PEOPLE with mental illness need spiritual care more than a handout, Catholic Psychiatric Pastoral Care chaplain Fr Jim Smith says.
Fr Smith has been the chaplain for CPPC, a ministry dedicated to the mentally ill including people with schizophrenia, since 1987.
In those 29 years, Fr Smith has come to realise that people with a mental disorder need pastoral care as much as personal care.
“The poor want to be fed spiritually, through the Mass, the sacraments and the wonder of God in prayer,” he said.
Spiritual food is never lacking at CPPC, which offers its members Adoration and the Rosary weekly, the Liturgy of the Word three days a week, retreats during Lent, daily opportunities for the Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation, as well as a weekly Mass and prayer gathering.
It’s what Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, called “a privileged and preferential religious care”, and one of Fr Smith’s favourite papal statements.
“I want to say, with regret, that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care,” the Pope wrote.
“The great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his Word, the celebration of the sacraments, and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith.
“Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care.”
Fr Smith said ending this discrimination meant pastoral care for the mentally ill needed to be free of charge.
“We like providing hospitality, and we’re not a ministry charging anything,” he said.
All CPPC members receive daily hot meals and gourmet sandwiches on Fridays, and the ministry even offers a free taxi service to its 61 pastoral carers and priests caring for the mentally ill in hostels.
“Everything at the centre, even the hot meals, is free,” Fr Smith said.
“We don’t have to charge the members anything, and we wouldn’t because most of them live on pensions or disability payments.”
They rely on a number of generous donors to continue providing a free service.
Once a year, Fr Smith invites members and the wider community to receive the Anointing of the Sick to honour the feast day of St Dymphna, the patron for CPPC and people with mental illness.
About 200 were present at St Patrick’s Church, Fortitude Valley, for the anointing, which also serves as the ministry’s major fundraising event.
But fundraising for the ministry is secondary to the sacramental nourishment CPPC provides.
“Many, many people ask, ‘How did your fete go’?” Fr Smith said.
“Well, I begin to tell them about the Mass, because really, that is our focus, the spiritual care of people.”
By Emilie Ng