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 CNS Story:

UNEMPLOYED-MINISTRY Apr-29-2011 (640 words) xxxn

Parishes invited to join advocacy network to support the unemployed

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As Paul Kravitz struggled for months to find work in the computer field without success, it was his parish in suburban Stratford, Conn., that came to the rescue.

Not with a full-time job -- unfortunately -- but, thanks to St. James Parish's Faith for the Future ministry, with prayer, emotional support and sharing the frustrations of unemployment with others.

"Prayer has helped," says Kravitz, 50, who lost his job as a computer programmer in 2008 during a shuffle of ownership of the software he handled for the hotel industry. "Definitely it's something that keeps me going."

A secular Franciscan, Kravitz says it has been a struggle to support his wife and three children with intermittent work, especially now that their home faces foreclosure. Coming together with others facing similar difficulties each week helps Kravitz see that he's not alone.

Kravitz has been with the program almost since its beginning in 2009 during the starkest days of the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression. Now he's one of the group's facilitators and helps conduct the meetings involving a dozen or so people seeking much more than work.

Laid-off factory workers as well as downsized aerospace engineers have been part of the group. Some have gone on to find work. Others have started their own businesses.

Earlier this year the St. James ministry joined Faith Advocates for Jobs, a new campaign of the Washington-based Interfaith Worker Justice. The group has assembled a tool kit that explains the campaign's goals, examines the role of churches in supporting the unemployed, offers tips on forming support groups, provides prayer resources and suggests ideas for action at meetings.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined the effort.

"The bishops recognized something needed to be done to help folks deal with the severe emotional and spiritual and moral consequences of unemployment," said Thomas Mulloy, policy adviser in the bishops' Office of Domestic Social Development.

"That's what's important about the Faith Advocates for Jobs campaign," Mulloy said. "It's not just a program to put together job fairs or resume-editing services. It's an effort to deal with the spiritual needs, with the emotional needs, the family needs as well as the immediate financial needs of their parishioners."

The network is calling upon parishes, congregations and religious communities to stand with the unemployed by starting support groups that meet needs beyond traditional networking opportunities and practical job-searching tips.

"People are feeling alienated and isolated and by bringing people together ... where they can talk together and pray together to gain a sense of the future and people learn to live together in spite of the crisis they face," said the Rev. Paul Sherry, a United Church of Christ minister who is coordinator of Faith Advocates for Jobs.

Jim Hodska, St. James' parish manager, has found that Faith for the Future keeps people from developing a woe-is-me attitude about their situation.

"We provide an environment of hope for people and give them support," he explained.

"It's not just from the standpoint of how many resumes did you send out, but what it's (unemployment) doing to you as a person right now," Hodska said. "How are you doing compared to a year ago when you were fully employed."

Kravitz says he especially welcomes the chance to share his experiences with others. He expects to continue with Faith for the Future even if he's fortunate enough to find work. He says he wants to offer his expertise to others.

"The thing is not to give up," he said. "God's got a plan in store. We don't know what that plan is necessarily. We have to wait in time for what he wants us to see. On the other hand, you've got to be looking for it."

- - -

Editor's Note: Information about Faith Advocates for Jobs can be found online at www.iwj.org/index.cfm/employment.

END


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