Strengthening the Durham Community Since 1981

The ShareLife office held a session for parish committee members and one of the presentations was from Elizabeth Pierce, Executive Director of Catholic Family Services in Durham. Her message was so compelling that Arthur Peters asked her to share it here.

Catholic Family Services of Durham has been strengthening the Durham community since 1981. Last year, we supported 2700 people in our community through our counselling programs. Over half of those clients served were adult and child victims of domestic violence, and the other half were people needing family, couple and individual therapy in response to a wide variety of presenting problems.


The funds Catholic Family Services receives from ShareLife enable us to offer these therapeutic services to our community. We could not do what we do without ShareLife. In fact, every single counselling program that we offer at our agency receives financial support from the ShareLife campaign.

In 1987 Kathy Steele wrote a poem called “Sitting with a Shattered Soul” which captures the work that our therapists do with our clients every day.

“Sitting with a Shattered Soul”

So how do you sit with a shattered soul?
Gently, with gracious and deep respect.
Patiently, for time stands still for the shattered, and
The momentum of healing will be slow at first.

With the tender strength that comes from an openness to your own deepest wounding,
And to your own deepest healing.

Firmly, never wavering in the utmost conviction that
Evil is powerful, but there is a good
That is more powerful still.

Stay connected to that goodness with all your being,
However it manifests itself to you.
Give freely. Take in abundantly.
Find your safety, your refuge, and go there as you need.

Words won’t always come;
Sometimes there are no words
In the face of such tragic evil.

But in your own willingness to be with them,
They will hear you;
From soul to soul
They will hear that for which there are no words.”

Our therapists sit with shattered souls everyday – sometimes the shattering is the result of grief or trauma or mental health challenges. Sometimes it is because of a broken relationship or abuse. Regardless of the cause, in response, our staff offer hope and healing and skilled intervention, so that while clients may start their journey with us feeling shattered, they finish with us feeling whole.

Jack was a middle aged man, salt of the earth type of guy. He had worked hard all his life, living pay cheque to pay cheque to provide for his family. One day, Jack walked into a dark room at work and flicked on the light, to be confronted with the gruesome discovery of a coworker who had committed suicide. Despite Jack’s best efforts, he was unable to move past this trauma on his own.

A man who had previously never missed work, he found himself unable to cope. He was so riddled with anxiety attacks and unprovoked bursts of tears he could not work, and he could not enter a dark room without being overcome. After three sessions with one of our therapists, where he participated in an evidence based trauma therapy called EMDR, Jack reported that not only was he no longer experiencing the debilitating trauma symptoms in his everyday life, he was also able to walk into a dark room and not be overcome.

So, how do you sit with a shattered soul? Gently, with gracious and deep respect.

Mark was a 12 year old boy who had lived through more in his short 12 years than most people experience in a lifetime. He spent a large portion of his childhood voluntarily locked in an upstairs bedroom every day after school with his mom and younger sibling, because of his abusive father. Having witnessed and experienced so much violence and death threats, Mark had come to believe that this was the lesser of two evils.

Sometimes, it would be just him and the baby when his mom had to work.They had moved a bar fridge into the room so that there was no reason to venture out when dad was home. Often, Mark would be frantic in his attempts to soothe the crying baby, because it sent his dad into a destructive rage.

When this secret came out, the authorities intervened, and Mark and his family were finally freed from their physical prison. But they were still trapped. So they were referred to our agency for help in becoming free of the emotional prison they still found themselves in because of the abuse.

Mark was able to attend our group programming for child witnesses of domestic violence, as well as individual therapy for his trauma, where he learned that it was not his fault his dad had hurt them, nor was it his job to keep everyone safe. He came to understand that a 12 year old boy shouldn’t even ever have to think about things like protecting his family from being killed by his dad, and that his life going forward no longer had to include abuse and fear.

So, how do you sit with a shattered soul? Firmly, never wavering in the utmost conviction that evil is powerful, but there is a good that is more powerful still.

When 10 year old Jen first came to us for counselling, she was afraid, and she was guarded. She had been through a horrific ordeal, where the person that was supposed to care for her almost killed her and her sibling. Understandably, she found it difficult to trust.

Jen’s therapist could see the pain in her eyes, but Jen struggled to put down her walls and let her therapist in. Each session she would come and sit quietly with tears streaming down her face, nodding for a yes, or shaking her head for a no, but that was the most she was able to offer about the pain inside. Over time, Jen began to let down her guard, and started to open up about safe things like her interests and hobbies. In one session, Jen shared her love for writing, how it was a place where she could pour out all that was inside.

So her therapist took out a pen and pad of paper, wrote on the top “is there anything you would like to share with me today” and handed it to Jen without saying a word. Jen took the pen and paper, and began to write. For the first time in months, what was trapped inside began coming out in Jen’s own words. Session after session, Jen would sit down, pick up the pen and paper, and write to her therapist about her thoughts and feelings.

And she began to heal. She began to have hope. She stopped believing she should be dead, and that the world was a terrible place. She began to believe instead the truth about her worth, her role in her family, and her past. And eventually, she began to talk about her pain. Not only to her therapist in sessions, but to the family and community supports that had surrounded her.

When Jen ended counselling, there was a light in her eyes. She was dreaming about her future, and she had made peace with her traumatic past.

So, how do you sit with a shattered soul? Patiently, for time stands still for the shattered, and the momentum of healing will be slow at first. And, words won’t always come.

I could tell you stories all night, just like those of Jack, Mark, and Jen…2700 different stories of people who have come to us, invited us into their pain, and who have allowed us the opportunity to walk with them on their journey towards healing.

A gift to ShareLife is not only a monetary gift, it is a gift of faith, a gift of hope, a gift of healing! As you consider your support for ShareLife this year, please know that the Jack’s, Mark’s and Jen’s of our agency thank you – because without ShareLife, they would not have been able to get the therapy they needed to heal.

In fact, 2700 people in Durham Region thank you. Clients just like Jen and Jack and Mark from all over the Archdiocese thank you. Thanks to your support for ShareLife, services are being enhanced, youth in transition are being supported, families are being counselled, seniors are less isolated, young parents are receiving care and life skills training, and trauma survivors are healing.

The money you contribute during this ShareLife campaign truly does make a difference in the lives of the people living in our community.

Help to bring the hands of Christ to those in need– to make a contribution, click here.