FONDA — This weekend, for the first time in its history, the Saint Kateri National Shrine and Historic Site will be participating in a "National Weekend of Prayer" event as well as distributing resources in recognition of "World Suicide Prevention Day."
Healing Masses with relics of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and Saint Francis of Assisi will be held on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Confession will be available before each Mass.
"We're trying it out, we've never done this before. It will be similar to the Masses we offer every weekend, but there will be confession available beforehand, and we will have people manning a table with information on preventing suicide," Shrine Director Rita Gullion said. "Someone on our shrine council brought this up at a meeting, and it was kind of last-minute — it wasn't on our schedule for the year — so, we pulled it all together.
Our motto is that we are a sacred place of peace and healing, and people who are dealing with the suicide of a loved one, or if even they are thinking of suicide, maybe they can find peace and healing by coming to the shrine."
Suicide rates have been rising nationally. According to the most recent study conducted by the United Health Foundation, the suicide rate in the U.S. in 2016 was 14 per 100,000 people, 44,965 deaths, up 25.4 percent from 1999. The study showed the suicide rate had risen in nearly every state over that time period.
In New York state, the rate of suicide death per 100,000 people was 8.3 in 2018, down slightly from 8.5 in 2015, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control.
Gullion said suicide touches many people's lives, including her own.
"My neighbor down the street shot himself in his garage, when I was living downstate. Suicide can affect anybody at any time, you never know," she said.
At the shrine's suicide prevention table, Gullion said information about resources for military veterans struggling with drug abuse will also be available. Another brochure will offer tips on how to recognize the signs of someone who might be suicidal. She said the Mass will be presided over by Father Tim Lyons, the shrine's chaplain.