New ministries linking the unemployed with prayers, jobs, resources
Rogers parish group emphasizes prayer for the jobless, families
"Before I lost my job, I didn't know what generosity really was. I thought I was a generous person. But being unemployed and seeing God's grace working through other persons, as a family, we experienced so many people's compassion and generosity - monetarily and spiritually."
-- Pete Louree
ROGERS - As part of the stewardship team at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Pete and Peggy Louree bring their story of unemployment in 2001 to those parishioners who find themselves now jobless through the recent downturn in the economy.
Through the efforts of the parish's newly established St. Joseph Ministry for the Unemployed, the Lourees lead group meetings twice a month for those who are without work.
Moving to Rogers in 2003, the Lourees brought the Career Transition Ministry experience with them, along with their memories of being jobless. But it was not until the recent recession and the area's high jobless rate that the Lourees considered sharing their story with others.
"When we moved here, we weren't in any condition to start another ministry. We were still in recovery mode," Peggy Louree said.
In the fall of 2008, things started to change in northwest Arkansas. Then in February, 2009 the area - once considered one of the strongest regions economically in Arkansas - experienced massive layoffs when Wal-Mart cut 800 jobs. Northwest Arkansas found out it was not immune to the problems of a global economy.
One of the persons affected by the layoff was John Denefe, a business analyst in Wal-Mart's computer division. Now an active participant in the newly formed ministry, Denefe believes that this group brings spirituality to his job search.
"I know this is God's journey and not just my own," he said. "We leave the meetings, knowing we have all been touched by God's intervention. As a group we all have ways of finding jobs that are open and we can share this information with others there."
Betsy McNeil, stewardship coordinator and the driving force behind the St. Joseph Ministry, explained that the group is a good cross representation of the parish.
"We have both men and women, Anglos and Hispanics, attending these meetings." she said. "This example of stewardship is lived out in front of our very eyes. It is a coming together of individuals of all backgrounds, cultures, age groups and experiences. Their one common denominator is the fact that they have lost their jobs."
The goals of this ministry are to network, share stories and help each other.
It is open to Catholic and non-Catholics alike, the unemployed and their spouses.
"Our main purposes are to pray with one another and support, encourage, and network as members of the group," McNeil said.
In the fall of 2008, McNeil and Msgr. David LeSieur, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, had a number of discussions regarding how the layoffs were affecting people in the area. During that time Pete and Peggy Louree stepped forward to share their ideas and offered to use their own personal experiences as a basis for the formation of a similar ministry in the parish.
"It was the Holy Spirit's timing," McNeil said as plans were put into motion for the St. Joseph Ministry of the Unemployed to start meeting in the spring.
When he addressed the participants in a recent meeting, Msgr. LeSieur said,
"It is possible to bring good out of bad. The Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers took him to Egypt where he built his own career and prosperity out of his situation. This is God's new language speaking to you. When a person loses one of their senses, such as sight, other senses often become sharper. Things that were overlooked before become clearer to us. The Church is here for you. We support you and we will pray with you and for you."
Some things that have become clearer to the members are the opportunities to bond together as a family. Peggy Louree remembered her own father's unemployment period.
"My father had been out of work and we grew up remembering vividly those times," she said. "It was helpful to know that you do get through it - it's OK. Personally as a kid, I enjoyed it because my dad got to come to all of my basketball games, and he was around more," she said.
Talking to the children in a family about the loss of a job can be painful.
Peggy Louree said they shared as much as possible with their small children, ages 5, 3, and 10 months on an age-appropriate level.
"With older kids, I think you can share more," she said. "People don't want to scare their kids, but you need to be realistic. Remind them that 'we will get through this even though we might not be able to do some of the things we have in the past.' What is the most important thing now? We are together, and God will take care of us."
In their time of unemployment, the Lourees discovered that prayer became a larger part of their lives "versus before when the road wasn't very bumpy."
"It was a good opportunity for us to embrace our faith and witness to our children how important our spirituality and our church community were in our lives," Peter Louree said.
Other opportunities that have presented themselves are the ones that have allowed these members to examine new career options.
Elizabeth Schaeuffler, a volunteer who works as a translator for the Spanish-speaking members, started three years ago to analyze her options in making a major career change based on her Catholic faith.
When traveling back and forth from New Orleans for her work, she began attending Mass in Rogers.
"This is the place where my spiritual healing started. I was attending the Hispanic prayer group on Saturdays. I could see changes were taking place in my spiritual life. To give back to the community, I thought that was the right thing to do," she said.
Leaving her job three weeks ago, Schaeuffler has set up a program to teach adults to become computer literate. In addition, she is lining up locations to teach English classes to adults as well.
"I wasn't planning to leave the company, but I kept getting more and more involved in the church activities. I started to pray, 'Lord, I want to help but working full time I cannot help as much as I would like to. You will come up with the right circumstances, and I will know when to leave,'" Schaeuffler said.
Christ the King Church in Little Rock also recently started an employment ministry called Parish Employment Network.
Sandy DeCoursey, parish life and outreach director, said PEN started as a challenge to new Catholics last year to discern how God may be asking them to use their gifts to benefit the parish. Clarice Rogers, who became Catholic in 2008, is a human resource specialist and offered to help parishioners who were affected by the economy.
"When this effort was announced at a parish council meeting, representative John Neuman felt moved to join forces with Clarice to help in this mission," DeCoursey said. "John had already created a CTK group on a popular Web-based networking tool called LinkedIn. The Web site acts as the conduit for information flow of jobs, resumes and related articles, resources, etc. The CTK group now numbers over 40 people and is growing."
Parishioners can log on to http://www.Linked In.com and go to the "Christ the King - Little Rock Group."
PEN first met June 24 with about 20 people in attendance. Neuman gave a presentation on LinkedIn and how it got started. On July 22, parishioner Don Green gave a presentation on interview techniques. Weekly posting of jobs and more information on PEN also are published in the bulletin, DeCoursey said.
7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 19, Family Life Center, Christ the King, Little Rock
Mark Rogers will give a presentation on budgeting. For more information, contact Sandy DeCoursey, director of parish life and outreach, (501) 225-6774 or
7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4 and Aug. 25, Word Chapel, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Rogers
Meetings will be focused on prayer, beginning with a Scripture reading followed by faith sharing. For more information, contact Pete and Peggy Louree, (479) 636-4989
Please read our Comments Policy before posting.Article comments powered by Disqus