Deacon Anthony (Tony) Miller, from Binghamton, NY, is a man on a mission. His mission is to help empower the Church of Syracuse, NY to be a resource for those who suffer from addictions and their families, by using his expertise as a certified iTHIRST Spiritual Companion to offer spiritual consolation to those in his parish and beyond.
After having completed the iTHIRST Spiritual Companionship Training with the 4th Seton Hall cohort, Deacon Tony recently introduced the iTHIRST Ministry to his parish by way of an introductory homily. (See embedded link.) He also made use of the downloadable, customizable iTHIRST resources that are available online to all certified iTSCs, making his brochure and business cards accessible to everyone in his parish. There was no surprise that by the end of the mass of introduction, all of the resources he had made available were gone – in the hands of his parishioners who both needed his help, or who were searching to be part of the solution to the growing problem of addiction in their communities.
Deacon Tony had been drawn to work with those suffering from addictions for years after receiving what he describes as, “a call on my heart” from the Holy Spirit several years prior. He searched for a program or a resource that he could use to help educate him about the disease of addiction so that he could better ‘shepherd his flock,’ but he didn’t have much success. That is, until last year, when a “random post from a Facebook friend” whom he’d never met, introduced him to the iTHIRST Spiritual Companionship Training. “I figured this would be the perfect option for me. I had been planning on a ministry like this when I retired from my ‘day job.’ Deacon Tony evaluated the core components of the ITSC training through Seton Hall’s Continuing Education and Professional Studies website, and knew that it would provide him with the spiritual tools needed to provide spiritual consolation and recovery resource information to a vulnerable population – one with whom he had little contact for most of his life.
“When I was in elementary school, we were taught about the dangers of drugs, but in my sheltered upbringing, I was not exposed to them until I got to college, and then it was only marijuana,” Deacon Tony explained. “Recently, I have been seeing a huge uptick in the number of overdose deaths.” Indeed, according to New York State Department of Health Opioid Annual Data Report, the rates of overdoses throughout New York State have consistently risen over the last years, primarily due to the introduction of fentanyl into the illicit drug scene.
In more recent years, Deacon Tony’s own life was affected by the disease of addiction, after having lost both his sister and his brother-in-law to complications from alcoholism. Deacon Tony learned that every family is susceptible to the tragedy of drug and alcohol abuse, and with statistics suggesting that 1 in every 3 families nationwide is affected, the problem is more urgent than ever.
In discussing the benefits of his training and of the work of iTHIRST in general, Deacon Tony shared that he, “has been letting people know that they are not alone in what they are going through” whether it is they or a loved one who is affected by addiction. To that end, Deacon Tony is planning to bring the training to the attention of the community of deacons in the Diocese of Syracuse, in hopes of attracting more of them to the training.
“If I can help one person and their family avoid the loss of a loved one, I will consider the time, money and training worth it.”
Ever forward, Deacon Tony! May your work be richly blessed!