As churches reopen, mental and spiritual health care need attention

churches reopen

As churches reopen and parishioners begin returning to their church buildings there’s a familiarity, but the environment might feel different because of new social-distancing measures.

For example, in Houston, a young adult woman who went to Sunday Mass the first weekend in May when her parish reopened for public Mass, said her initial excitement changed to anxiety and fear as she noticed others not following the parish’s new guidelines for Mass attendance.

Her mind raced with distraction during the Mass even as she focused on the liturgy.

For her, despite the wearing of a mask and following every guideline, the uneasiness and concern may have been too much. Back home, she realized she was not sure if she would go back again the next weekend, especially after considering that the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese has still dispensed the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

“I really appreciated the measures the parish has taken to distance and sanitize, but the anxiety … it was difficult to deal with,” she said. “I may try daily Mass.”

As churches reopen, favourite pews might now be blocked off, friendly faces might seem distant or unrecognizable behind masks, or those who remain at home might feel jealous of those who can attend Mass.

These experiences are “absolutely” normal, real and valid, according to Anabel Lucio Morales, a licensed community counsellor at the Counseling and Behavioral Health Clinic at Catholic Charities in Galveston-Houston.

When churches reopen, if the focus remains only on all the changes of how Mass will look, this will drive an anxious emotion or possibly a resentful emotion.

While she admitted other generations also have endured crises, this experience is “much more troubling” due to the constant news about it, which can increase anxiety.

“But we should not be governed by fear,” she said.

“We should use wisdom in making the best decisions for ourselves and family, and trust that God has not forsaken his people. We face a real danger, and we must adjust how we live life. But we should not live in fear but rather in the peace that God gives us.”

Parishioners need to remember these new measures are there for the health and best interest of everyone, she said.

“We are mind, body and soul” with the physical, emotional and spiritual sides that are all interconnected, she said.

How we think is going to impact how we feel, she said. Negative or anxious thoughts will drive an anxious or nervous emotion. Continue reading

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