On Friday, February 17 Fr. John Asare, pastor of St. Mary Church in Blacksburg, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving to commemorate the 8th anniversary of St. Mary’s Mental Health, Prayer & Support Group (The Group).

The Group which serves also the parishes of Holy Spirit in Christiansburg and St Jude’s in Radford, has as its mission to:

— provide weekly Peer-to-Peer support (with facilitation) for those affected with a mental illness in the model of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), but differs from NAMI in that it is heavily dependent on prayer as well as fellowship.

— provide a loving community where members share their experiences freely and receive the support and social interaction that they need.

— provide support in training to members, family members, and friends, for example as in the area of Mental Health First Aid, Peer-to-Peer, and Family-to-Family Group support, and information on the general nature of different mental illnesses. The Group encourages members to adhere to the prescriptions of their psychiatrists and professional counselors.

— provide holiday care and support to The Group members, and to others throughout our community by distributing care packages to those hospitalized and residing in group homes, and

— more recently, The Group is being approached (through the St. Mary’s website) seeking advice on how to start a similar ministry in their own parishes.

To support The Group’s mission, there are two yearly fundraiser events. The first is a Fish Fry complete dinner which will be held on Friday, March 24th sponsored by St. Mary’s Treasure Stewardship Committee. The Group organizes the second fund raiser event, the Bake and Book Sale, which will be on the weekend of June 10/11.

During these past 8 years many adults, men and women, have passed through The Group and have moved on with renewed confidence and hope. Members, in the process, develop a more robust prayer life, more dependent on the tenets of their faith, and more confident on the love of Jesus for them. The special companionship and fellowship continue as present members pray, send Christmas and Easter greetings to all former members, their families, and to all known Group benefactors & supporters.

For more information: Contact Irma Silva-Barbeau, PhD, OCDS through St. Mary’s at 540 552-1091 or at irmasilvabarbeau@yahoo.com.