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Paths to new jobs can start at church

By Cheryl Castro, CNN
St. Joseph's Catholic Church provides professional career guidance and networking assistance twice a month.
St. Joseph's Catholic Church provides professional career guidance and networking assistance twice a month.
  • More unemployed are getting help in job searches from houses of worship
  • St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Georgia has Career Community Network
  • Network reviews résumés, connects job-seekers and companies, holds seminars
  • Successful job seeker: Church is more welcoming

Marietta, Georgia (CNN) -- In this tough economy, a steady paycheck is a big blessing. With the unemployment rate above 10 percent, Americans are finding new ways to help each other out. For many, it's through their faith.

"We did say our prayers," Patricia Mulroney said. "I pray to St. Joseph even now. He is our patron of workers. I still pray to him every day."

Yet believers like Mulroney are doing more than praying. They're getting help in their job searches from houses of worship. And religious institutions are answering the call: Houses of worship nationwide have offered job-finding help.

Mulroney has looked for help in finding a job through a network created at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Marietta, Georgia, just outside Atlanta.

The church has reviewed résumés and arranged meetings between job-seekers and company representatives. It also has hosted speakers who have discussed financial planning and interview techniques.

Similar programs have received attention in places such as Arizona, California and Michigan.

St. Joseph's started helping unemployed members last year after a priest contacted Art Eyzaguierre, a parishioner with a background in career management.

Eyzaguierre says the priest told him, "we've been getting a lot of phone calls from people that are unemployed and really hurting ... and we'd like you to come to a council meeting to talk about what we should do."

By May of last year, St. Joseph's Career Community Network was born. "When you're helping people ... they're getting what they need," Eyzaguierre said. "They're getting jobs, the hope they need. ... I feel replenished."

Patrick Brennan, another founding member, found himself out of work in the early part of 2009. His involvement with the Career Community Network paid off, literally, with a job.

"It's through these different networking opportunities ... through your churches ... you get to meet people ... and potentially get positions," Brennan said. "That happened to me, where I was networking and actually found a position ... as a result of meeting people through the career network."

Brennan says church-based career networks like his reach out in both a spiritual and practical sense for the unemployed, the under-employed and those seeking to re-enter the work force.

"We offer review of résumés ... the opportunity to meet with department leaders or heads of companies ... discuss with them where individual career goals can go," he said. "We also have featured speakers who help with financial planning, retirement funds, health benefits and also interviewing techniques ... looking at different market shares."

Caroline Rittenhouse helps organize biweekly sessions. When she signed on, Rittenhouse was a stay-at-home mom looking to re-enter the work force. She's now employed and using her job skills in training and instructional design to help others find work.

"My motivation was seeing how tough the job market was and how many people across every industry, every income level, were feeling the job loss and the unemployment situation," Rittenhouse said.

She says networking opportunities, like those offered through St. Joseph's Career Community Network, are key, and houses of worship may offer a more comfortable environment. "There is something about going to a church," Rittenhouse said. "Personally, I feel like it's more welcoming."

Americans overwhelmingly support government funding for religious groups to provide social services like job training.

Nearly nine years after former President George W. Bush unveiled his faith-based initiative, 69 percent of Americans say they favor the idea, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Sixty-eight percent believe that people providing the services through houses of worship would be more caring and compassionate.

Mulroney not only supports the idea, she got involved a few months ago at St. Joseph's as both a volunteer and a job seeker.

"My last position, I was in for seven years and not really comfortable with networking, so I thought the church would be a great place to start ... and get contacts to possibly help me find employment," Mulroney said.

Since then, Mulroney has moved to Florida. She says she's taking the hope, faith and job skills St. Joseph's Career Community Network provided and will probably join another job networking group at a local church, in her ongoing search for a steady paycheck.