Archdiocese Local

Special-needs ministry debuts integrated wellness program

by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Nothing can be more difficult than losing a loved one to suicide. The pain is deep, and a lifetime of questions persist.

Navigating those emotions and questions is the focus of the two-week series, “Hope for You and Your Loved Ones After Death by Suicide,” on Jan. 14 and 21. The series, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas special-needs ministry, will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at St. Joseph  Church in Shawnee.

Husband and wife psychologists Deacon Mike Moffitt, Ph.D., and Jacque Pfeifer, Ph.D., will lead the series as part of Fully Alive, an integrated wellness program the couple recently founded. Fully Alive follows a mind-body-spirit approach for understanding and processing mental health challenges.

“Secular psychology talks a lot about grief and loss and our feelings. But it doesn’t include religion,” Pfeifer said. “Our faith in God and our Catholic teachings help us in our grief and in answering the questions about our loved ones’ transition from suffering on earth to eternity.”

Deacon Moffitt, who serves at St. Paul Church in Olathe, and Pfeifer have enlisted the help of a number of Catholic counselors who have volunteered their time for this and future series on mental health topics. 

Each program in the series will include Mass, education, prayer and small group discussion. For the series on suicide, the discussion will follow Father Chris Alar’s book, “After Suicide: There is Hope for You and Them.”

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second cause of death for young people, Pfeifer said.

“That’s why we are starting with this topic,” she said.

Future series will focus on such topics as depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, healthy eating and marriage. There will be an emphasis on Catholic Mindfulness as well, Deacon Moffitt said.

“Catholic mindfulness is the premise that we are aware and safe in the present moment. We can only really know we are safe if we believe there is a God who loves and cares for us,” he said. “Catholic mindfulness is a way to practically trust God so that we can incorporate faith into our daily life and bridge the gap between chaos and peace.”

According to Pfeifer, Fully Alive practitioners believe they have an extraordinary privilege and responsibility to assist others in finding strength, building resilience and improving general health. This program is focused on connecting, protecting and showing loving concern for every person.

Helping individuals with mental illness (and their families) is one aspect of the special-needs ministry, according to lead consultant Tom Racunas.

“Mental illness is a disability,” Racunas said. “We must eliminate the stigma of mental illness. We must create awareness in our parishes that one in five families are affected by the mental illness of someone in their family.

“Many families in this situation feel isolated, unsupported and lonely in their suffering.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Jesus asks us to accompany the most vulnerable,” he said. “Mental illness can be chronic or episodic. However, since all of us ‘struggle in life’ in some way from time to time, Fully Alive doesn’t single anyone out but is inclusive in the recognition that we are all weak.”

Each Fully Alive program is free. To attend, send an online RSVP to Racunas at:

A list of Fully Alive topics scheduled for 2020

• Hope for You and Your Loved Ones After Death by Suicide — based on a book written by Father Chris Alar

• Project Chrysalis — A Catholic ministry developed by Ken and Patti Billinger and designed to help parents who have lost a child find hope through sacred Scripture and community.

• Catholic Mindfulness — An 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program developed by Gregory Bottaro, Ph.D.

• The Depression Cure — A holistic approach to preventing and treating depression developed by Stephen Ilardi, Ph.D.

• Addiction Support — based on Scott Weeman’s book entitled: “Twelve Steps and the Sacraments: A Catholic Journey through Recovery.”

• Together with Jesus Couple Prayer Series — A DVD series to teach couples to pray together developed by Deacon Bob and Kathy Ovies.

• Marriage Enhancing Techniques and Improving Attachment — Evidence- based treatment for developing and maintaining healthy marital relationships:  John Gottman, Ph.D. and Marital Attachment: Stan Tatsin, Psy.D.

• Forgiveness Ministry — Led by Chuck Jansen

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Leave a Comment

1 Comment

  • We are interested in several of the presentations listed above. Do you have a schedule of dates for the additional presentation topics?
    With gratitude,
    Paul & Lise Hund