Online Trauma Workshops Help Heal Covid Wounds


Catholics grieving the loss of a family member or job because of the coronavirus pandemic may find solace in online workshops, which began this week and will continue in the fall, that shed light on suffering.

“With everything that’s happened due to Covid—all the people that have lost jobs, lost family members—their worlds have been turned upside down and back over,” said Elizabeth Guevara de Gonzalez, director of the Office of Adult Faith Formation for the archdiocese.

“Trying to come to terms of the new reality of where we are, it’s even more apparent the importance of our faith,” she continued, “and relying on Jesus as our Healer.”

“Beyond Trauma: A Catholic Guide for Spiritual First Aid” was created “for this need,” she said, by the American Bible Society in collaboration with the Trauma Healing Institute.

Ms. de Gonzalez spoke to CNY by phone Aug. 21 about the workshops her office is hosting via the Zoom platform in collaboration with the American Bible Society.

The first Zoom session, which included a workshop and webinar in English and a workshop in Spanish, was held Aug. 25, utilizing as a resource “Beyond Trauma: A Catholic Guide for Spiritual First Aid.”

Second and third sessions are being planned for the fall.

Although designed for clergy and lay faith leaders, all are welcome. The purpose is to introduce and provide an experience of the “Beyond Trauma” course booklet to help people confront and heal from the effects of trauma and grief as a result of Covid-19. The booklet was created as a variation to the Trauma Healing Institute’s “Beyond Disaster” guide to help people.

“These workshops are a fruition from conversations that I have had with my liaison from the American Bible Society; I am hopeful they will bear a lot of fruit within the archdiocese, where we need it most.”

Ms. de Gonzalez, who serves as host for both the workshop and the webinar, welcomes all to the sessions. For the workshop she hands the session over to a facilitator from the American Bible Society. The facilitator, who has been trained through the Trauma Healing Institute, guides participants through the “Beyond Trauma” booklet and, during the practicum, breaks people into pairs for a more in-depth discussion. During the webinar, participants are encouraged by the facilitator to share within the Zoom chat box.

Registration for the English language workshop reached its maximum capacity of 70 people; the English language webinar had a maximum capacity of 300 people and a registration of 216, and the Spanish language workshop had a maximum capacity of 70 with 56 registered. In addition, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard Church in Manhattan livestreamed the Spanish workshop from a social distance in two rooms of 20 participants each.

The registration numbers underscore a need that is “so strong and so vast,” Ms. de Gonzalez said. “Every single person right now is suffering in some way from this pandemic. This is an opportunity for them to express it, to come to terms with it.”

“There may be some people that have perhaps not come to terms with what their suffering looks like,” Ms. de Gonzalez said, “and to be able to actually accept, this has really affected my life.”

“But then there’s other people who have had it affect them so much that it’s such a need that they know that they need it, and perhaps were the first ones to sign up.”

“The need,” Ms. de Gonzalez said, “is everywhere.”

Ms. de Gonzalez said she considers the Zoom sessions “as a stepping stone” for ministry leaders in parishes who will be starting more programs or meeting up online or in person in the fall and are in need “of some sort of healing preparation before they encounter others, before they start to engage with others—for the sake of themselves, for them to be able to give themselves more fully to others, and also for the sake of their own healing, to have a greater peace and to be able to serve in that way.”

“The reality is, we can’t give what we don’t have,” she said. “If we want to serve others, if we want to help others within the parish—there are so many people who do so much of the Church’s work within the parishes, and so many of them are suffering and need to heal in order to help others.”

Asked who else may benefit from the workshop and webinar, Ms. de Gonzalez said anyone who has lost a loved one, anyone who has had coronavirus and survived it, medical workers who have been on the front lines and observed the suffering of patients who have come through the doors of a hospital, and are carrying those memories.

Additionally, police officers who have been working throughout the pandemic and also witnessing the pain and suffering of people amid the social unrest throughout the country.

Among the content in the “Beyond Trauma” course booklet that Ms. de Gonzalez believes will resonate with participants is the section that reiterates that God cares, in particular the Scripture passage from Psalm 139:15-16.

“When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there—you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began.”

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