About Mental Health Ministry


Mental Health Ministry called 3GEN+, began at St. Francis of Assisi in 2019 when we received a three-year grant from the University of San Diego, Catholic Institute of Mental Health Ministry (CIMHM). Deacon Ed Shoener of Scranton, PA, and Wendell Callahan, PhD, founded CIMHM. Bishop PJ McGrath endorsed our application for the grant in writing. The intent of the grant was to initiate a pilot of Mental Health Ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church to address the needs of Three Generations: Youth, Parents, Elders, + All Others. We had three parish-based goals: Educate, Advocate, and Accompany those affected by emotional, psychological, and spiritual distress. By Year Three of the grant, our goal was to begin Mental Health Ministries in other parishes in the Diocese of San Jose and in parishes in other dioceses.

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Minister Formation

As part of our training Parish-Based Mental Health Ministers in 2020, Ruth Auten LMFT and I  created and implemented Listen with the Ear of the Heart.

From 2021-2024, 21 St. Francis of Assisi parishioners have completed Listen with the Ear of the Heart.

In addition, in July 2019, at St. Francis of Assisi, 23 parishioners completed Mental Health First Aid facilitated by Deacon Ed Shoener, founder and President of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (CMHM).  Cecile Vu, a staff member then, oversaw Social Justice and Homebound Ministries at St. Francis of Assisi and organized this training. Barbara and Rich Zahner also completed Mental Health First Aid in February 2019 at the University of San Diego. Again, Deacon Ed Shoener facilitated the training.

Parish Activities
  • Listen with the Ear of the Heart Formation (2019-2023)
  • Taizé Mental Health Awareness Prayer Vigil (2019)
  • Homilies and Prayers of the Faithful (2019-2023)
  • Hope and Healing Study Sessions (2019)
  • Mental Health First Aid training (2019)
  • Angst film and panel discussion–2019 in Sandersfeld Hall; 185 attendees
  • Angst film and panel discussion-2021-online due to COVID. 1000 attendees; shared activity with Diocese of San Jose and Diocese of Orange County
  • Like-2021-online due to COVID. 1000 attendees; shared activity with Diocese of San Jose and Diocese of Orange County
  • Upstanders-2021-online due to COVID. 1000 attendees; shared activity with the Diocese of San Jose and Diocese of Orange County
  • In Our Own Voices—presented by NAMI; 4.21.19
  • Ending the Silence—presented by NAMI; 5.18.19
  • Mental Health 101 in Spanish and in Vietnamese—presented by NAMI; Summer 2019
  • Blessings of Aging—Video and book by Sr. Joan Chittister; 2019-2020
  • NAMI Walk 10.19
  • What I Wish I Knew Before I Went to College—Panel discussion & Pizza in SFA Patio; 2020
  • Parenting—online through Santa Clara County Department of Education-2021
  • Mental Health Education Bulletin Articles—written by Barbara Zahner; 2020-2021
  • Bulletin Important Contacts–Ongoing
  • CareNotes—displayed in the Kiosk outside Sandersfeld Hall-Ongoing
  • Social Justice Ministries Fair, Aug. 17, 2023.  About 10 parishioners expressed interest in MHM.

Barbara Zahner, Co-Founder

Barbara is a founding member of Mental Health Ministry in the Diocese of San Jose. Barbara is also a Board-Certified Chaplain with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. She has worked in hospitals and hospices, specializing in palliative care and behavioral health. Barbara is also a trained Spiritual Director. Following the deaths by suicide of three members of her former parish in March 2015, Barbara began Out of the Wilderness, a suicide bereavement support group for those who experienced grief from the death of a loved one by suicide. Using a grant from the Catholic Institute for Mental Health, Barbara worked with the pastor and staff of her current parish, St. Francis of Assisi Church in San Jose, to initiate 3GEN+, a parish-based Mental Health Ministry. 3GEN+ focuses on the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of Three Generations: Teens, Parents, and Elders. The mission of 3GEN+ is to educate, advocate, and accompany those affected by mental illness. Barbara collaborates with leaders from other parishes in the Diocese of San Jose to help them launch Mental Health Ministries. She also works closely with NAMI FaithNet of Santa Clara County and serves on the task force for Suicide Prevention and Intervention in Santa Clara County.

In earlier life, Barbara founded an advertising and PR firm. She also served as founding Executive Director of Sacred Heart Community Service, a non-profit agency that serves the economically poor with food, clothes, housing, education, immigration, and health care.

In 1968, Barbara married her college sweetheart Richard, whom she met at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. They have four adult children and nine grandchildren. Barbara holds an MA in Pastoral Ministries with an emphasis on Spirituality from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. She also was granted an honorary PhD from Santa Clara University for Public Service. Barbara’s deepest desire is to serve God where most needed.