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When Wall Street starts tumbling, chaplains rush in.

With Wall Street in mayhem, dazed financial sector employees who have lost faith in the economy are turning to religious leaders for guidance.

"People who still have their jobs are asking, 'Am I next?' They are much less certain of their place in their company and in the world," said Mary Ragan, a psychologist at the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute in New York.

Houses of worship in New York City are providing programs to help employees manage the stress of the market meltdown, including immediate counseling, job training and long-term direction for those who still have jobs but aren't sure for how long.

Ragan is leading sessions at the Episcopal parish Trinity Wall Street on "Coping with Stress in Uncertain Times," The program started just as

the market started to convulse and registrations have already doubled. Rabbi Henry Harris with the Jewish outreach agency Aish has held emergency sessions for mainly entry-level employees worried about keeping their jobs and paying their bills.

Trinity is planning programs like job coaching to help people prepare for what Ragan called "the ripple effect." Ragan said, "It will take some time for people to feel the effects of what this really means" in the wider economy and for secondary consequences.

Any decline in the financial industry has ripple effects across the region, said Jesuit Fr. James Martin, associate editor of America magazine.

"I've already met people from outside the parish who are terrified," said Martin, who regularly preaches at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on New York's Upper East Side.

Before his ordination, Martin worked in corporate finance with General Electric, and said the blame for the market woes is spread far and wide.

"It's more a symptom of environments where people seem much more interested in making money than in making sensible decisions," he said.

Top-level executives made "obscene amounts of money making bad investments," he said, and there were no incentives not to continue. Institutions foolishly took unreasonable risks and executives were blinded by unbridled greed.

"They were carried away by greed and that trumped rational responsibility," he said. "They should have known better."

--Religion News Service
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Title Annotation:IN THE BEGINNING
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 3, 2008
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