Mental Health and Our Faith

It’s Not Just You, It’s Everybody: Getting Real about Mental Health and Our Faith – A Sacred Symposium

Friday, May 12, 6:30 – 9pm
Saturday, May 13, 10am-3:45pm

Suggested Free-will Offering: $50 (All are welcome, with or without a donation.)

Register here by May 10th

Mental health is as integral to our health as physical health. Yet social stigmas and lack of scientific knowledge about how our brains work have historically resulted in silent suffering, shame, and secret-keeping in secular society. Our religious institutions have too often labeled our mental challenges as sins. Both the sufferer and those who love them are hurt by these stances. Our Covid-19 experience has laid bare the prevalence and breadth of our individual and collective trauma. As Catholic Christians, we are called to practice radical mercy and compassion with ourselves and others, and to normalize “not being OK” in our churches and our society.

Join us for a sacred symposium on a host of issues around the intersection of faith, mental health, and challenges we all face in a prayerful, pastoral setting with Dr. Jessica CoblentzDr. Elizabeth Antus, and Fr. Steven Bell, facilitated by our Pastoral Administrator, Patty Simpson. Our time will include communal prayer, sharing of the presenters’ personal and faith call to their work, presentations on their work (see below* for more details), time for attendees’ private personal reflection, possibly a breakout session (depending on the size of our group), and conversation with our presenters.

Jess is an associate professor at St. Mary’s College, and a former young adult minister at the Paulist Center. Elizabeth is an assistant professor at Boston College. Steven is a Paulist priest based in Los Angeles leading missions, lectures and workshops focused on healing and reconciliation, and spent a summer living at the Paulist Center as a Paulist student doing hospital chaplaincy. In addition to her work as Pastoral Administrator at the Center, Patty is the denominational counselor to Catholic students at Harvard Divinity School and an Instructor in Ministry there. All four share vulnerably and are motivated in their work from their personal experiences and their faith. Jessica and Elizabeth are producing ground-breaking theological work in the areas of faith and depression and suicide. Steve and Patty allow their personal experiences to shape their pastoral encounters, preaching and social media shares.

Please note that this will be a pastoral and educational setting, but not a professional/clinical counseling setting.
The event will be in-person only (not hybrid), but is open to all.
Snacks provided. Lunch is on your own or bring your own.
Directions & Parking info at

Questions? Contact Patty Simpson at or 617-948-2428.

*Presentation Topic Areas

Dr. Jessica Coblentz
Depression frequently raises difficult questions: What is happening? Why is this happening? And what is one to do amid such pain? To aid us as we navigate depression’s big questions, Coblentz will introduce one theological resource—an understanding of depression as a wilderness experience—and explore its implications for Christian interpretations of and responses to life with depression.

Dr. Elizabeth Antus
Suicide rates in the U.S. have risen steadily over the past several decades, and many Catholics feel at this point that simply condemning it from a faith perspective is not helpful. Now that there is a greater awareness of mental illness and suicidal distress than there was in the past, it is crucial that Catholics understand these lived experiences and lovingly support people who are struggling with their mental health. In this talk, Antus will draw upon her own experiences as a suicide loss survivor and as a family member of people with severe mental illness in order to outline what this new understanding should look like and how Catholics can offer their support. Ultimately, embracing people struggling with mental health issues is one of the most important things that Catholics can do in light of their faith commitments.

Fr. Steven Bell, CSP
With displaced anger, embodied fear, social anxiety, emotional isolation, and spiritual desolation all on the rise, our American society is heading toward an ominous crossroad that holds in the balance our care and regard of self and community.  Informed by his own struggles with these experiences, Bell will seek to surface tactical means of moving through the struggles of mental anguish in order to develop strategic ways of living and being healthier with greater agility and awareness, self-care, and God-centered dependence in this time of post-pandemic malaise.

Approximate schedule for the event, subject to adjustment:

Friday 6:30 – 9 – snacks will be available after the prayer service

6:30 – 6:40 Welcome and Overview
6:40 – 7:10 Prayer Service
7:20 – 8:45 Opening conversation by presenters with time for attendees contributions to the conversation touching on topics such as:

  • What brought you to this work?
  • Why, as Christians, should we care about mental health?
  • What does a Christian perspective bring to conversations and other efforts to address mental health?

8:45 – 9:00 Closing Comments for Evening and Closing Prayer/Song

Saturday 10 – 3:30 – snacks and coffee/tea/water will be available

10:00-10:15 – Welcome and Opening Prayer/Song
10:15 – 10:45   Elizabeth Antus talk
10:45 – 11:00 Break/personal reflection
11:00 – 11:30 Jessica Coblentz talk
11:30-11:45 Break/personal reflection
11:45 – 12:15 Steven Bell talk
12:15 – 1:30 Personal reflection/lunch
Folks who brown bag are welcome to eat at the Center.
Folks who go out can choose to bring food back to eat at the Center.
1:30 – 2:45 TBD – Break out groups or a panel conversation with presenters and attendees, including closing conversation/remarks
2:45 – 3:30 Closing prayer service with opportunity for sacramental anointing/non-sacramental blessing/prayer