By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published June 4, 2009
As job losses and unemployment figures continue to grab the headlines, a positive ministry focusing on these issues is spreading throughout the archdiocese and beyond.
Caroline McCoy-Hansen, director of Career Ministry at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, and John Marotto, director of Career Quest at St. Ann Church, Marietta, presented a workshop May 7 to provide guidance to members of other parishes on managing a career ministry of their own. Nearly 50 people met in the parish hall of the Cathedral of Christ the King.
“Many parishes are seeking ways to serve those at their own church and the community. The information gained in this workshop gives the needed insight on ways to start out small and grow along the way,” wrote Marotto afterward by e-mail.
Sponsored by Catholic Charities Atlanta, the workshop was a group effort, supported by the archdiocese, to share knowledge on facing these tough times with the help of tested career ministries.
“It was amazing to see such a diverse group of people gathered together for the same purpose,” said David Briones, who represented the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Representatives of the Jewish community and other Christian denominations also took part, demonstrating how the effects of the current economic situation are reaching everyone.
“It was very ecumenical,” said Hansen. “I think that is very important.”
“It was such an interactive workshop which allowed for a good conversation of ideas. This was important because some had just started a career ministry and others have been doing it for years,” Briones added.
The first session began with ways of establishing a new ministry in a parish. The presenters said that talking to the pastor and discussing initial assumptions about the ministry are important first steps.
Hansen and Marotto recommended creating a regularly scheduled meeting time and day, as well as making sure all of the meetings are free. It is important, they said, to form a core group of people to lead and aid with the ministry’s growth and progress.
Those interested in beginning a ministry were encouraged to visit different parishes or churches with ministries already established to get ideas on the various designs and structures one could apply.
“In speaking to some of the attendees, I found some looking to compare what they had on the drawing board thus far to what was being presented; some wanting to know how to start; and some comparing their existing program looking for any ideas for improvement,” said Chuck Bolash, a Holy Spirit parishioner who became involved with Career Ministry earlier this year.
The workshop also allowed some break time for participants to discuss about what they learned and share ideas. After Mass and lunch, the second session focused on different designs and structures for a career ministry.
The two presenters showed their own career ministry designs back to back.
The Career Ministry at Holy Spirit is structured more like a mini-job fair, while Career Quest at St. Ann performs resume reviews with one-on-one coaching. The Holy Spirit ministry invites employers to speak and present information about their company. Career Quest offers a rotation of 10 two-hour workshops on topics like starting a job search and interviewing skills.
“I believe that it allowed the attendee to walk away with a solid picture of the steps we recommend be taken to create a dynamic ministry,” Marotto said.
“We also spoke at length about allowing enough time for unstructured or structured time for the job-seekers to network with each other. This is so important,” he said. “At home, loved ones, relatives and friends cannot help/coach/aid the unemployed person as well as another job-seeker can. By networking, they exchange ideas, best practices and business referrals.”
Rachel Overby, a parishioner at St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, said her parish was in the process of establishing a career ministry. She said that learning about the other area churches that also have or are starting a career ministry was the most helpful thing about the workshop.
“Knowing this information allows us to provide job seekers in our community with more options for networking opportunities, other job search topics and more resources,” she said.
Patti Connolly, who represented St. Jude Church, Atlanta, said that parish also wants to begin a new ministry and the workshop provided many useful tools.
“There are a myriad of things to consider when starting the ministry, so having that condensed to a checklist of items to consider as well as practical advice on what works and what doesn’t work was very helpful,” she said. “I think this framework will help jump start the process so we can be up and running sooner and further along in the structure and design.”
She also felt the presenters did a good job of addressing this growing need.
“They were knowledgeable and very willing to share and help others,” she said. “Most importantly, they modeled what they spoke about to be successful in this ministry. It’s not how large or comprehensive the offerings are, it’s focusing on doing what you can to help others in need, to have the heart of a servant and know that you are doing God’s work.”
But it wasn’t just the participants who thought the event went well. Many of the leaders also recognized the initial effect it had and hope to keep it alive by staying in touch with each other.
“Many of the group felt that this should be a periodic meeting of the leaders to compare notes to keep their career ministry relevant and effective,” said Bolash. “There were other faiths present and all felt that it should continue that way since we are all serving people of different faiths.”
“The workshop was a great experience,” said Hansen. “The important thing is that we follow up” to see how the communities are doing with their ministries.
The Career Ministry at Holy Spirit will be meeting at Northwest Presbyterian Church from June through December 2009 due to construction at Holy Spirit Church. Hansen said she plans to hold a networking session in mid-July both for those who attended the May workshop and those who were unable to make it. She believes the more often the career ministry leaders can gather together, the stronger the ministries will be.
Hansen also wants to continue to be available to the attendees of the workshop. She encouraged them to call or e-mail her with questions or concerns as they begin to establish their ministries.
“If everyone follows up, it will be a worthwhile endeavor,” she said.
“Helping people so that they can provide for themselves and their loved ones is such a basic need,” Marotto said about the importance of a career ministry. “As they re-enter the workforce they become contributors again and regain their self-esteem.”
For more information on the Career Ministry at Holy Spirit Church, visit www.careerministry.org. For more information on Career Quest at St. Ann Church, visit www.st-ann.org/career_quest.php.