Catholic Divorce Ministry groups to begin in several parishes this month

Five parishes — St. Joseph’s Parish in Somers Point, St. Andrew the Apostle in Gibbsboro, St. Rose of Lima in Haddon Heights, Our Lady of Peace in Williamstown and Holy Family in Sewell — will open their doors this month to those who are struggling with the loss of a relationship due to separation or divorce.

“While as a church we must try to ensure the sanctity of the marriage bond, we cannot forget the significant portion of our parishioners who have already experienced the trauma, pain and suffering that come from the fracturing of both relationships and families,” said Deacon Tom Jennings, who coordinates the Catholic Divorce Ministry in the Diocese of Camden with his wife, Carol.

Each parish will host a support group that is facilitated by trained group leaders who establish guidelines of confidentiality and respect.

“Ministry facilitators are not counselors,” explained Carol Jennings, “therefore no advice is given. The programs offer a forum to share stories. Participants are encouraged to commit to working through the grief that comes from a divorce. Often there is a desire to start dating before the healing process has established a sense of recovery. This behavior can actually cause more harm and add additional time to the recovery process.”

DivorceCare consists of 13 sessions during which peers can share insights gained from their own experiences and from DVDs. Reflective questions and exercises are provided for every session to promote group participation.

The meeting format is designed to keep the discussions meaningful, yet open enough to allow a free exchange of ideas and experiences. This recovery program is produced by Church Initiative, Inc. and there is a component in it for reconciliation.

“Participants come to DivorceCare,” said Debbie Wolk co-facilitator at Our Lady of Peace, “seeking help for what seems like a hopeless situation. After 13 weeks they often ask what is next. They have a taste of the healing that God provides through the work of others that have experienced similar pain.”

Divorce and Beyond is a 10-week program written by Brother James Greteman, C.S.C. and Leon Haverkamp. It focuses on the transition – or mourning — period of the divorce process. Participants engage with a text rich in reflective activities and rituals.

“Small groups offer divorced people the best opportunity for dealing with values, feelings and issues surrounding divorce,” said Ann Buongiovanni, co-facilitator at St. Rose of Lima Parish. “People need a ‘safe place’ where they can again experience the love of their community and gain the strength necessary to rebuild their lives.”

Each program provides an information session on the annulment process. Most facilitators are trained to help with the filing process.

“One of the most moving experiences for me as a facilitator,” says Therese McCloskey, “is the closing healing rituals where participants and facilitators experience an ‘unbinding’ from the pain. They start to understand the transformation that is possible through trust in God.”

The following programs will be starting this September:

DivorceCare

— Wednesday, Sept. 9, 7-9 p.m., Our Lady of Peace, (formerly St. Mary) Parish, Williamstown. Register by calling Debbie at 856-881-4133.

— Thursday, Sept. 10, 7:30-9:30 p.m., St. Joseph Parish, Somers Point. Register by calling Carol or Deacon Tom at 856-663-8166.

— Monday, Sept. 14, 7:30-9:30 p.m., St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Gibbsboro. Register by calling Sister Alma at 856-784-8501. Child care is available.

Divorce and Beyond

— Wednesday, Sept. 9, 7:30-9 p.m., St. Rose of Lima Parish, Haddon Heights. Call Ann to register at 856, 869-0076.

— Tuesday, Sept. 15, 7:45-9:30 p.m., Holy Family Parish, Sewell. Call Sister Eucharista to register at 856-869-0840.

There is a $20 registration fee per program for the workbooks used.

The Jennings’ goal is to establish and train a pastoral group that will facilitate a support program in each county of the Diocese of Camden. There is currently a need in Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties for support groups.

For information on any of these programs or to register, e-mail cdmofcamdencounty@yahoo.com, or go to the CDM website at www.nacsdc.org

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