Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon hosted an online retreat on March 23, 2023, for the Separated, Divorced and Widowed (SDW) in the Archdiocese.
This retreat served to relaunch this Ministry, which is being led through discernment by the SDW Ministry team comprising persons who are SDW, the Episcopal Delegate as well as the Programme Coordinator for the Family Life Commission.
The Synod Fathers noted that, “special discernment is indispensable for the pastoral care of those who are separated, divorced, or abandoned. Respect needs to be shown especially for the sufferings of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce, or abandonment, or those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together. … The local community and pastors should accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when they are in serious financial difficulty” (241–242, Amoris Laetitia).
SDW registrants for the retreat were keenly interested in monthly meetings and in this regard the first monthly meeting was held online on April 28, 2023, from 6–8 p.m., where the SDW Ministry team was able to share an overview and plans of the SDW Ministry.
One of the key aspects of these meetings involves the use of the video series entitled, Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family.
The Surviving Divorce programme will help persons who are SDW, whether newly separated or divorced or those who have been separated or divorced for some time, even if they believe they have moved on.
Areas covered include: the difficult emotions associated with divorce; coping with changes in financial circumstances; assessing when to go to court and when not to; helping children with their emotions; understanding marriage through the eyes of the Church; looking to the future with hope and forgiveness.
The points and tips shared may also be quite helpful to the widowed, as they are geared toward those who now must learn to live life without a spouse. The programme comprising 12 presentations offers assurance that God and the Church are here to help persons who are SDW through this trying time.
Further, when you experience loneliness, sadness, fear, or anger you are reminded you can turn to Jesus in prayer, and to the Church in the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
You will hear from people who have experienced separation or divorce, and receive encouragement from Catholic priests, theologians, and teachers as well as a Catholic psychologist, who will share practical coping mechanisms.
For the first monthly meeting, the team started with prayer using Lectio Divina. The first topic was: ‘Getting Your Bearings’ and the facilitators shared personal testimonies before going to breakout rooms, which set the tone for participants to also share.
Feedback from the participants was positive in response to questions as follows:
What impacted you the most from the session?
Hearing relatable stories; Looking at the longest wound to heal; The personal testimonies of the facilitators; It was like a family round table; The different experience from everyone was quite common; I think those meetings will help us to heal gracefully; The testimonies; The questions ‘Did I feel somewhat understood and not alone with this?’ and ‘What emotional wound from your divorce do you think will take the most time to heal?’.
What would you say is most helpful?
Being with others that are experiencing similar feelings; Knowing the Church has put this avenue for us; The video; The topic your healing must come first; The speakers.
The short-, medium-, and long-term plans of the SDW Ministry include: Establishing a Toll Free Helpline; Arranging immediate support for the widowed through Ministry of Consolation within each parish; Identifying resources/counselling; Identifying an ideal space as well as childcare for in person sessions; Sensitising the Church body on inclusivity of the SDW; Arranging quarterly Masses, training on the Church’s teaching on SDW; Providing ongoing therapeutic as well as parenting support as needed at lowest possible cost; Planning weekend retreats as needed; Resuming New Beginnings weekends; Referrals to Life in the Spirit and Original Pain Therapy as needed; Planning social events.
The SDW Ministry team prays the initiatives planned will be a source of God’s Divine Mercy for the Separated, Divorced and Widowed in our Archdiocese.
The next monthly meeting is set for May 19, 2023, at 6 – 8 p.m. The Zoom link for this meeting is:
Meeting ID: 821 5942 2477
Should you need further information, please contact us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp 299-1047
By Patricia Gafoor-Darlington