Mental health in the church

Post By Godian Ejiogu | August 5, 2023

Passion cross


They were 48 men, looking angry, sitting with my father in a circle in the compound house. I was bringing coolants to be served to them as a welcome ritual and handed them over to my father in a round stainless-steel serving tray as he instructed me.

As a child in primary school, I was not allowed to be present at such gatherings of the elderly. Especially when their faces were long. I stood at hearing distance from the family meeting house (Obi). I was curious to know why their faces were so long.

They asked him, “Why are you sending your daughter to school and spending money to educate another man’s house?” “You are breaking the rule, and we want to know why.” My eldest sister just finished secondary school and is making it to higher education.

I did not forget my father’s reaction. He cleared his voice and answered them in his deep baritone voice.

This was his answer: “When I send my son to school, I educate one person. When I send my daughter to school, I eradicate illiteracy in a new family. Above all, she will be more independent and set a good example for the children. The children will be seeing her often and learning more from her than from their father. They may see their father on the weekend or in the evenings, maybe. With her education, she will educate her children. It is cheaper and better for the community. “This is how I am contributing to another man’s family.”

Africa and Netherland

 As a theology student, I had accommodation in a convent of CASA CARMELITES sisters in Vogelenzang in 1997, in the province of North Holland. I was told that the apartment I was living in was built and used for giving education to girls, when it was not usual to educate girls in the Netherlands. I remembered the visits my father had from those men.

When I left my parish pastoral work in 2009 for Urban mission pastoral work, to attend to the needs of single mothers with young children in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, some people could not hold their disappointment in me. They said all kinds of things, which I will not mention in this writing. It boiled down to leaving that work because it was not fitting for me. This demand was mostly made by women and a few men.

My father’s answer to those angry community leaders resonates with me.

When I see single mothers with young children lacking the basic things in life, it is not only their physical needs that are lacking. They also lack safety needs, family and love needs, a place to belong, self-esteem, and the desire to live their dream.

When I see those mothers filled with pain caused by many sources, including rejections, accused of everything negative, facing all forms of violence (physical, mental, spiritual, and verbal), and punished even by institutions for what they did not do,

I see what it is doing to them. I know that they are doing their best not to transfer it to their children, but still, children can only get what their parents have and give. Whether it be material or emotional. Their senses pick up those things, whether verbal or nonverbal. All of this together forms their upbringing and family biography.

Those mothers are giving to society what they received and what they have. The children will give to society that which made them who they are. You can only give what you have. If the children receive pain, sorrow, and injustice, they will give it back.  If the children suffer pain and sorrow, society will suffer for it. If they receive joy and affection, society will benefit from it. Supporting those who are doing the basic work of building a society is a basic service to a society that wants to evolve toward justice and peace. What we presently experience with the youth reflects what society gave them. This law is natural, and it never fails.

Supporting those mothers is part of building a healthy, cultured society.

When my book (Resilient African Women: Breaking Life Threatening Taboos) was published this year, one of the most repeated questions from readers across the continents was, “How come those women trusted this information’s to you?” This is because women normally do not share certain information’s with men. My answer was also in that book.

Now that attention is coming to the single mothers, it is time to look into their mental and spiritual restoration.

It is the core of our work.

On August 20, 2023, I will be leading a service where the spiritual and mental health of women are the focus. These women as focal points are unusual in the Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy. Using our Culturally Sensitive Care approach, we connect to a doctrine that is accepted not only by Roman Catholics but also by other religions.


One woman is well known in the books of different religions. She is named by her name in Islam (the Quran). I am not a Quran expert, but from what I read in the English version of the Quran, it seems she is the only woman mentioned by her name.

She is the most honored woman in Christianity.

She is a Jewish woman. Her name is Mary of Nazareth.

 Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the wife of Joseph of Nazareth, and formerly the wife of the Holy Spirit of the Most High God. According to the angel, Gabriel, who first gave honor to Mary, greeted her with “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

When Mary doubted how she could bear a son without knowing a man, Angel Gabriel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Elizabeth, who also greeted her, said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

In the story of Mary, as told by the Gospel, we can understand part of the call of women. The woman happens to be the laboratory of the Most High God, which he builds to mold his house.

 A place where He shapes the human body to carry the soul and spirit. This makes Mother “The most important person on the planet Earth.” It is the making of the Most High God. A mother may not build the biggest cathedral or any gigantic invention. Mothers need not pursue any of those achievements. Because in her tiny womb, she molds an immortal and everlasting soul and spirit carried in a living house of the body. She does this in cooperation with God.

Being favored by God did not set her free from the pain the world gives. Maybe just because of that, she has to suffer.

The new husband rejected her because she was pregnant, but not by him, except for the intervention of the angel, who made him take her back.

She has to go and stay with Elizabeth’s family for some time.

Furthermore, she gave birth, and the government wanted to kill her newborn baby.

She sought asylum in Egypt for safety.

She lost her son in the temple and searched for some days.

Not only that, but she was there to see her son carry the cross.

She was there, seeing an angry crowd crucify her son.

She witnessed her son die on the cross.

Likewise, she witnessed her son’s burial.

She lamented.

 Reflecting on her life and vocation as the servant of God and mother of Jesus Christ, we need to realize she was a human being.

In our society today, we see the position of women and the mental challenge of serving society.

 Mary and women

Today, women are going through this process.

In all this, it is difficult to keep your mental well-being healthy and your spiritual life sound.

Women continue to mold and keep creation going as God intended.

We will be taking our first initiative with our cultural sensitive care approach in the Roman Catholic Church. We aim to break the taboo and encourage discussion on mental health in church communities. Furthermore, we join the Assumption of Mary celebration, organized by Dutch, Filipino, African English speaking, Antillean, Iraqi, French, Polish, Heralds of the Gospel and so many other Roman Catholic communities in Rotterdam.

Mary is an example of a woman experiencing many trials throughout her life affairs.

Women’s and mothers’ mental care is a service that matters for the whole society.

Without them, human beings will face extinction on the planet Earth or become endangered. They are the first educators and nurturers of human beings. Women’s and mothers’ wellbeing matters. They play a significant role in building a society. They can be seen as the basic foundation for upbringing. Their role is irreplaceable. When they are treated justly, then we have a society of justice. There will be a beacon of peace and freedom.

Godian Ejiogu

Chaplain of Africans in the Netherlands