Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
the Inland Register
(From the July 16, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
Archdiocese of Portland
SALEM – Families and couples convened in Salem June 20 and heard that the church and families depend on one another to thrive in a world of difficulty.
“Build up your families and the parish will get stronger. Build up your parish, and families will get stronger,” said Jim Seymour, executive director of Catholic Community Services of the Mid-Willamette Valley. “As families get stronger and churches get stronger, that will spill out into the community.”
The agency organized the Valley Meeting of Families, inspired by the Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families, to be held in September in Philadelphia. The gathering took place at the East Salem Community Center, near Blanchet, a Catholic school serving grades 6-12.
“Pope Francis knows families are the basic unit not just of the church, but of the whole world,” Seymour said.
In the past decade, Catholic Community Services has been trying to address big issues for families, such as how to make neighborhoods safe and how to heal from childhood trauma. The aim is to strike at root causes of poverty and strife.
Even while the agency serves anyone, faith energizes the mission and is seen as a path to alleviating human suffering.
“How can we become more aware of God’s amazing love for us?” Seymour asked. “How do we open up? ... How can we share love with family, friends and neighbors? How can we give glory to God by living more fully alive? We really believe that loving relationships are key to having a good life.”
Seymour says parishes are in a unique position to be “places of hope and healing for all people.”
Participants learned that a rough childhood derails brain development, which in turn can lead to problems like heart disease, addiction, teen pregnancy, and depression.
“Lots of adversity leads to shorter lifespans,” said Dr. Robert Anda, author of a study on childhood trauma. His work has been used by the World Health Organization and congressional panels.
Dr. Anda, a Centers for Disease Control consultant, is on a mission to help courts, police, doctors, teachers and social workers understand how family stress and childhood trauma has caused so many of their most challenging cases.
“Biology underlies adversity,” Dr. Anda said. Stress, he explained, produces chemicals that cause the brain to wire itself for adversity. That triggers later mental and social problems.
Dr. Anda is convinced that experiences get stored in the body. Positive experiences can reverse damage to chromosomes, especially if the improvement comes early on in life. But even adults can heal by taking a new look at their life and creating a new, truer narrative, he said.
The Adverse Childhood Experience Study started in the 1990s in San Diego. More than 17,000 patients revealed that even middle class Americans are plagued by childhood trauma. More than a quarter grew up in households with an addict and almost three in 10 were victims of physical abuse. One in six had a battered mother.
The study showed that the more the childhood adversity, the higher the divorce rate. Those with a lot of trauma also tend to be stuck in lower-wage jobs, more frequently land in prison, and receive more public aid.
“People aren’t just being together,” said Nancy Franz, a marriage and family therapist from St. Peter Parish in Newberg, Ore., who came to the meeting. She says electronics have kept families from spending loving time together. “Love is our mission,” Franz said.
Tim Higdon and Norene Gonsiewski, family counselors and speaks at the meeting, told participants how married couples can make their love last. The key, they said, is building a relationship where spouses can feel free to be themselves. People tend to choose a partner that is comfortable because he or she seems to embody our childhood life, both positive and negative aspects, Gonsiewski explained. Once the couple becomes aware of that, relationships can improve.
“A perfect marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other,” Higdon said.
– Catholic Sentinel (Oregon Catholic Press)
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