From the pulpits across the diocese of Oakland on Sept. 9 and 10, Catholics will hear from priests and deacons about an initiative launching: Catholics Care.

Under the auspices of the Marriage and Family Life division of the Department of Evangelization and Catechesis, the initiative seeks to provide avenues toward whole-person care, from conception to natural death.

“Whole-life care is attractive,” said Mimi Streett, who is spearheading the diocese’s efforts.

Through the California Catholic Conference, parishioners throughout the state will be engaging in these efforts. The annual Respect Life gathering, which will be held Sept. 16 in Oakland, will feature a keynote address by Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the conference, on statewide initiatives.

Locally, the initiative leaders will launch a website offering additional information for those who seek, and those who give, care.

A committee of parishioners, many of them professionals in the health care field, has been looking at ways to help spread the message. The committee began meeting in April.

The effort is across the life spectrum, including physical, mental and spiritual care. It seeks to answer the question: How can we better accompany people in their life journey?

The concept of accompaniment is critical. Rev. Stephan Kappler, pastor of St. Jarlath Church in Oakland, is also a psychologist at Kairos Psychology group in Oakland.

“There is a tendency these days to act as if human frailty, human suffering and pain that comes with it,” he said, “there’s no space for that. We act as if that can be fully controlled and eliminated from our lives. That is not true.”

Think of the wide gate and the narrow gate, he suggested.

“The narrow gate in this sense is to accompany people through their times of distress, through their times of pain, through their times of suffering, to do everything we can to make sure people are in the company of loved ones, that they are cared for, that they receive compassion, all the care that’s there, especially knowing that God loves them and is with them every step of the way,” he said.

That’s the essence of what Catholics do, Father Kappler said. “That’s what compassionate Catholic care is. We accompany each other in times of grief and pain and loss.”

Among those who are there for others is the Healing the Heart ministry at St. Bonaventure Church in Concord, where twice a year, six-week sessions are offered. There’s also a one-night session. There are 80 to 90 funerals a year in the parish.

“We’ve had as many as 15 or 20 people,” said Dick Collyer, who participates in the ministry for those who grieve. Sometimes, though, the ministers outnumber those they serve.

“You know how many aren’t there,” he said.

“Women outnumber men, 10-1. Men don’t come. They may come with their spouse.They don’t come alone,” he said. “You have a whole group out there that’s suffering.”

The increase in mental illness has opened many discussions on life issues.

“We’re seeing, so many times, this isn’t just an elder issue,” Streett said.

Another area of improvement, statewide, is hospital chaplaincy. One diocese offers a toll-free number to reach a priest in time of need.

The Oakland diocese offers hospital ministry at 30 hospitals and health care providers.

Full story at The Catholic Voice.