By Patricia Gafoor-Darlington
As I was looking through the Catholic News late last year, I saw the advertisement for a weekend retreat, for widowed, separated, and divorced people.
I was so excited at finding something in the Church catering to a divorced single parent like me. Although I had been divorced for several years, I was immediately intrigued and decided to attend.
My father was a Muslim and my mother an Anglican who had all her children baptised in the Roman Catholic Church. Neither of my parents attended the Catholic Church with my siblings and me, so it was through my school I had made my First Communion in Form 1.
As a young adult, I did my confirmation and later did the Life in the Spirit seminar with the Living Water Community and my relationship with God was never the same. However, I did not continue to attend prayer meetings regularly and so, as a young adult, my spiritual life floundered.
I got married at 30 after only a very brief courtship and being blessed with my son and then my daughter five years later.
I filed for divorce after six years of marriage and later successfully went through the process to obtain an annulment from the Church. During the courtship and marriage and for many years after my divorce, I faced many trials as a working single mother.
A turning point in my life was when at one time I was sick with what I thought was the flu but soon realised while I was trying to pray, I just could not. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, I just could not get the prayers I said every day into my head.
Thanks be to God for giving me the strength through this attack to call my best friend and ask her to pray for me.
I said to her “please, pray for me as I am unable to pray for myself”. I also called another friend, a seminarian at the time, and now a priest, and asked him to pray for me. Through their prayers, I was able to recover almost immediately and once again pray.
My friend, the seminarian also recommended I go and see a priest we both knew and Father prayed with me and shared with me psalms I should say regularly.
Through this experience I now pray every morning including saying the rosary daily and know when to put on the spiritual armour of God. I also joined the prayer group at church a few years ago and continue to grow in faith.
I was asked by someone what I was looking to get out of the prayer group and shared that I have a passion to win souls for Jesus. I do more and more to increase my faith including deciding to attend the New Beginnings retreat and I continue to grow spiritually stronger every day.
I encourage every separated, divorced, or widowed man and woman to do this retreat as you will experience such tremendous healing you may not have even realised you needed, like me.
The first SDW Weekend Retreat was conducted in Trinidad by founders, Wilfred & Kay Holder in 1988. It was adopted from a Canadian programme put together and developed with the blessing of Archbishop Pocock of Toronto and the support of the Sisters of St Joseph and team couples from Marriage Encounter.
The New Beginnings Weekend Retreat has been used to bring healing and closure to those experiencing separation, divorce, or death of a spouse. These retreats have deeply touched many participants and given them a new lease of life. Although this retreat is a Catholic expression it is open to other faiths.