Crisis intervention is laudable and necessary. But it’s not enough.
Illustration by Ivan Haidutski from Icons8
I live and work in the Sutton area of St Helens, Merseyside. Buried here, in the Shrine at St Anne and Blessed Dominic’s church, you can find the Venerable Elizabeth Prout: foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion. Elizabeth’s life has proved to be a significant inspiration to my work in dementia support/care, and living in solidarity with the northern working-class people in my area. I believe we have much to learn from her.
Elizabeth (also known as Mother Mary Joseph) was born in Shrewsbury and was inspired and supported by the male Passionist Congregation to found an order of religious women. They required no dowry to enter the order, and made religious life accessible to working class women. She lived and worked long hours alongside these women; together they became a sign that God’s overwhelming love for us was made known in an exceptional way by the passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We live in challenging times, to say the least. The pandemic has brought increased suffering due to an already faltering economy, an unjust welfare system and a mental health crisis. In my experience, crisis intervention teams in the UK do an excellent job; but what is truly required? We need people who will walk the baseline in these sites of suffering. People who are experiencing severe life challenges and/or addiction issues will very often fall back into old habits and coping mechanisms once the crisis intervention support has been taken away. By providing everyday love and support to people whose lives are in turmoil we prevent crisis intervention and remind people there is a God who loves them. Everyone can then enter a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with our creator. This is the beauty of a true organic relationship.
What can be learnt from the life of Elizabeth Prout and its vulnerabilities as we face these personal and collective challenges? We do not run from this challenge or give up on the authentic church because of fear. The risks associated in living this way are too much for many people, especially when the genuine church has been let down, in so many ways by so many individuals.
I believe religious life will not flourish until it recovers its authentic vision and moves back alongside the people. The Gospel is more easily witnessed and experienced at the edges rather than at the centre. It’s time for us to learn from Elizabeth Prout: truly, a woman ahead of her time.
This Dementia Action Week, please do what you can to reach out to those in your community who may be affected by a dementia-type illness.
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