August 27, 2021

At SAM Mass, archbishop says addiction ministry must be ‘rooted in Christ’

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson ritually lays his hands upon Mark John during the archdiocese’s annual Substance Addiction Ministry (SAM) Mass, held this year at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus on Aug. 12. Father Christopher Wadelton, pastor of St. Bartholomew, looks on as Denny, left, and Debbie Frey and Mark’s wife Sue join in the blessing. The Johns are members of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour. Their friends, the Freys, are members of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson ritually lays his hands upon Mark John during the archdiocese’s annual Substance Addiction Ministry (SAM) Mass, held this year at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus on Aug. 12. Father Christopher Wadelton, pastor of St. Bartholomew, looks on as Denny, left, and Debbie Frey and Mark’s wife Sue join in the blessing. The Johns are members of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour. Their friends, the Freys, are members of St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

COLUMBUS—Rain gushed outside St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus, accompanied by a large clap of thunder, as Archbishop Charles C. Thompson ritually placed his hands in blessing upon the head of Mark John.

“When the rain and thunder came, it was just like God was talking to us, saying, ‘I’m here! I’m hearing you!’ ” said his wife Sue.

The blessing occurred during the archdiocese’s annual Substance Addiction Ministry (SAM) Mass, held this year on Aug. 12.

“I think it’s important to bring awareness to the archdiocese that addiction is a struggle that many in the pews have,” said Brie Ann Varick, director of the Office of Human Life and Dignity, the umbrella office under which SAM resides.

In his homily, Archbishop Thompson expounded on the need for the Church to offer healing to those suffering from addiction.

‘Nothing is beyond God’s … power to transform’

As the rain poured outside, the archbishop spoke of the need for those “involved in substance addiction ministry—whether as health care provider, counselor, caretaker, family member or one suffering from addiction—to pour out “patience, understanding and the capacity to forgive multiple times.

“Any encounter within this ministry, for Christians, must be one that is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ, because in that encounter, we encounter the very presence of God, the very love of God.

“A Church that recognizes those in need never loses sight of the dignity of the person amid the muck of suffering and taking the time to bring about healing and reconciliation.”

Archbishop Thompson reminded the roughly 100 people present that Christ “suffered and died for us—to heal our infirmities, bind our wounds, absolve our guilt and relieve our fears. …

“It is through personal encounter with him in word, sacrament, prayer and one another that we experience a sense of peace, mercy and joy that the world cannot provide.

“Nothing is beyond the scope of God’s mercy and power to transform.”

Addiction ‘is a disease’

When speaking with The Criterion about the importance of the SAM Mass, Varick noted that the stigma associated with substance addiction makes it “very hard for those struggling with addiction or those who have family members or friends struggling with it, for them to find any place for comfort and support, and even harder to find that in their faith community. …

“It’s a mission of this ministry to make it known that our faith is one of comfort and, I would say especially, a place for healing and where one should come if struggling with addiction.”

The annual Mass falls on or near

Aug. 14, the feast of St. Maximillian Kolbe. Having been killed by lethal injection, he is the patron saint of addicts.

“That includes addiction to opiates, but also other things,” said Varick. “ ‘Substance’ includes alcohol, food, gambling, pornography—that’s been rampant, especially with COVID.”

Addictions have seen an increase through the pandemic because of one particular component, said Varick—isolation.

“Addiction is an isolating disease, and it is a disease,” she said. She noted studies show that, when introduced to an addictive substance, the brain of one with addictive tendencies fires neurons differently than one without such tendencies.

“So, there is medical evidence that [addiction] is a disease—an addict’s response is not of their choice,” said Varick.

She noted that, while people can die from opioid addiction, “there are other kinds of death from different forms of addictions—marriage, relationships, health, not living the life God created for you.”

‘It’s a gift to have a Mass just for this’

As the wife of an alcoholic, Sue John knows the forms of death that both addicts and relatives of addicts face.

“It can be a struggle,” she admitted, as her husband Mark looked at her understandingly. The couple are members of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour.

“We came here to this Mass because it was just about addiction,” said Mark, who readily admits he is an alcoholic. “It was an awesome experience, because sometimes [addicts] don’t get the full attention they need.

“We even got to go to confession before Mass, so when the rain came down it just kind of wiped everything clean! It really was an inspiring Mass, especially with the archbishop here.”

Sue agreed.

“I loved it. It was very spiritual, and gave me the opportunity to, ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ ” she said, quoting Psalm 46:10.

“It was a wonderful experience and we’re very grateful. God truly is the answer, and you can’t get through anything like this without Christ. It’s a gift to have a Mass set [aside] just for this.”
 

(For more information on the archdiocese’s Substance Addiction Ministry, go to cutt.ly/ArchIndySAM [case sensitive].)

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!