By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Sue Fogarty, a 28-year member of Chapel of the Cross, 160 Flanders Road, knows first-hand the pain of living with a loved one suffering from mental illness. Her daughter, Gracie, was senior class president in high school, played three sports for four years (was captain of two of them), and was entering her junior year at UMass-Amherst when her journey with depression and anxiety began about 13 years ago.
After getting in touch with National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), Fogarty began to check into faith-based mental health groups, including Mental Health Ministries in San Diego and Pathways to Promise based in St. Louis. Unfortunately, there was nothing that fit her needs here in Massachusetts. Knowing that there were others out there who were hurting and would benefit from a Christian support group, she created the Hope, Encouragement, Love and Prayer (HELP) Ministry.
“In speaking with a few Chapel of the Cross staff members,” Fogarty said, “the plan for a support group came up, with the idea that it would be a place where folks could unburden themselves concerning living with mental illness.”
Fogarty was interested in meeting with others in a faith-based setting, and in March 2010 Chapel of the Cross became that place. She believes that it's helpful for those living with loved ones suffering from mental illness to feel comfortable discussing their situation with someone who understands, someone who has walked that same path. Fogarty is this person. She cited 2 Corinthians 1:3-8, in which Paul talks about God comforting us in our troubles, so that we may comfort others with the same comfort he has given to us.
For those who attend the weekly meetings, Fogarty is there with an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.
Throughout her journey with Gracie, Fogarty has clung to God's word like a life raft. It is through these trials, she said, that we learn to rely on him.
“I am by no means a professional,” Fogarty said. “The sole purpose of this ministry is to provide a comfortable setting to share with others going through similar circumstances. And, of course, to pray with them.”
To those who have a family member with mental illness, Fogarty stressed the need to “never give up hope.” Recovery, she said, is possible. As is the hope for a full and productive life.
I have come to believe with all my heart that God teaches us lessons through hardships and difficulties in life, and he makes us stronger as we go through them with him by our side. We also learn, by faith, to rely on him and trust that he will bring about his will in the situation, in his own time,” said Fogarty.
“I just feel that there's so much pain and heartache connected with mental illness, and I want God to use me to encourage others,” said Fogarty, who corresponds by email with a number of folks who are unable to make meetings.
The HELP Ministry meets at Chapel of the Cross the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome.