December 18, 2020
Dec. 3 Community of Practice Meeting Recap
By: Rev. Kirsten Peachey, Director of Faith and Health Partnerships, Advocate Aurora Health

Learn what you react to and what makes it hard to maintain inner peace when in a polarized situation.

Grateful for reminders of connection to self, others and higher purpose. And for the rich new vocabulary on values-oriented work from Michelle. Our higher purpose is RELATIONSHIPS.

These are just a couple of thoughts from those who participated in the Dec. 3 Community of Practice meeting of the Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network.

We dialogued about how to use Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and Restorative Justice (RJ) Principles to explore the question, “How do our faith traditions speak to trauma and addressing the polarities at this time?” Minister Michelle Day of Nehemiah Trinity Rising and Hema Pokharna of Journeys of Life shared their wisdom and guided our discussion.

Both Hema and Michelle encouraged us to root our actions and responses to conflict and division in our values and in relationships. One of the transformations of NVC is to act from VALUES instead of our emotions.

When faced with a conflict, Hema recommended that we pause and become aware of our thoughts. She also suggested that we listen for our feelings so we can discern the need of the person in front of us and respond to the need that underlies their beliefs and actions.

Restorative Justice (RJ) emphasizes building interpersonal, community and systemic relationships that prevent or repair unjust behavior through collective efforts. It is a way of life and embodies the belief of Ubuntu-- “I am because WE are.” The RJ process asks us to build relationships first before jumping in to address issues and develop action plans.

Community of Practice meetings are a chance for us to share our expertise and interests with others. If there is a discussion that you would like to lead, please let us know and we will help you schedule it. Learn more about the Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network or sign up for our newsletter
Responding to the Call of Our Times – Choose Nonviolence
By Hema Pokharna, PhD.
Chief Purpose Officer | Resilience and Vitality Specialist, Journeys of Life

I was recently interviewed and asked if there had been themes or threads throughout my work in personal and professional development over the last 25 years. Several themes came to mind right away, including nonviolence, spirituality, healing, awareness and choice. Yet it is the theme of choice that has particularly guided my work. Many are called but few are chosen, but how many know they have the power to choose?

A quote from Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, has been the guiding light for most of my life’s work:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

I was born and brought up as a Jain with the paramount emphasis on inner peace, self-discipline and nonviolent ways of life in action, speech and thought. Also essential was the belief that core wisdom, an inner knowledge, is inherent to human nature. According to Jain teachings, violence and suffering are the result of disconnectedness from the knowledge of who we are and our infinite power to love.

So, when life happens to us – stimuli – we can either choose to respond or simply react, which depends on our self-connection and self-awareness. When we are not self-connected, the time space between the stimulus and response is often very short, and we react without considering that we have choices we can make moment to moment.

The Power to Choose

If we can pause, breathe and take time for the adrenaline hijack to subside, we can connect with the power to choose with awareness and love, allowing us to respond rather than react.

How we manage our emotions in the space between a stimulus and our response can open a space for growth and freedom, or it can close possibilities and, most likely, make us a victim of the situation. Our response will, in turn, have an impact on everyone else involved in the situation. How we think, feel and act is our choice, and our power to choose matters.

Hope is Here
By: Meagan Gillan, retired Director of Advocacy for Victims of Abuse, a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, Friends, and thankfully, it is not a train barreling toward us!

After nine long months of isolation, anxiety, uncertainty, uncounted losses, and the death of more than 300,000 Americans, the vaccine that will protect us from the Coronavirus is on its way. Though it will be months before many of us receive the vaccine, just knowing that it has been developed, approved, and is being distributed to those who need it most is encouraging, to say the least. It gives us hope.

As we endured months of lock downs, riots, fear and isolation, it was hard to kindle hope, even for the most positive among us. There were moments when it seemed like the isolation and fear would never end, and the mysterious killer disease would plague us forever. For many, it seemed hopeless. For some, it has been genuinely traumatic.

Anxiety and trauma are closely related. When we feel anxious, we feel uncertainty, worry and fear. We don’t know what will happen, and we sense we may not be able to cope with whatever comes. Extreme anxiety can lead to panic attacks, sleeplessness, an inability to concentrate and more. Trauma has a similar effect on us. It comes as something that has overwhelmed our ability to cope, causing us to fear for our life or our well-being. Anxiety can easily flow from trauma.

Both trauma and anxiety are powerful, yet their power can be reduced by a few simple gifts that are common to our faith communities:

  • We can give the gift of safe space to process. During the pandemic, many faith communities ramped up their small group efforts via Zoom, and found that people needed to talk about the experiences they were having. When we process together, we learn that we aren’t the only one feeling fear, worry, or painful emotion, we gain hope. 

Trauma-Informed Care Provides Healing for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
Studies show that individuals living with an intellectual disability experience trauma at a higher rate than those without a disability.

L’Arche Chicago, a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs and support networks for people who have intellectual disabilities, addresses that issue by offering trauma-informed and compassion-informed approaches to care for its clients.

“Members of L'Arche Chicago have experienced discrimination and social exclusion solely due to their disability,” said Jeremy Chia, development director with L’Arche Chicago. “Before entering L'Arche homes, some members lived in institutionalized facilities and other group homes, where they experienced physical, emotional and verbal abuse.”

L'Arche provides accompaniment and care to its clients through trained Direct Support Professional staff [DSPs]. All DSPs receive ongoing training and supervision on trauma-informed care guidance and practices.

L’Arche Chicago recently celebrated its 20th anniversary as a community. In L’Arche Chicago’s group homes, adults with and without intellectual disabilities share friendship, building a community strengthened by faith.
The Way of Companionship:
Discovering the Heart of Mental Health Ministry
By: Robert Skrocki, Communications Liaison with Interfaith Mental Health Coalition

Training ushers, faith community members and staff in the different types of mental illnesses, and how to help people who might behave differently, are noteworthy efforts and important first steps for faith communities in welcoming people with mental illnesses.

But Companionship, as defined by Rev. Craig Rennebohm, a chaplain with the Mental Health Chaplaincy, Seattle, suggests a more profound response to mental illness and it compels us to become the people our faith traditions have long called us to become.

Companionship asks us to walk “side-by-side” a person and share the journey toward health and wholeness. Through the side-by-side presence and orientation, and through participation in the other four core practices of Companionship: listening, providing hospitality, “neighboring,” and expanding the circle of care, we become more acutely aware of a common humanity and our experience of frailty and suffering, but also of the eternal significance of each human heart.

Self-Care Corner
50 Ways to Take a Break

Karen Horneffer-Ginter, Ph.D., a psychologist, speaker, and writer, created this infographic, which offers ideas for both short and long work breaks and brain breaks.

Her ideas include take a bath, call a friend, meander around town, pet a furry creature and give thanks.

Click here to download and print.

Dr. Horneffer-Ginter is the author of the book “Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit: Nourishing the Soul When Life’s Just Too Much.”

Learn more.
Getting Some Self-Care on a Budget

By: Vicki Martinka Petersen, digital copywriter with Advocate Aurora Health.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people raised their self-care game as a way of coping with social distancing. Self-care might conjure up images of fancy beauty products or online boutique fitness classes, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money to take care of yourself.

“Self-care can be anything that helps you recharge and take care of yourself so, in turn, you’ll be well to take care of the people who count on you,” says Dr. Jennette Berry, a family medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, IL.

Whether you’re looking to establish a self-care routine or to try some new ideas, Dr. Berry suggests these budget-friendly ways to take care of yourself, including exercising, meditating and journaling.

This informational interview explores how we can identify and manage such feelings—this COVID or Pandemic Fatigue—while still protecting ourselves and our families from the COVID-19 virus. Available in English and Spanish.
Career Opportunities
Catholic Charities has a care coordinator position and four therapist positions open. If you have questions, please reach out to Meghan Ryan, Clinical Manager, Youth and Family Therapeutic Services with Catholic Charities, at or (312) 566-4528.

Click below for more details:

Grant Opportunities
Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities (ARCC) 2021 Seed Grants have opened. ARCC provides grants to support the development of partnerships, that engage communities and stakeholders most impacted by health inequities in research collaboration with Northwestern research teams. Deadline January 28, 2021

Chicago Region Food System Fund is now accepting applications for food system resilience. The Fund responds to hunger and business disruption by bolstering the region’s communities and local food system to withstand COVID-19. An informational webinar was held 12/3/20 and the recording will be made available on their website. Deadline January 13, 2021
Upcoming Events
Peace in the Midst of the Storm with Restorative Justice Practices

Sponsored by Nehemia Trinity Rising

Social Wellness Online Peace Circle Check In
(choose one session):

  • Dec. 21: 10:00-11:30 a.m.
  • Jan. 14: 10:00-11:30 a.m.
  • Jan. 21: 10:00-11:30 a.m.

Share with a diverse group of the community about how you are doing, tips for coping, what you are grateful for and concerned about, and opportunities to make a difference even while sheltered in place. Sessions are one hour each and limited to 15 persons per session. (This is not therapy.)

Restorative Justice Micro Mini Online Educational Sessions:
Transforming Community  

Jan. 21, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Restorative Justice emphasizes building healthy interpersonal, community and systemic relationships which prevent or repair unjust behavior through collective efforts.

Share in an interactive educational session about the history, philosophy and practices of restorativejustice and how it can transform communities and unjust systems.

Please sign up for either event by emailing

Jan. 9, 11:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Catholic Mobilizing Network

In collaboration with skilled Catholic restorative justice practitioners, Catholic Mobilizing Network invites you to join ministry leaders from throughout the country to learn more about restorative justice, ways to implement restorative circles in Catholic contexts, and opportunities to promote restorative justice in your community.

This one-day workshop offers an introductory experience with circles. It is ideal for Catholic individuals who are new to restorative justice and wish to learn about circle process and its applications in ministry.

Jan. 18, 8:00- 9:30 a.m.

Sponsored by FaithBridge

The 2021 Virtual Martin Luther King, Jr., Interfaith Breakfast will feature Dr. Mark A. Hicks. Dr. Hicks is the Angus MacLean Professor of Religious Education at Meadville Lombard (Chicago) who also directs the activities of The Fahs Collaborative: A Laboratory for Innovation in Faith Formation.

As a scholar and practitioner of faith formation, Dr. Hicks calls upon the disciplines of philosophy and education, transformative learning, critical pedagogy and arts education as foundations for holistic, spiritually/emotionally grounded teaching and learning. His teaching and scholarship have been acclaimed by colleagues for their impact, and also lauded by participants whose learning is deepened by his ideas and practices.

Sponsored by the Institute for Empowering Communication

Workshop One: Jan. 18 or 22

Workshop Two: Jan. 25 or 29

Workshop Three, Feb. 1 or 5

Workshop Four, Feb. 8 or 12

Facilitators Rev. Joel Westby and Rev. Leslie Ritter-Jenkins have studied and practiced Nonviolent Communication, also known as Empowering Communication, cumulatively for 30 years and found it invaluable in their work with staff, committees, worship, pastoral care, and self-care.

Empowering Communication is not only consonant with Christianity, but is a path that liberates the power of love within ourselves and in our relationships. In the workshops, you will learn tools that support congregational vitality and help heal in the world.

Jan. 19, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation

The theme of this year’s National Day of Racial Healing is The Sacred Talking Drum.

It’s a free, immersive, virtual event where participants will experience a racial healing circle and connect with others. We will also learn from youth leaders, enjoy multi-cultural drumming performances from venues across Chicago. Action groups will be formed to foster support for the youth movement.

Everyone is invited to participate. Together we can experience collective healing, and make commitments toward confronting systematic racism and transforming our institutions, our neighborhood, and our futures.

Four Day Restorative Justice and Peace Circle Skills Transfer

Jan. 25-28

Sponsored by Nehemiah Trinity Rising

This is a highly interactive, four day journey to gaining meaningful knowledge and skills for using Restorative Justice philosophy and practices in various settings. The skills transfer involves:

  • An overview of the history of Restorative Justice philosophy and its historical and present day use in building and sustaining self-healing communities. 

  • Particular attention is paid to the indigenous wisdom and cultural significance of Restorative Justice practices. 

  • An overview of the various Restorative Justice processes and practices which contribute to creating a restorative community or environment (e.g. peace circles, restorative conversations, asset mapping, café conversations, conferencing).

  • Understanding of the intersection of Restorative Justice practices with trauma and resilience, equity (especially racism), social justice and faith. 

  • Each participant will also have the opportunity to plan and hold a circle, restorative conversations for everyday use and will receive and witness feedback which will be vital to their success in using Restorative Justice practices in community and within their own setting. 

Participants are provided with extensive material to enhance their learning and assist their work after completion of the Four Day Skills Transfer. For an application or questions, please contact 312.852.8520 or

February 4
11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Hospice Foundation of America

When a death embodies both trauma and loss, the ensuing traumatic bereavement poses special challenges and demands more than mere grief facilitation. Drawing on cutting-edge information from psychology, traumatology, and thanatology, Dr. Rando identifies 12 essential core strategies for effective clinical intervention after deaths from acute natural causes, accident, disaster, suicide, or homicide.

  • Wednesdays, through Dec. 30
  • 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

“What’s Next?” is a weekly resilience program that combines evidence-based scientific studies with encouragement from faith-based resources. Participants will gain tools to:

  • build resilience amid the difficulties of life
  • learn from their experiences
  • use the knowledge they gain to nourish themselves and the world around them

Attend any or all sessions. LaShondria Purnell, RN, a faith community nurse with Advocate Aurora Health, facilitates "What's Next?" and looks forward to learning alongside you.
We welcome your submissions for future issues of the Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network newsletter.

Please contact Cindy Novak if you have an event, resource or story you'd like to share. Thank you!