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Welcome to another episode of Empowered by the Spirit featuring host Deacon Steve Greco.

Deacon Steve is a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Orange, CA. He is head of Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry, which engages in evangelization and support of the foreign missions. His guest is Katie Hughes, who works with Deacon Steve in Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry. They speak about all the different areas of healing that we can seek in our lives. Join us for this powerful discussion!



Originally broadcast on 2/20/22


On today’s episode, Deacon Steve welcomes two members of the Spirit Filled Hearts team to the studio: Katie Hughes and Michael Aimola. This discussion is a follow-up to the recently completed St. Joseph Summit. It was really quite an amazing and successful online summit, that featured about 64 unique speakers. These included all three of our bishops here in the Diocese of Orange: Bishop Vann, Bishop Freyer, and Bishop Nguyen.

Tune in, and be inspired!






Originally broadcast on 10/17/21


Grief support teams and bereavement ministers meet Catholic families’ critical needs every day, but their work is taking on new meaning and importance in the COVID-19 crisis. 

“It seems the whole world is grieving right now,” observes Lisa J. Nollette, director of adult faith formation at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Newport Beach. “Everyone is experiencing some kind of loss right now, and our grief rears its ugly face when we least expect it.” 

Nollette, who also serves as a chaplain at Hoag Hospital, says losing a loved one is complicated. “Grief is mysterious,” she explains. “A song, a line from a book, a smell – any of these can take you right back into that place of loss.” 

Throughout the Diocese of Orange, parishes offer grieving families support in planning for rosary, funeral, and graveside services, as well as referring them to support groups, hospice organizations, mortuaries, and mental-health counselors. 

“When family members call our parish office, they arrange the funeral time and date and then contact me,” says Mayrose Forbes, who heads the bereavement team at Holy Spirit Church in Fountain Valley. “We meet with the family to review the process, help them select songs and gospel readings, and review the diocesan dos and don’ts for the services.”  

Before the coronavirus pandemic team and family members met in person. Now the meetings are either held virtually or via phone.  

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated the grieving process, acknowledges Becky Lomaka, director of grief support and education for St. John Neumann Church in Irvine.  

“Even if a person hasn’t died of COVID, people have been isolated,” says Lomaka, who also serves as director of grief support and education for O’Connor Mortuary in Laguna Hills. Parishes offer much-needed community support for grieving families, she says, pointing to diocesan events and partnerships with mortuaries, hospitals, and other resources. 

“The thing I’ve heard time and again is that when people are grieving a loss, there are moments of joy in their lives as well,” she says. “We let people know that it’s OK for them to experience moments of happiness.” 

While the bereavement team’s main purpose is to ensure that services adhere to Catholic doctrine and tradition, Forbes explains, its most important duty is listening. “We try to take as much of the burden of planning from them as possible.” 

Bereavement teams and grief support groups, as well as hospice and hospital support organizations, are helpful to those who need help identifying what grief looks like, how to process it, and offering a safe place to experience it, says Jeff Frum, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Irvine-based Silverado Hospice. 

When his mother died recently, he became a client in addition to an employee. “They got to know me and my family and not only offered support through our faith community but would have connected us with one if we didn’t have it,” Frum recalls. “It was helpful to process my feelings with someone who understands grief. Knowing they were there, that they cared, reminded me that I wasn’t alone, and that grief is a process.” 

Even Catholics who are not practicing find comfort in the ancient rituals of rosary, funeral, and gravesite services, Nollette says. That comfort is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s been a tough time to say goodbye, because a lot of times people are dying in hospitals or care facilities where their families aren’t allowed, so they can’t say goodbye,” she says.  

In addition to the well-documented stages of grief recognized by the mental health community, many of us experience what Nollette calls ‘anticipatory grief’ as we sit with a dying loved one. 

“People grieve before they grieve,” she notes. “The person is not gone but they are still experiencing loss.” 

With coronavirus, the grieving process is complicated, agrees Linda Gigliotti, an Irvine therapist who serves as diocesan health and wellness consultant. 

“During this time of pandemic we aren’t supposed to be together, so we are alone,” Gigliotti notes. “Someone’s passing makes us feel even more alone. People are more prone to depression and loneliness.” 

GriefShare, a nationwide organization, offers workbooks, videos, and other materials used in 13-week cycles, says Jennifer Dagarag, who runs the group based at St. Irenaeus Church. 

“We provide a safe environment for people to grieve,” says Dagarag, who serves as community nurse at the Cypress parish. “We tell them ‘it’s OK to not be OK.’ We provide a safe environment to share whatever they need to share, whenever they are ready.” 

Bereavement and grief resources: Visit for daily reflections. Visit to order the Alive in the Word books that provide a guide through the grieving process. Visit to order the four Journeying Through Grief books. has a list of hospice and grief support services, as does 


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Taking their cue from Christ, moral theologians can see that people need to be liberated and healed, not condemned, Pope Francis said. 

But the earth — humanity’s common home — is also in great need of care, he added, asking that moral theology expand to include an “ecological dimension.” 

The pope held an audience at the Vatican Feb. 9 with professors and students of the Alphonsian Academy in Rome, a graduate school specializing in moral theology. The school was founded by the Redemptorists 70 years ago, inspired by the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. 

The pope said St. Alphonsus knew what was needed was not defending oneself from the world or condemning it, but working “to heal and liberate, in imitation of Christ’s action.” 

The church must give attention to people who are subjected to the many “forms of the power of sin that continue to condemn them to insecurity, poverty and marginalization,” he said. 

Moral theologians also should be inspired to face with “great willingness the new, serious challenges stemming from the speed with which our society evolves” and which in turn fosters attitudes of competition, the law of “survival of the fittest” and the “throwaway culture.” 

The same attentive response is needed “for the cries of the earth — violated and harmed in numerous ways by selfish exploitation,” he said. 

People are missing a sense of their responsibility and their nation’s duty to care for the earth, the pope said. 

In all the years he has heard confession, he said, “rarely has anyone blamed themselves for doing violence to nature, to the earth, to creation. We are not aware of this sin.” 

Moral theology, he said, must do its part in helping people become aware of the urgency and conviction needed to work together in caring for “our common home through viable ways of integral development.”


Catholic Bishops across California are calling for more attention and resources focused on mental health and addiction awareness. 

To mark Mental Health Awareness Month, the California Catholic Conference of Bishops on May 2, issued a letter to Catholics across California. The letter, spotlighting the prevalence of mental illness and addiction, calls on people of faith to provide hope, healing and compassion to the suffering.   

“Christ calls us to attend to those who suffer from mental illness and provide hope and healing,” their statement read. “As Catholics, in imitation of our Lord, we are called to provide hope and healing to others.  We profess that every human life is sacred, that all people are created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore a person’s dignity and worth cannot be diminished by any condition, including mental illness.” 

The letter reinforces the commitment of Catholic leaders across California to address the mental illness and addiction crisis gripping the state and support all who may be suffering. 

About 20 percent of adults in the U.S. suffered from a mental disorder over the past year and nearly 10 million American adults have a mental illness that is severe enough to cause serious functional impairment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  About 20 percent of adolescents currently have, or previously had, a seriously debilitating mental disorder. Mental, neurological, and substance abuse disorders are the single largest source of disability in the U.S., accounting for nearly 20 percent of all disability, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

In their letter, the Bishops call on all Christians to support the mentally ill, many of whom suffer in silence. A person diagnosed with a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder frequently experiences isolation and inadequate support, often because of the unjust social stigma of mental illness, the Bishops wrote.  

“We Christians must encounter them, accompany them, comfort them, and help bear their burdens in solidarity with them—offering our understanding, prayers, and tangible and ongoing assistance,” the Bishops wrote.  

“It is time now to build bridges between science and religion, health care and pastoral care,” the letter added.  

The California Catholic Conference is the public advocacy office of the Bishops of California. Representing the Archbishops of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the Bishops of Fresno, Monterey, Oakland, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Stockton, it is the official voice of the 10 million Catholics and their many parishes, schools, universities, and social service agencies in California.  


For many, if not the majority of patients, discharge from a stay of more than three days in an intensive care unit (ICU) is only the beginning of the healing process. What surprises most people is that recovery isn’t limited to the condition that led to the ICU stay. The medical community is beginning to address a severe and often debilitating psychological condition that is fairly common among former ICU patients. Confusion, delusions, hallucinations and memory loss can add a layer of anxiety to the challenges of physical recovery. 

For these patients, piecing together what happened in the days or weeks in the ICU can be difficult. Some patients have large gaps in memory while others experience delusions or hallucinations that can be frightening. While recovering physically, the patient sometimes has difficulty piecing together the facts. Known as Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS), the condition has been gaining the attention of medical professionals. 

RN Mary Kay Bader, Neuro Critical Care Nurse specialist at Mission Hospital, is part of a team that has studied the latest research on PCIS from Europe, which has been at the forefront of treatment. “We have long observed that patients after a long illness have a series of symptoms such as weakness, delusional memories and emotional problems that aren’t directly related to the medical condition that brought them to ICU,” Bader says. A condition that arises as a consequence of a previous disease or injury is known as a sequela. “Mission Hospital assembled a team of specialists who spent the past year looking at all the research and tools to address this issue to improve patient outcomes.” 

One of the most interesting and efficacious tools has been an ICU diary. According to a recent article in the Journal of Patient Experience, an ICU diary can “minimize the psychological and emotional sequelae affecting patients and family members in the months following the ICU stay.” As the name implies, the diary is a layman’s chronicle of what happened in the ICU, which is written by both the medical staff, and visitors. It does not fall under HIPPA guidelines as it is not the medical records but rather a chronicle of the experiences, conversations, and activity of a patient during the stay. The patient takes the diary home with them when they leave, and over time it helps them piece together what happened, and also what they missed in the outside world. 

“As an example, we had a young man who was on a ventilator, but not comatose. He swore there was a witch circling over his bed,” Bader says. “The vision was so real that after recovery he was compelled to revisit his room and discovered that there was a tree painted on the ceiling of his room.” In severe cases patients with PICS can become fearful of the world, avoid activities because they don’t understand what is happening. 

How does it work? Beginning October 1, Mission Hospital will be one of the first in the nation to introduce ICU diaries for patients who spend more than a few days in intensive care. The diaries are the patient’s property, and are hand written with no medical information included. Family participation is a very important part of the journaling effort. Medical staff explains the purpose of the diary, and then encourage families to contribute, beginning with an “all about me” section that gives staff information about the patient such as their interests, hobbies, sports teams and work. Even if the patient is comatose, families are encouraged to write family news and events, major news or sports stories that the patient can read while in recovery. This gives the patient a better sense of what happened and helps them put together their lives, especially if the hospital stay was long. 

According to Bader and the Mission team, “Having your life saved is a traumatic event, we are hoping that the diaries will mean the outcome for patients will mean greater quality of life after ICU. The diaries may mean less long-term stress, nightmares and better emotional healing.”