May 31, 2013

Workshop provides information on addictions, ministries that help

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin greets attendees of the National Catholic Council on Addictions workshop after a special Mass for them at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on April 29. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin greets attendees of the National Catholic Council on Addictions workshop after a special Mass for them at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on April 29. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Christ instructed, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind ” (Mt 22:37).

Christ identified the three aspects that make a person whole: heart, soul and mind. When any one of these aspects is suffering, the person suffers.

Substance addictions affect not just one but all all three components, fracturing individuals, their families and their communities.

In light of this reality, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin was pleased to have the archdiocese host a National Catholic Council on Addictions (NCCA) workshop at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center on April 29.

“I am a big supporter of the work of NCCA. Addictions—especially those to alcohol and different forms of drugs—represent an epidemic that destroys human beings on all levels: physical, mental and spiritual,” the archbishop said. “What is more, these diseases ‘infect’ families, religious communities, presbyterates and parishes, affecting those closest to the addict.”

The NCCA, which works with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, serves as a resource center for parish ministries assisting those suffering from or affected by substance addictions.

“The workshops are always free,” said Louise Westcott, NCCA director. “We are a non-profit, membership-based organization, so we do ask people to support us that way. But we never want money to get in the way [of people attending a workshop].”

The workshops are intended “for those who work with those in recovery, families of those who have addictions, those with addictions and those in the health care world who work with those with addictions,” Westcott explained.

In addition to addictions treatment and recovery facilities, there are many parish-level ministries in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon and other 12-step programs.

But Deacon Bill Jones saw a need for a Catholic-based substance abuse ministry at the parish level.

“I got involved when I went through the deacon formation program. I went to my spiritual director, Father Larry Voelker, about the Catholic Church not reaching out enough to those suffering from addictions, recovering from addictions and afflicted by addictions,”said Deacon Jones, who serves at St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus.

Through Father Voelker, now deceased, he met Erik Vagenius, who had created a substance addictions ministry program in the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida.

Deacon Jones put together a core group of people from various parishes and invited Vagenius to Indianapolis to train them in the fall of 2006.

Thus the archdiocese’s Substance Abuse Ministry (SAM) was formed.

“SAMs try to do educational events for parishes, provide resources, sit and talk with people, be there for people, pray with people. We try to offer hope, healing and reconciliation for our parish members,” Deacon Jones explained. “The most important resource we have in our Church is the people in the pews.”

There are currently four parishes with active SAM ministries in the archdiocese: St. Augustine Parish in Jeffersonville, St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, and Holy Cross Parish and St. Monica Parish, both in Indianapolis.

Deacon Jones said there are plans to start deanery-based SAM groups by the end of the year.

As a current NCCA board member, Deacon Jones suggested Indianapolis as a good location for an NCCA workshop.

Speakers included Deacon Jones and Vagenius, both of whom spoke on how to start a parish-level substance abuse ministry. Dr. Melanie Margiotta of the Kolbe Center, Inc. in Indianapolis spoke on the medical aspects of addictions.

Father Paul White, pastor of Holy Apostles Parish in the Diocese of Rockford, Ill., and president of the NCCA’s advisory board, gave a presentation on “The Family and Addictions.” He said that knowing about the family and addictions is helpful not just for working with people with addictions, but for understanding Church dynamics as well.

“We found that 60 percent of our ministry people—people in the helping ministry—come from dysfunctional families or alcoholic family systems. So it’s important to understand the system and the roles that people take so we understand how people operate in the Church,” Father White said. “It gives you good insight into how people operate, so you can accept them instead of let them drive you nuts.”

Father White was among the priests who concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Tobin at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis after the workshop.

In his homily, the archbishop spoke in strong support of the NCCA and similar organizations.

“We read how Jesus identified his fundamental mission as liberating human beings from all that would enslave them,” he said. “To support groups like the NCCA is to participate intimately in the mission of Jesus.”

(For more information on Substance Addictions Ministries, log on to, or contact Joni LeBeau, health ministry coordinator for the Office of Family Ministries, at 317-236-1475 or 800-382-9836 ext. 1475 or e-mail her at

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