Evening of Hope and Remembrance honors the lives of Rhode Islanders lost to overdose and addiction

More than 100 gathered at interfaith memorial service to remember the lives of 1,250 Rhode Islanders


PROVIDENCE — Family members, friends and clergy from across the state gathered on the evening of June 29 for an interfaith event to remember the lives of 1,250 Rhode Islanders, a staggering number of individuals, who have died from opioid overdose over the last 5 years.

More than 100 people united in love and support at the First Baptist Church of America to take part in a special memorial service to honor those memories and to fight the stigma of this disease. The event, sponsored by Faith Infused Recovery Efforts (FIRE) and the St. Matthias Ministry of the Diocese of Providence, was also an opportunity to share resource information, listen to speakers and enjoy music with members of the interfaith religious community who were available for support.

FIRE, is a coalition of faith and recovery communities in the state whose mission includes reducing the stigma surrounding addiction, working towards a welcoming environment for individuals and loved ones in treatment, providing education for faith communities on addiction and the opioid crisis and providing a faith presence at recovery events, including the annual Rally4Recovery.

Michelle Mckenzie is the board chair of Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts, a founding member of FIRE, and is also in long term recovery. Mckenzie said that the coalition of faith, treatment and support organizations strive to create a welcoming environment for individuals and their loved ones who are searching for recovery from alcohol and drug problems.

“We work to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction in order to encourage people to seek the help they need and realize their full potential. We hope to shine a spotlight on the growing problem in Rhode Island of opioid overdose. Our voices are joined together this evening to remember those we have lost and to join in hope and prayer that this epidemic stops.”

Father John Kiley, ecumenical officer for the Diocese of Providence, offered a special prayer for those who have sought relief from distress through the use of medication only to find themselves addicted to the source of their relief.

“We pray for our medical community that they might be prudent and circumspect in their prescriptions,” he said. “We pray for the families and friends of our fellow citizens enduring physical pain that they might be supportive and solicitous all throughout a patient’s journey. We pray that no one might take advantage of another person’s suffering, compounding a reliance on doses and drugs. We pray especially tonight for those among us and throughout our community who mourn the loss of a loved one — a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, a friend — who passed on as a result of a cure that proved worse than the disease.”

St. Matthias Recovery is a ministry of the Diocese of Providence dedicated to reaching and supporting individuals struggling with drug and alcohol problems. They also provide help to families in need of guidance or support due to a loved one’s drug or alcohol problems explained Kathy McKeon Supervisor of the diocesan Office of Community Services and Catholic Charities.

“The diocesan St. Mathias Ministry provides support for individuals and families dealing with the tragedy of addiction,” she said. “As a founding member of FIRE, the Diocese was pleased to be a partner in this event. More than 100 people in attendance were brought together by loss and grief, some by healing and hope. And for that one evening, we were joined together in prayer.”

Deacon John Silvia of St. Barnabas Church in Portsmouth is the clergy representative for the St. Matthias Ministry for addiction and alcoholism and knows firsthand the tragedy to losing family and friends to this devastating disease. He explained that he felt blessed to be assigned to this vital diocesan ministry.

“To me it was where I believed I belonged — close to the people of God that are in need of spiritual support and who are suffering dearly due to the disease of addiction and alcoholism,” he shared. “It is a disease. People do not choose to be addicted and some of us are just wired in such a way that one unit of a substance leads to a thousand and the destructive outcome that presents. There is evil in this world and it comes in the form of the substances — especially fentanyl and carb Fentanyl, crack, meth and alcohol.”

With cooperation from pastors around the state, Deacon Silvia has organized quarterly Masses for Recovery at St. Barnabas, St. Mary’s in West Warwick along with an annual Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Providence. They also started a Hope and Cope support group on the East Bay that meets monthly at St. Barnabas Church.

“I dearly love the people involved in our ministry and God works through all of us to be Christ to Christ when we open our hearts and give our time to help those addicted and their families that are affected,” he said. “Our event is focused on remembering those who we have lost, providing hope to those of us who have experienced loss or struggle with addiction ourselves and also to bring attention to this disease in order to open our hearts to everyone who is suffering, and remove the stigma that so many of us carry until it happens to us or a member of our family. My hope is that we can find healing and recovery through knowledge and the love of God.”

St. Matthias Ministry Mass for Recovery Scheduled

PORTSMOUTH — A Mass for Recovery will be offered on Sunday, July 30, at 5 p.m. at St. Barnabas Church, 1697 East Main Road. All are welcome. This quarterly Mass is part of the St. Matthias Ministry of the Diocese of Providence. It focuses on assisting with prayer and encouragement to all who are recovering from addictions of any kind, as well as those suffering from any mental or emotional distress or anxiety. It is also for those who are friends and family of those in recovery, as they too benefit from coming together in prayer and praise of our God who brings healing to all. For more information about this Mass, ways in which you may offer assistance, or with questions about what the St. Mathias Ministry is doing around the Diocese, please contact Deacon John: deaconjohn@jsilvia.com. Recovery Masses for the remainder of the year are as follows, with all Masses at each location offered on Sundays at 5 p.m.: St. Barnabas Church, 1697 East Main Road, Portsmouth: July 30, 2017; October 29, 2017. St. Mary’s Church, 70 Church Street, West Warwick: (Includes the opportunity to receive the sacrament of the Sick) August 20, 2017; November 19, 2017.

Spiritual Hope and Cope Group to meet on July 23

PORTSMOUTH — The next meeting of the East Bay Hope and Cope Group, focusing on our Roman Catholic Spirituality, is Sunday, July 23 at 5 p.m. at St. Barnabas Church. Meetings are open to everyone, especially those who may be supporting someone in recovery from addiction or mental distress, or in recovery themselves. The East Bay Hope and Cope Group is held in the Chapel Meeting Room (under the little chapel, south of the rectory) from 5 to 6 p.m. This program is free, no registration is required (coffee will be provided). Meeting dates for the rest of the year, which will take place at the same time and location, are as follows: July 23; August 27; September 24; October 22; November 26; and December 17. For more information on these St. Matthias Ministry sponsored events, please email Deacon John Silvia deaconjohn@jsilvia.com.