CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — There is little good news for the unemployed this Labor Day.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly report, released at the beginning of the long holiday weekend, bodes ill for those who want to end their unwanted “holidays” and get back to work. The economy failed to add new jobs in August, and the unemployment rate remained at 9.1%.
At times like these, it is natural for some people to seek divine intercession. And they may be able to find help at their own churches.
A number of Catholic parishes are drawing on the network of trust and common faith already in place to help unemployed individuals prepare for interviews and find a job.
One of the larger efforts is the Catholic Employment Network, which includes 20 parishes in the St. Louis area. It holds weekly meetings and publishes a regular e-mail newsletter containing encouragement, advice and job listings. The volunteer network has been operating out of Ascension Parish in Chesterfield, Mo., for more than 10 years. It predates the current economic downturn but has been literally a godsend for many in these troubled times.
“It’s a wonderful group that does a great amount of good,” said Ascension’s pastor, Msgr. Dennis Stehly. “They are very faithful in helping one another and offering the kind of support that people who are unemployed often need. Clearly, people who have lost a job are hurting emotionally and spiritually, and families are affected. As I see it, there is a great pastoral need to reach out to the unemployed, and our parish is very willing to provide the place where they can meet.”
Frank Danzo, president of the Catholic Employment Network, became involved eight years ago when he lost his job. “I had to go about looking for a job, and I turned to the parish,” he recalled. “When I found a job, I started volunteering, trying to give back to others the same kind of support that I had received.”
Danzo was so inspired by his experience with the employment network that he wound up changing career paths and starting his own employment-coaching business. “After a few years volunteering, I thought that maybe this is what I’m meant to do,” he said. He stresses a one-to-one approach to job searching, which is outlined in his book People Hire People Not Resumes.
From one parish, the network has expanded over the years to 20 parishes, and hundreds of people in the St. Louis area have been helped.
“I was in transition and at a very difficult time in my life,” recalled Joan Ratican. “I heard about the Catholic Employment Network, saw the newsletter, and heard that they have meetings and decided to go.”
The meetings not only provide support and job leads, she said — they offer good advice on how to systematically go about finding a job. Ratican now has a job that she says is a perfect fit for her.
God Helps Those Who Help Others
There are other parishes that host job-networking groups.
In Cincinnati, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish hosts the Job Search Ministry, which has twice-monthly meetings featuring employment experts and an intense four-hour monthly workshop that focuses on resumes, cover letters, job-search strategies and interviewing. The ministry also refers people suffering the emotional pain of job loss to Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, which holds sessions two evenings a month at Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Founded in January 2009 in response to the present economy, the IHM Job Search Ministry is supported by a handful of volunteers from the parish and the community. Since it began, the ministry has served more than 700 people from the greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky area and beyond.
Steve Molloy, who leads the program, explained, “I saw there was a need, and I wanted to do everything I could do to help the mass number of people who were unemployed in our community.”
Ironically, a few months after starting the ministry, Molloy found himself unemployed and was able to use the skills and resources from the program in finding his present job as a project manager for a law firm.
“Over 80% say they found jobs using the techniques we provided,” he said, “and 95% of those said they had to keep looking because they hadn’t found the right position.”
Like Danzo in St. Louis, Molloy said personal networks and personal contacts are keys to landing a job in today’s market. Just sending in a resume or responding to an online listing is far from enough, he said, because the majority of job openings are not advertised.
Calling All Saints
Charles Schrauth, head of the job network at All Saints Parish in Dunwoody, Ga., has the same viewpoint.
“We suggest that people develop a script to highlight what makes them unique, what sets them apart from all the others looking for the same job,” said Schrauth. “We help them with goal-setting, planning, and the idea that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself.”
In his own working life, he was “downsized” and knew little about searching for a job. He now has his own management-and-consulting company and uses the knowledge from his professional life for his volunteer work with All Saints’ job network. Meetings are held monthly.
“We are helping people to help themselves,” he said. “When people are in trouble, you’re supposed to help them. That’s our faith, and this is one way of doing this.”
Register correspondent Brian Caulfield writes from Wallingford, Connecticut.