4467 Cascade Road SE, Suite 4469, Grand Rapids, MI 49546           616-446-1873           email

William J. Weitzel, LMSW, ACSW
Your Subtitle text

Article from Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids

Jobless but not hopeless: Cheryl finds spiritual strength, meaningful work through parish group

by Paul R. Kopenkoskey | Photography by Holly Dolci 

After working for nearly 30 years at a multinational food and drink company, Cheryl Barbera found herself needing to navigate the bewildering maze of unemployment. Compounding her anguish was the death of her father, William Winkleff, about a month before her account manager job was eliminated in March 2017.
Another concern: Cheryl was 61 when she found herself unemployed. She wasn’t ready to retire. But were there employers willing to hire her? 
“Emptiness” is how Cheryl recalls those days. “I needed some spiritual guidance.”
She would find support and guidance at her parish of 30 years, St. Robert of Newminster in Ada. She 
participated in the Employment and Resource Network (EaRN), which meets every other Wednesday 
from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the parish. EaRN also is known as the St. Robert’s Roundtable, according to its coordinator, Bill Weitzel.
The St. Robert’s group is affiliated with a nondenominational EaRN ministry founded by Ken Soper, a certified career counselor with the National Career Development Association and the National Board of Certified Counselors.
At St. Robert’s, Cheryl found both the spiritual and practical support she needed. With help from volunteer coaches, she learned how to write a resume that would grab attention, verbally summarize the high points in three minutes or less, succeed at an interview and network effectively.
Cheryl appreciates that each EaRN session begins with prayer.
“I prayed for strength,” says Cheryl, who turns to God in times of turmoil or crisis. “I needed mental strength because my father was always a sounding board for me, always my biggest supporter.”
Cheryl smiles. About three months after she lost her job, she was hired as a sales and marketing consultant for Byron Center-based Diocesan (Publications). Her sales territory includes Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.
She remembers feeling pangs of nervousness before interviewing with Diocesan, since this  was her first job interview in many years. But her qualms were soon replaced by serenity.
“I walked into that  office and they had these beautiful banners and this cross on the wall,” recalls Cheryl. “It was like this calm came over me. I was really relaxed. All the anxiety and anxiousness left me. I had a big smile when I left. This was where I needed to be.”
Her travels allow her to encounter the faithfulness of Catholics throughout the Midwest.
“I love going to some of the historical churches every week,” says Cheryl. “I love seeing some of the architecture of 150 years ago. They just don’t make them like that anymore.”
Having someone to walk beside a job seeker is invaluable, says Shawn Weiss Thompson, a St. Robert parishioner who has been a volunteer coach for eight years.
“It’s really helpful when going through any transition to have somebody to talk to, to help you through 
it,” says Shawn. “We don’t find a job for people, we help them find a job that fits them. Cheryl has a ton of energy and enthusiasm to do the hard work to get her to where she is today.”
Ken Soper likens finding a new job to answering one’s calling in life, and sees churches as a natural ally in this spiritual quest.
“Calling implies a caller – that caller is God and God has revealed to us most directly in the person of Jesus Christ,” says Ken. “Jesus says to take up your cross and follow me. Vocation involves a sense of meaning and purpose.”
At St. Robert, the EaRN group tempers the cold splash of reality unemployment throws at job seekers with encouragement. “A key part of the support group is dealing with the stress of the upheaval,” says Bill, a licensed clinical social worker.
But EaRN is more than a support group. The organization provides strategies, tips and networking opportunities to help participants ? nd not just any job, but something that fits their skills and interests.
“We try to help people realize getting a job is a job. Once you deal with the emotional, social, spiritual and financial, you have to get people geared up to spend 35 to 40 hours a week in the employment search process,” says Bill.
Faith, prayer and pastoral counsel also are vital, says Bill. “When many people lose their jobs they often lose a sense of belonging and belief in themselves,” he says. “We try to re?ect on their God-given gifts and ask them to have faith that something will appear. We suggest prayer, reflection and exploration of how others have dealt with loss and challenges.”
Cheryl took that advice to heart, never losing faith during the difficult days and asking God to “guide me to a new path.” For her and for others, EaRN has been an answer to that prayer.  

What to expect

Successfully landing a new job requires a strategy. The Employment and Resource Network’s (EaRN) offers:
• Stress management
• Career goal-setting
• Identifying potential employers
• Understanding how to market yourself
• Networking
• How to conduct a successful job interview
• Written and “verbal” resumes 

Looking for work?

The Employment and Resource Network (EaRN) offers work search roundtables at two locations:
St. Robert of Newminster Parish
5477 Ada Drive, Ada
When: 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. every other Wednesday
Contact: Bill Weitzel at
Westminster Presbyterian Church
47 Jefferson St. SE, Grand Rapids
When: 9 to 11 a.m. every other Monday
Contact: Ken Soper at

for full article from Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids click here

Article from GR Press (for full article click here)

Experts' tips for dealing with stress

Published: Monday, January 09, 2012, 6:22 AM

By Terri Finch Hamilton | The Grand Rapids Press

Bill Weitzel is stressing me out.

I’m here in his office at Catholic Charities West Michigan, where he’s a therapist who counsels people in all kinds of turmoil. He’s teaching a class this month on managing stress.

I’m trying to get some tips, notebook and pen poised for duty.

“Put your notebook down,” Weitzel says.

Sorry, Bill — I have to write down the stuff you say.

“You need to put it down,” he repeats gently. “I want you to put the tips of your first fingers against the tips of your thumbs.”

But then I won’t be able to ...

  Katie Greene | The Grand Rapids Press

Reduce anxiety: Bill Weitzel, a behavioral health outpatient therapist at Catholic Charities West Michigan, says our thoughts and mind have a lot to do with physical stress.

 Weitzel reaches over and takes my notebook and pen, setting them down on the table.

I can feel my blood pressure rising. He smiles reassuringly.

“Close your eyes, and put your fingertips against your thumbs,” he says, demonstrating. “Now think of a place that relaxes you, a place that makes you happy.”

Anyplace where I can have my notebook and pen back, I think. But I say, obligingly, “The beach.”

Then, Weitzel starts describing my beach — the waves lapping, the balmy breeze, the blue sky, some other sensations I can’t remember exactly because he wouldn’t let me write them down. His calm voice is soothing. I imagine the sand between my toes and the warm sun on my face.

“Breathe,” he says quietly.

I can do this little exercise anywhere, Weitzel says. Touching my fingertips to my thumb tips gets it going, he says, then my mind will follow.

Weitzel is a big believer in how our minds can help us control stress. He’s a member of the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness, which teaches people how to use mindfulness to manage stress. Its programs are based on work at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

“Your thoughts and your mind have a lot to do with physical stress,” Weitzel says.

He knows a bit about stress.

A few years ago, he was laid off from his longtime career at Aquinas College.

“I had never been unemployed,” he says. “I had panic attacks. The first time, I thought I was having a heart attack.

“We have a better understanding now of the way the brain works,” he says. “How our thoughts and worries make chemical changes in our bodies.”

He talks about exercising your mind to reduce stress.

“Bring your attention from all these crazy thoughts — all these thoughts rob you from being in the moment,” he says. “Bring your thoughts in. When they start to go back to your stress, pull them back in again.

“The first time you do it, it’s flabby,” Weitzel says. “But do it more, and you strengthen your ability to focus. You strengthen that attention muscle.”

Pay attention

Weitzel touts “breath awareness.” Notice your breathing. Notice where the breath goes when it enters and leaves your body.

Don’t try to change it, he says, but it may change naturally as you observe it.

If your mind wanders away, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes, he says.

Other experts in stress control echo Weitzel’s advice.
For the full article click here.