Next General Meetings:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 11:45 - 1:30, First Presbyterian Church, 321 South Seventh Street, Springfield. Program: The April-May 2015 Lincoln Funeral Re-enactment. Bring your lunch!

No scheduled events in July or August.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 11:45 - 1:30, Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 745 Woodside Road, Springfield. Program: TBA. Bring your lunch!

Monday, September 22, 2014, is the deadline for submitting nominations for the Humanitarian Award. The information you need to submit a nomination is under "Documents."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 11:45 - 1:30, the annual Welcoming Banquet, Catholic Pastoral Center, 1615 West Washington Street, Springfield, with a special focus on "professionals in ministry" new to greater Springfield. This is a vegetarian potluck. The Humanitarian Award is announced at this event. Speaker: TBA.

CLICK "CALENDAR" FOR COMPLETE ANNOUNCEMENTS OF EVENTS

Faith and Ministry Narratives

The Spiritual Needs of Veterans

Welcome to the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association's Website

PURPOSE: GSIA is a group of people in ministry from diverse faith backgrounds in Greater Springfield. We come together to identify human needs -- including our own -- in this community, and to respond appropriately to those needs, given our resources, skill, time and energy.

GSIA aspires to:

HISTORY: The Greater Springfield Interfaith Association was founded in 1978. Although there were interfaith clergy groups in Springfield prior to GSIA's founding, they had ceased to be active, and there was no organization embracing the wide diversity of religious traditions in existence at the time.

GSIA was founded to serve the needs of religious professionals for fellowship and continuing education, as well as to involve them in answering the unmet needs of the community.

ONGOING ACTIVITIES: GSIA traditions include the following: Monthly membership meetings for fellowship, devotions and learning; Annual Welcoming Banquet; GSIA Humanitarian of the Year Award; Interfaith Thanksgiving Service and Special Offering; Workshops; Seminars.

MEMBERSHIP: GSIA is not just for clergy who minister to congregations, but also for members of various faiths and religious orders, and those who engage in other forms of ministry. Membership is open to those from the city of Springfield and the surrounding area. The membership year begins on January 1 and ends on December 31 of each year. Meetings are held the first Tuesday of each month excluding July and August. Annual dues are $20.00.

JOIN US!

Faith and ministry narratives

Kevin Laughery's history of faith and ministry

I was born to Catholic parents in Decatur in 1957. When I was 15 months old, I became one of the founding members of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, which coincidentally was established on the same day that Angelo Roncalli was elected pope and took the name John XXIII. After my year of public kindergarten in the Argenta-Oreana school district, my schooling was at Our Lady of Lourdes and at St. Teresa High School. My interests while growing up included a good deal of reading and speculations about growing up to be, at various times, a paleontologist, an artist, or an architect. Through my childhood I kept hearing that we did not have enough priests. Since, as I understood the life of the Catholic Church, it is necessary for the very life of the people that there be priests available to preside at Eucharist, I thought, why not offer to become a priest of my local diocese of Springfield in Illinois? I was thinking very seriously about priesthood during my junior year of high school. I was helped by a St. Teresa religion class on social justice, in which I learned about Pope Leo XIII upholding the rights of workers in his 1891 encyclical letter Rerum Novarum. My father worked at the Decatur Caterpillar plant. My awareness that my Church was concerned about my family became an opportunity in which I felt confirmed in the credibility of the Catholic Church.

I entered the seminary right out of high school, attending Springfield's Diocesan Seminary of the Immaculate Conception for the first two years of college, finishing college at Cardinal Glennon College in St. Louis. I was interested in studying in Rome; my bishop agreed to send me there, but the deal I made with him was that I would obtain a canon-law degree in Rome. I lived and studied in Rome from 1979 to 1985, being ordained deacon by Terence Cardinal Cooke at St. Peter's Basilica on April 22, 1982; my priesthood ordination was May 28, 1983 in Springfield. In Rome I had a lot of growing up to do. If, on deciding to study for the priesthood, I was acting upon a "conversion to the Church," Rome was my opportunity for conversion to Jesus. I found the discussions in the ninth and tenth chapters of the Letter to the Hebrews on the sacrifice of Jesus to be completely pertinent to how I understood my life and my relationship with God. I was in the midst of doctoral studies in canon law when I suffered a major depressive episode which necessitated my returning home. Father Kevin Vann of Springfield, also studying canon law in Rome, accompanied me on the flight back to Springfield. (He is now bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth.) I still have my boarding pass dated March 4, 1985. I do not, however, remember the flight.

Although I never finished the doctorate in canon law, I had my licentiate degree, which qualified me to work in our diocesan tribunal. As I learned to manage my depression, I gradually found my way into parish and diocesan ministry. My pastoral assignments have always been fairly close to Springfield (our diocese stretches across 28 counties) because of my tribunal work, which practically speaking deals almost exclusively with the petitions of persons who seek to be declared free to marry in the Catholic Church following a divorce. Being in the Springfield area since 1985 has afforded me the opportunity to be active all these years with the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association. In the late 1980s I was asked to be vice-president for programming, and it was in 1990 that I assumed the presidency of GSIA for the first time (I would serve as president two more times). I have been proud of my Church because of its willingness, expressed through the Second Vatican Council of 1962 to 1965, to engage realistically with the world. I found GSIA to be the means by which I could act in accord with the ideals of Vatican II in my own locality.

I wanted to build up my local Church. The challenge of priesthood has built me up over the decades. I find it an honor to be a pastor and interacting in parish communities, as well as being a judge in marriage cases and seeking to find some light in some of the darkest and most tragic events in people's lives. Priesthood makes sense only if the priest discovers in the process how to be a Christian. I have experienced tremendous growth and conversion in my life, which brings me a joy I am happy to share.

My biography || My 1992 speech to GSIA on Vatican II

In My View: Help address spiritual crises of our veterans

By MARYAM MOSTOUFI AND JIM JOHNSON
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
October 02, 2010

Too many of our returning veterans are attempting to re-enter a society they no longer know how to negotiate or understand. They often are faced with varying degrees and combinations of financial, emotional, social and physical challenges. It is easier for us and the professionals that work with them to identify their visibly shattered bodies and minds.

Yet what about the even greater numbers returning to us “unharmed,” at least to all outward appearances? These individuals attempt to hide traumatized psyches and souls to varying degrees of success.

While some of us find great solace in our faith traditions and draw upon them in challenging times, we see these service men and women suffering spiritual crises in isolation. Our returning veterans often try to bury the spiritual anger and pain that co-exist with post-traumatic stress disorders deep inside. One formerly deeply spiritual veteran described his current state as “being on sabbatical from God.” It is not that God has moved away from him and others like him but that life experiences have moved them away from God or at least have left them unable to experience or tap into the spiritual resources they once relied upon.

Those re-entering a secular society that treats God and spirituality as private matters and taboo topics for public discussion are not likely to find invitations for help when so many of us feel uncomfortable at the mere mention of “God.” Even The State Journal-Register gives more space to sports, entertainment and travel than the weekly Beliefs section. It is limited to one page, often tucked away in a larger section.

Florence Nightingale wrote, “The needs of the spirit are as critical to health as those individual organs which make up the body.”

If we acknowledge the truth of such a statement, then don’t we owe it to our veterans to ensure that we address their spiritual needs? Our religious, mental health, social service workers, lay leaders and family members need to be available and open to conversations that identify the pain, alienation, anxiety, guilt, anger, loss and despair associated with their changed spiritual identities.

Many of us feel ill-prepared to address the spiritual crises of our veterans. Instead, we often offer well-meaning platitudes that make individuals feel their problems are being minimized or not heard at all. How helpful would it be to you to hear, “God never gives us a burden greater than we can bear,” if you had not slept for days because you couldn’t get the images of body parts strewn across the sand out of your mind? If your mind kept asking, “How could a loving, compassionate and merciful God let this happen?”

Instead we need to replace these platitudes with language and actions that show we care and are here to accompany them along their journeys. First, we must truly learn to listen and observe more and say less. Our offers of help should be specific and based on what we hear, not open-ended. For example, consider your language when a person is overwhelmed by an inch-thick list of housing options. Instead of asking how you can help, say, “I would be glad to go over that housing list with you and make a few calls when you are ready.” Do you see yourself or someone you know in this discussion? If so, seek help. While the level of help may not presently be as strong as it should be, help is out there.

Some is as close as your local hospital pastoral care departments or Veterans Administration offices.

We encourage the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association, the Ministerial Alliance and the pastoral care departments of St. John’s Hospital and Memorial Medical Center to join together in developing and sponsoring training that will prepare others to identify and respond effectively to those in spiritual crises. We owe it to our veterans!

Maryam Mostoufi, DMin, is a writer and community activist. She also serves as a chaplain and spiritual director to the Islamic community. Chaplain Jim Johnson retired as a lieutenant colonel after a 37-year military career that included deployments in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Copyright 2010 The State Journal-Register. Some rights reserved