By Joan D. Warren

FALL RIVER — To recognize the impact that mental health challenges have on individuals, families and caregivers, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., will offer a special Mass on Sunday, October 29 at 10:30 a.m. in the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Fall River.  

October is National Mental Health Awareness Month.

A Book of Remembrance will be offered during the Mass for those who have died due to mental illness, suicide or substance use. The purpose is to invite, support and provide acceptance of those affected and may feel isolated and alone due to mental health challenges. The Mass will also focus on those who are currently experiencing mental health challenges. 

The event is a kick-off to the beginning of a new Mental Health Ministry (MHM)Program in the Diocese, organized through the Catholic Charities Diocese of Fall River (CCDFR).

Rose Mary Saraiva and Jack Weldon of CCDFR have teamed up as mental health coordinators for the diocese.

They work collaboratively with the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (CMHM) whose members see Christ in those who live with mental illness.  

“There is a lot of negativity around mental health issues,” Saraiva told The Anchor. “The silver lining that has come out of the pandemic is that mental health has been brought into the light. There is no judgment in our ministry.” 

One of the biggest challenges for those suffering with any type of mental health issue is the stigma placed on them and their situation. In many cases, it is not malicious or intentional, but rather a misinformed and often myth-laden understanding of mental health challenges and mental illness.

Pope Francis said that it is necessary to take action “fully [to] overcome the stigma that mental illness is often tainted with” (June 25, 2021).

Mental Health Ministry (MHM) teams practice a ministry of service and presence; like the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37), they do not look the other way or walk past those living with a mental illness but instead pour the oil and wine of the Gospel into their lives. 

The group is a lay association of the Christian faithful whose members are called to be a healing presence in the lives of people with mental illness. 

Being an active member of a close-knit faith-based community can provide structure, support and a sense of acceptance, all of which are beneficial to mental health.

No matter the situation, physical health, relationship issues, mental health or substance use concerns, Christians share the common knowledge that we are all children of God, and are deserving of compassion, understanding and love. 

Saraiva and Weldon are working with pastors and staff at parishes in the dioceses facilitating mental health first aid and companionship training to implement active MHM teams. They will provide support and education for parish teams on an ongoing basis.

The Diocese of Fall River MHM Diocesan team can be reached at 508-674-4681.  

 Those who would like to submit a name or names of loved ones for the Remembrance Book can email, with the subject line: Name for Remembrance Book. People may also call Catholic Charities Diocese of Fall River at 508-674-4681 Ext. 1101.