More than 100 members of Arlington Catholic Charities' Parish
Liaison Network (PLN) recently gathered at Our Lady of Good
Counsel Church in Vienna for a daylong meeting on
"Strengthening Senior Services in our Parishes."
Art Bennett, CEO and president of Catholic Charities, opened
the session with a prayer.
The morning's topic was difficult. Bereavement over the loss
of a loved one can seem unbearable, but there are ways to
ease the pain of loss.
Gracie Ortiz, director of senior services for Catholic
Charities, introduced the first speakers, Jim Jenkins and
Dawn Beutner from Holy Spirit Church in Annandale.
The two are involved with Seasons of Hope, a Christ-centered
support group at Holy Spirit.
Seasons of Hope meets for six consecutive weeks, four times a
year in winter, spring, summer and fall. The group has been
active for four years.
Jenkins, who lost his wife 20 years ago, has worked with the
group since its inception.
"The bottom dropped out of my life," he said of his wife's
He said that people who come to Seasons of Hope often feel
anger toward God and feel betrayed.
"We focus on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," said
Beutner said that the emphasis of the group is "very
Catholic," but "anyone who is a believer should feel
Bernie Elero from St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville
directs the Good Mourning Catholic Bereavement Ministry,
Grieving with Great Hope program at the parish.
It's a five-week DVD-based program that helps the bereaved
through the grieving process.
Elero said that bereavement is a journey through a valley of
grief, and there are tools that Catholics have that help in
"We have the sacraments," Elero said.
Finishing out the morning were Judy Taibl and Dave Balferston
from Haven of Northern Virginia, a bereavement support
organization in Annandale.
Haven offers one-on-one support, plus group and telephone
help. Haven is nonsectarian, but is supported by several
Taibl said that volunteers at Haven are there to listen.
"God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason," she said.
Taibl said that many emotions come out during grief - anger
being the most common. But volunteers tell the bereaved that
those emotions are normal.
An important part of grieving is moving on, Taibl said.
"I see body languages change when we say that," she said.
"But that does not mean that we do not love that person
anymore, or that we have replaced them."
At the lunch break, Ortiz told the audience that Catholic
Charities needs more parish groups to journey with those
facing the loss of a loved one.
The afternoon session concentrated on repairing the homes of
needy seniors and protecting them from financial
Steve Poppe, a Knight of Columbus from Holy Spirt Church,
represents Volunteers Repairing Homes (VRH), non-profit
charitable organization created by the Holy Spirit Knights to
help people who are financially unable to make needed repairs
to their homes. Repairs are made at no charge.
Poppe said that there is a small group of volunteers and
contractors that work on the homes. The idea for VRH came out
of Poppe's work at Arlington WorkCamp, the annual diocesan
Office of Youth Ministry program that draws hundreds of
youths who repair the homes of rural Virginians.
VRH does no advertising; all contacts are through referrals.
Poppe said the group's work is part of the social justice
responsibilities of the church.
"We respect the homeowner's dignity," he said.
The final speaker was Fairfax County Crime Prevention Officer
Allie Eggers who talked about protecting seniors from
Eggers said that door-to-door solicitation is a major
problem. She said that all solicitors need a peddler's
license, and soliciting without one is against the law.
Another scam is phone sales, Eggers said.
Eggers advises seniors to tell the caller that they don't buy
anything over the phone.
Eggers warns seniors against placing outgoing mail with
checks in their mailbox.
She said people can take the checks and wash them, then put
their name on it and cash it.
She warned about credit card skimmers on gas station pumps,
suggesting you should rattle the credit card reader to make
sure it is secure. If it moves, it could be a skimmer.
Finally Eggers said, "If you see something or someone unusual
in your neighborhood, call (the police)."
Maureen Norris, a parishioner of St. Philip Church in Falls
Church, said the program was informative.
"We have an older parish, and this is good information to
share," she said