By Arlene Edmonds
Special to The CS&T
MALVERN – There is hope for the unemployed. This was the message at the day-long getaway for the local out-of-work population held at Malvern Retreat House recently. Some 200 displaced Catholic workers showed up for the free event, held on the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, May 1.
Psychotherapist Mary Jane Hurley Brant encouraged those gathered not to internalize the job loss into their personal identity. She told them that they are simply among the 5.1 million Americans who have been out of work since December 2007. She even stressed that their next employment venture is coming in the near future.
“It’s all about letting go of the old job so you can welcome the new,” said Brant.
“We can survive things. God will give us the grace to do so. He may be allowing this to teach us something. So, we should listen to how we can make this a productive period. There are blessings coming if we don’t despair. You will never be open to the new if you become despairing,” she said.
Brant stressed that being laid off is not one’s fault. “Don’t personalize your loss because this will hurt your self-esteem, which you need to get a new job,” Brant said.
What should the unemployed do? Brant recommended that they allow themselves to go through the five stages of grief. These are denial (this is not happening), anger (why is this happening to me?), bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…), depression (I don’t care anymore) and, finally, acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes).
“Then it’s time to figure out what you really loved about the job,” said Brant. “Maybe it was the camaraderie. That will help you to accept a job offer that offers that to you. Of course, because of financial need, sometimes we will have to take a job we don’t like (temporarily), but at least you’ll learn what you really want from your job.”
Sister Ann McCoy, S.S.J., a spiritual director at the retreat house, also provided participants with a message of hope by encouraging participants to look for the good in their situations despite the “mess and difficulties.”
“Hope is not a naïve expectation that all will go well,” she said. “Rather, it is knowing no matter what happens, God is with us, strengthening, healing and loving us through our challenges.”
The presentation by Cana Associates focused on practical tools for job hunting in the 21st century, including Internet resources.
For retreat participant Suzanne Ticknor of West Chester, the day offered a core message that unemployment is a result of the bad economy. “I enjoyed the day tremendously,” she said. “It was very helpful, inspiring and motivating.”
Patrick Culloty of Aston echoed the sense of reassurance he received from the presenters. “It was really good to be able to place faces with others who are unemployed so that you know that you are not alone,” he said. An unemployed consultant, Culloty said the retreat day was a reminder to him to find new ways to set daily goals for himself to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Malvern Retreat House is 125 acres of wooded countryside established by the Layman’s Retreat League in 1921. It has 350 private rooms, two chapels, five oratories, two conference centers and a dining hall. Its mission is to serve the spiritual needs of lay men and women of all ages, as well as clergy and the religious of many denominations in a peaceful environment. For upcoming retreats visit www.malvernretreat.com.
Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She can be reached at ArleneEdmonds@aol.com.