Pennington parish couple offers blueprint on benefits of forming addiction ministry
By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent
For Deacon Moore Hank and his wife, Theresa, leading a Congregation Assistance Program is not a ministerial duty, but something they feel honored to do.
“It’s really been a privilege,” Theresa Hank said during a March 15 presentation in St. Ann Parish’s pastoral center, Lawrenceville, on how to start a CAP ministry to assist those struggling with addiction and compulsive behavior disorders.
The Hanks were invited to St. Ann Parish by Gary Maccaroni, pastoral associate, and parishioner Sharon Flynn, who suggested the parish host an information night after she attended a recent event featuring the husband-and-wife team.
“It’s really about the [person suffering with addiction] in the pew,” Flynn said.
Maccaroni agreed, noting, “The Diocese has been putting a lot of time and energy into education [about addiction ministries] ... It’s very much close to home and a part of our culture.”
The Hanks took turns describing their firsthand experience with addiction and compulsive behavior ministry. They have advised numerous parishes in the Diocese of Trenton and beyond about CAPs, using as a model the Hope Program they started more than 20 years ago in their parish of St. James, Pennington. The Hope CAP is under the direction of the Mercer Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, by which the team is trained to bring education and awareness, to listen and help provide assistance.
“Addictions ministry is really not ‘one size fits all,’” Theresa Hank said. “It’s our firm belief that even if the only thing that any parish did was provide meeting lists ... and put something in the bulletin ... it’s a beginning. It’s an opportunity for people to know that the Church is welcoming those with the problem of addictions and compulsive behavior disorders and wants to be able to be a resource.”
Addiction ministry differs from Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon in several ways, speaking to the need for an additional type of support for those affected.
“What you have in common [in these organizations] is the addiction ... but what we have in common in the ministry, first and foremost, is faith,” Theresa Hank explained. “That changes everything, because then it’s about your spirituality; then it’s about your journeying with those people that you see in the pews and not feeling alone in your experience.”
She also noted that the secular groups tend to use the words sponsor and sponsee. “In ministry, it’s peer to peer.”
The Hope ministry does not hold group meetings; rather, it has opportunities for people to call on members one on one. The purpose is not to advise – for none of the volunteers are certified counselors – but to listen, to perhaps offer a suggestion, and to pray. They also offer to accompany people to open AA meetings – which allow anyone to attend, including those who are just seeking information.
“Sometimes people just need to say something out loud,” Theresa Hank said, “to someone who’s going to be non-judgmental and confidential.”
Outreach and Resources
The Hope CAP stays visible in the parish through a constant presence in the parish bulletin. Every week, it provides a small blurb about the ministry – what it is, phone numbers to call for information or assistance and an email address. Once a month, a longer message is added, whether pertaining to something in the news about substance abuse or related to the time of year – spring break, Super Bowl – during which more abuse problems arise.
Two of the large functions the Hope program features every year are its Recovery Weekend and an Awareness Weekend. The latter, held near the end of January, allows parishioners to get to know what the ministry entails.
The ministry holds its Recovery Weekend in September, which is designated as National Recovery Month. It provides the same printed resources and contact information, but with a little bit different twist, focusing on the aspect of recovery and its benefits.
“Every year, we try to have someone who has been in recovery for a few years write their story,” Deacon Hank said. “We put it in the bulletin, and it’s a very positive message, how their world had gotten so much better as a result of recovery.”
Deacon Hank knows firsthand the blessing of recovery. He says having the privilege of being able to preach allows him to talk about his own recovery from alcoholism.
“I have not hidden that from anybody for a very long time,” he said, explaining that one of the reasons the ministry was started was so that people will know they’re not alone.
“Letting people know about AA meetings, and new trends in the world of drugs is important,” Deacon Hank said, “but they can learn that on the Internet, or on television ... To be there for them at their lowest moments, to pray with them, just to hold a hand, to listen without giving any advice, is a tremendous gift, and I think people are really appreciative of that.”
For more information about Hope and forming a CAP, contact Deacon Hank or Theresa Moore at [email protected], 267-573-4287.[[In-content Ad]]