First Ever Catholic Mental Health Chaplaincy Conference

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The Journey of Hope Conference
21 March 2012

Catholics engaged in mental health chaplaincy and ministry across the country met in the inspiring surroundings of St Francis Xavier’s Church, Liverpool for the first ever Catholic Mental Health Chaplaincy Conference.

The Conference heard from from Bishop Tom Williams, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Health Care Reference Group, and from Bishop Richard Moth, Chair of the Bishops’ Mental Health Project – partners in this inaugural conference along with the Spiritual Care Department of Merseycare NHS Trust and the ‘Welcome Me as I Am’ project.

Michael Crilly, Head of Spiritual and Pastoral Care at Merseycare NHS Trust, gave an input on the contemporary understanding of mental distress and emphasised that ‘hope’ is the foundation stone of chaplaincy within mental health services. Helen Bassirat from Shrewsbury Diocese described her work over the last few years in helping parishes to become communities of welcome and inclusion for people touched by mental health problems. The conference was chaired by Professor Peter Gilbert of the National Sprituality and Mental Health Forum.

The keynote speaker was Fr Daniel O’Leary who inspired us with a powerful spiritual and theological vision for Chaplaincy. He ended his address in reminding us ‘You are engaged in restoring God’s masterpiece – the human mind and heart – to its original beauty’. For highlights of Fr Daniel’s talk, click here.

After the Conference, Ben Bano, Project Manager of the ‘Welcome Me as I Am Project’, said:

“We were reminded today by Bishop Tom and Bishop Richard of the importance of our distinctive contribution in the collaborative ministry of Chaplaincy in Mental Health Services together with the need to ensure that our Parishes are places of welcome and inclusion for all those touched by mental health problems. And Fr Daniel reminded us of the human qualities we need to fulfill our roles in the work of chaplaincy.”

Michael Crilly said:

“The motto of Blessed John Henry Newman, used as the theme for the Pope’s visit to Britain, was: ‘Heart speaks unto Heart’. This beautiful human reality has really shone through as the hallmark of the conference. In the parish and in the hospital we are simply human hearts encountering other human hearts, and the labels of mental ill-health are not our starting point. I’ve been inspired by the way those participating in today’s event seem to embody the words of Cardinal Newman in the compassionate acceptance they give to those found all too often on the margins of society. It is very humbling indeed.”

At the Conference it was decided to work towards a North-West based network of those interested in Catholic Mental Health Chaplaincy.


Michael Crilly
Head of Spiritual & Pastoral Care
Mersey Care NHS Trust
Trust Offices
L31 1HW

Telephone 0151 471 2608