how we deal with what happens to us.”
This attitude is connected to being grateful for the things that you have. For example, those who are finding it difficult to endure the current quarantine-like conditions could focus on the beautiful spring weather and scenery. “There are many things we could show gratitude for – just the beauty around us, the fact that we have good food to eat, and more people aren’t sick.”
He continues, “That attitude – and if you’ve written a bit about how sad you feel, or that you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed – puts you in a better place to then look at the things you are happy about. So there’s a one, two sequence there. Because if the stress level is very high, it may be hard to see the good, and yet if you release some of that upset, you’re going to notice the good a little more. And actually, if you focus on what you have gratitude for, you’re less likely to get stuck thinking about the negativity as well.”
Boyd also recognizes that, even after the crisis ends, some people will be bothered by negative memories. “Historically, you and I and many of the readers were raised with, ‘you put your feelings away and push on.’ You know, ‘survive, tough it out.’” That’s not healthy, though, because “you accumulate a lot of leftover emotion from old events, traumatic or otherwise.”
What happens, then, is that “the memories tend to be stronger and more upsetting, because, when you went through them, you just stuffed the pain away, didn’t dance with it, didn’t deal with it.” The solution is to act now – to “take time to write and talk about what we’re living now.” What that does in the long term is diffuse the memory, “so in the future the memory will be less intense if they’re negative, or more vibrant if they’re positive.”
Denis Boyd is a registered psychologist, practising in Coquitlam. His name and contact information appear on a list, compiled by the Archdiocese, of professionals who say “they are Catholic or a practicing Christian from another tradition and will support clients that want to adhere to the Church’s teachings in the area of life, marriage and family.”