JOLIET — The Upper Room Crisis Hotline will now answer calls about religion from people outside Catholic churches.
Members of the nonprofit organization decided at their April board meeting to open the hotline service to everyone. In the past, the hotline was for answering questions and concerns from priests, deacons and others who work for churches.
Last year, The Upper Room was growing in the number of calls from people worldwide because of people finding the hotline number on the internet, said Sister Mary Frances Seeley, Upper Room director. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of calls grew from 485 to 3,083 annually, according to the organization’s annual report.
The hotline is a national program offering answers to religious questions from anyone, regardless of their faith.
“We had Muslims, we had Jews, we had Protestants of various denominations,” Seeley said. “Even though we’re a Catholic hotline, we do get calls from others of different denominations.”
The hotline is available 24/7 and offers compassionate skilled listening, paraprofessional counseling, spiritual encouragement and strength, information and referrals, crisis intervention, suicide intervention and sunshine calls, according to its website.
Many of the calls deal with people who have not been to the church for years, if not decades, Seeley said. Others cover moral stances of the Catholic Church and the Ten Commandments.
“Sometimes they don’t remember how to go to confession. Sometimes they want to know the differences in the Bible and what’s the best version and why we have so many different Bibles,” she said.
Seeley was asked to run the program by religious leaders when the Catholic Church was bedeviled by sex abuse scandals in the early 2000s. The program began seven years ago with the intention of being a faith-based hotline for Catholic priests and brothers.
The program works with trained volunteers, who take an eight-week course to learn how to do the job. Seeley said about 20 more volunteers are needed and a training session will start May 26.
She said those interested in being a volunteer should call 815-341-9124.
The hotline phone number is 888-808-8724. The center’s website is www.theupperroomcrisishotline.org.