Faculty & Students
Faculty Profile: Paul Kline
Research Interests: The long-term impact of clergy sexual abuse on survivors, families, and faith communities. The power of empathic accompaniment by faith communities in supporting recovery from addiction.
“My work as a clinical social worker has granted me privileged access to the stories of many individuals and families whose minds, hearts, and spirits have been wounded as a part of their journey as immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Serving as their therapeutic companion, I have also been their grateful student. I hold tight the lessons of healing, coping, and resilience taught to me by those who have undertaken an often perilous journey in search of the safety of a new home and the blessing of a warm welcome by others.
I am currently involved in a faith-based effort to offer a sanctuary of hospitality and support for individuals and families living in vulnerable neighborhoods confronted by adversities that impose damaging toxic stress. Many are ‘New Americans’ whose long journey has brought them to the city of Boston. In the safety of our gathering space, they often share stories that reflect the fear and despair that prompted their flight as well as the hope that sustained them along the way. They also share their current experiences, both rewarding and damaging, of trying to find their place in a new community as a good citizen and good neighbor.
If I had to choose one piece of wisdom that has guided my practice, it would come from a young adolescent I met in a United Nations refugee camp in Sinje, Liberia. She was an unaccompanied minor from Sierra Leone who had been separated from her family and other villagers during the chaos and terror of flight from combatants. She faced a future that offered little hope of returning home or of finding a warm welcome elsewhere.
Her last words to me were, ‘Don't let the world forget me.’
There is no greater psychological or spiritual injury than to be utterly insignificant to the rest of the world. The experience of being invisible to others, even as you cry out to be heard, violates the fundamental sense of self as sacred. When we, as social workers, see the ones others ignore or dismiss, when we hear and honor their stories, and when we create pathways of welcome into the warm embrace of a safe community, we participate in the restoration of their sense of self as sacred.
That has been the essential purpose of my work.”
Paul Kline is a professor at the School of Social Work at Boston College, a deacon at St. Mary’s Church in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and a practicing psychotherapist. Much of Professor Kline’s research has focused on the integration of spirituality and social work care, especially as they relate to experiences of trauma.
In Professor Kline’s work as a clinical social worker, he has taken the role of therapist-student with his immigrant clients. Through his work at a faith-based agency, Professor Kline accompanies “individuals and families living in vulnerable neighborhoods confronted by adversities that impose damaging toxic stress. Many are ‘New Americans’ whose long journey has brought them to the city of Boston.”
Paul Kline has a grounding foundation for his work that all social workers, especially those working with immigrants and newcomers, should learn from. He described that when we “see the ones others ignore or dismiss when we hear and honor their stories, and when we create pathways of welcome into the warm embrace of a safe community, we participate in the restoration of their sense of self as sacred.”
Alumni Profile: Cait O'Donnell, MSW
Current position: Psychosocial Coordinator, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
Cait O'Donnell, MSW, is the Psychosocial Coordinator for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in South Sudan. She is field-based in the Upper Nile region of the country and oversees the implementation of mental health and psychosocial programs across four refugee camps and the local host community. Program activities aim to help refugees cope with stress and adversity in healthy ways, and are designed to be as participatory and community-based as possible. They include sports tournaments for youth, home visits to vulnerable households in the community, support groups, individual counseling, and distribution of materials like soap, mosquito nets, and tarps. The operational context remains complex and unstable in South Sudan, particularly in the Upper Nile region, where the communities served by JRS are remote, poorly resourced, and are greater than 200,000.
Prior to her work with JRS, Cait had several years of experience in East Africa. Her interest in migrating and displaced populations was refined and deepened throughout her studies at the Boston College School of Social Work, culminating in an internship with Catholic Relief Services Rwanda. After earning her MSW, Cait oversaw programs serving unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for a national Volag, the Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS).