Job seekers gather to share leads, faith - Catholic Courier

Job seekers gather to share leads, faith

The phrase "for better or for worse" has new meaning for Dave Hyman.

Weeks before his June 2009 wedding, he and his fiancée were both laid off. All of a sudden, the couple had to decide whether they should postpone their nuptials.

"We went ahead with the wedding plans and took a week’s vacation," Hyman said.

After that, the couple got back into their job searches; since that time, Hyman’s wife has found a new job, and Hyman has had several promising leads.

Helping to keep up the couple’s spirits during their job searches was a new employment ministry formed by eight parishes in the eastern suburbs of Rochester, including St. Louis in Pittsford and Church of the Assumption and St. John of Rochester in Fairport.

The Keeping the Faith Ministry for the Unemployed aims to help job seekers hang on to their spirituality as they work through the emotional aspects of losing a job.

"Losing a job is a lot like a death," said Peter Sardano, an organizer of the ministry and a job seeker who has more than 27 years of experience in project management at Xerox. "It affects the bread winner and it affects the entire family."

Sardano said being in the job market has been an eye-opener.

"I think what I realized is there are a lot of very highly skilled people that are unemployed," he said.

The Keeping the Faith ministry began this year, spurred on in part by a spike in unemployment locally and nationally. The unemployment group’s meetings rotate around to several Catholic churches, but are open to all Catholics and non-Catholics.

During September and part of October, meetings will be held at St. Louis Parish in Pittsford, where the group is partnering with the Employment Network to offer information to attendees. For more than 17 years, the Employment Network has been offering a five-session training program for people on the skills needed to search for work, including resume writing and interviewing skills.

Those who attend the ministry also get a chance to express how their lives have been turned upside down.

"I was still waking up without even hearing the alarm go off," said Alan Priest of Perinton, who attends Church of the Assumption. Priest is a telecommunications specialist who worked for 31 years at a local information-technology services company, until his entire division of 91 people was laid off.

Although an unexpected layoff is jarring, Sardano noted that parts of the experience can be positive.

"God has given us an opportunity to research and possibly pursue something else," Sardano said. "This takes the positive aspect of why we’re together. We’re here for a reason. We’re going to do and make the best of this situation."

Ron Donnals of Gates has done just that. He was downsized after a 30-year career in manufacturing, and he said he realized he had an opportunity to do something new.

"I came to the realization that I didn’t want to keep doing this," he said of his manufacturing career.

Donnals said he has decided to attend Monroe Community College to study human services with the goal of becoming a counselor.

"I want to be able to help people," he remarked.

Ron’s brother, Kevin Donnals, also is looking for work after 33 years as a lab technician. Kevin said he has found a few jobs in his field, but they also come with a steep pay cut.

"I’d love to do what my brother did, but I have a 15-year-old at home and one in college, and you need the money now," said Kevin, who is a parishioner of St. John of Rochester.

To address such practical needs, the ministry’s meetings also are open to those who are employed and can share their knowledge on such topics as dealing with taxes, mortgages, health and life insurance, and ways to trim living expenses; dealing with financial issues; networking and job opportunities; and referrals.

Alan Goodrich of Fairport, who attends Church of the Assumption, is not in the job market, but said he started attending the ministry’s meetings to help share some of his contacts with job seekers.

"I think there are a lot of people out there that if they can understand the impact they can have here (in the Keeping the Faith ministry), it would get them involved," he said.

Amy Voll, a St. John of Rochester pastoral associate who is helping to organize the ministry, noted that people in the pews have helped the ministry as well. An anonymous list of ministry participants’ skill sets is published in the parish bulletins, and parishioners have responded by offering job leads. Voll said she has great empathy for the job seekers who are being helped by the ministry, since she was a Catholic-school teacher who had to hunt for a job after her school closed last year.

In addition to sharing empathy, group members also share their faith, several said.

"I just don’t know how people go through this if they don’t have any faith," Ron Donnals said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bishop Matthew H. Clark is scheduled to attend the 7 p.m. Oct. 7 meeting of the Keeping the Faith Ministry for the Unemployed at St. Louis Parish, 64 S. Main St., Pittsford. That program will include resume review and discussion with volunteers from the Employment Network. Details on the Keeping the Faith Ministry for the Unemployed are available from Amy Voll at 585-248-5993, ext. 13, or avoll@dor.org, or from Peter Sardano at psardano@rochester.rr.com.

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