A Catholic invitation to picking up the 500-pound telephone

By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

One sign of demand is a ringing telephone.

When Archbishop Gregory Aymond dedicated the new offices of Catholic Counseling Service inside a venerable and remodeled two-story building across from Notre Dame Seminary, he expressed his gratitude that counseling with a Catholic orientation for individuals, couples and families would be available for up to seven clients at one time.

“The need is tremendous,” Archbishop Aymond said late last month after blessing the archdiocesan facility, the former home in the 1960s of the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic and, later, used as Crescent House for battered women at the corner of Carrollton Avenue and Pritchard Place, where a lion statue stands guard.

“When we started this just a few years ago, we didn’t know how much this would grow, but the need grows greatly every year,” the archbishop said.

Can feel Christ’s presence

As a ministry of the archdiocese, Catholic Counseling Service provides affordable and quality counseling “with a unique perspective that upholds the richness of our Catholic faith,” said director Joey Pistorius. “I’ve had clients share that they feel supported in their Catholic faith, and that’s important to them. They have told us the facility is incredibly peaceful. You can walk through and feel the presence of Christ here.”

Currently, the service offers counseling to 132 clients, and more call every day. The office tries to schedule appointments within 48 hours. In addition to the new offices, Catholic Counseling Service also offers counseling at Ascension of Our Lord Parish in LaPlace and the Northshore Catholic Center in Covington.

Fees not an obstacle

The center currently works on a private-pay, sliding-scale-fee model, Pistorius said.

“The sliding scale is used to make sure finances are not an obstacle for families to have counseling,” he said.

Pistorius said the clinic utilizes “strengths-based” counseling, recognizing the strengths that each person brings into counseling. One of those strengths can be a person’s faith life.

“We speak the language of spirituality,” Pistorius said. “Faith is and has been empirically proven to be an incredible resource for a very large number of presenting issues such as grief, substance abuse and anxiety. We recognize the strength and resources in the individual and share that with them. When they ask about spirituality, we can use faith as an incredibly powerful resource.”

Catholic Counseling Service offers counseling for a wide range of issues, including anger, stress and anxiety, adjustment and life transitions, depression, sexual compulsions, marital issues, pre-marital counseling, parenting and co-parenting skills, relationship issues, grief and loss, career changes, body image, trauma and addiction.

Individuals can speak confidentially with an intake counselor who will use the information provided to match the person with one of the center’s counselors. The counselor will call the client to set up an appointment.

The home in which the center is located was built in 1945 and has wide hallways and an abundance of natural light. Former bedrooms and other rooms have been converted into three offices and four counseling parlors.


Confidentiality assured

To enhance confidentiality, renovations included installing soundproof doors, providing a parking area in the rear of the building and adding a staircase that allows clients to leave without being seen. The rooms also are equipped with sound machines as a noise barrier.

In addition to Pistorius, Deacon David Farinelli serves fulltime as a clinical supervisor. Cecilia Matherne is the fulltime intake coordinator, and there are eight counseling interns who see clients.

Catholic Counseling Service does not see anyone under the age of 13 on its own. Those children are referred other services, including Counseling Solutions of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans.

“This place speaks of peace,” Archbishop Aymond said. “‘Come to me all who labor and I will give you rest’ speaks to what this ministry is all about.

“There are many avenues for counseling, but very often people will call their parish and ask for Christian counseling or for specifically Catholic counseling. This is not proselytizing, but it is an opportunity for people to lean on God and know God is with them to walk through their difficulties.”

For instance, the archbishop said, some people have told him when they have gone to marriage counseling, the counselor suggested “they might want to just separate and give up.”

“We start at the position of, ‘How can we walk through this with you? How can we help you communicate better?’” he said. “This is no judgment on other counselors, but we can go from the teachings of church.” 

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.


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