The diocesan Office of Marriage and Family is piloting a new program designed to help separated and divorced Catholics find healing and support.
The program, “Life After Divorce: A Catholic Survival Guide,” is the result of more than a year of research, using feedback from parishes, various groups and listening sessions held around the diocese in preparation for the Synod on the Family in 2015.
“What we have heard,” said Chris Codden, diocesan director of the Office of Marriage and Family, “is that a lot of people, when they divorced, left the church either because they didn’t understand the church’s teaching or they didn’t feel there was support for them in the church. When we brought this all together to Bishop [Donald] Kettler, he said we really needed to do something about it.”
About a year ago, after meeting with Bishop Kettler, Codden formed a team to review materials and resources used to provide pastoral care to the divorced in parishes and other dioceses. Together, the team came up with a combination of videos and facilitated discussion that will be broken into two parts — each part takes place in six weekly sessions.
Part one, which begins in February (see info below), is geared toward the newly divorced (less than one year) and will cover topics such as dealing with emotions, managing finances, supporting children, co-parenting and spiritual healing. The second part — yet to be scheduled — will expound on topics from part one, moving beyond feelings of immediate crisis to practical applications.
Roxann Storms, who serves as pastoral associate at Holy Spirit Parish in St. Cloud, is part of the team that designed the program. Her previous work includes divorce support programming, conducting support groups, and individual work with adults and kids impacted by separation and divorce.
“Sadly, separations and divorces still happen and typically this is a very, very painful experience for all involved,” Storms said. “Oftentimes, people feel isolated and alone, so it is helpful and important to bring folks together for shared support and understanding as well as sharing things that have helped them in their healing.”
Storms will be a co-facilitator at the six-week sessions to help build connections and offer support and reassurance.
“[I want to let them know] that they can and are surviving one of the most challenging life experiences and to remind them that God walks with them through this difficult time,” she said. “I hope participants can experience a safe place to explore and express what they are really going through and that they will be embraced and supported by others walking a similar path.”
Mike Lamb, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Anna, became involved with this ministry through his own journey as a divorced person. Though Lamb was married for 20 years and both parties sought counseling, the marriage ended in divorce and was later annulled through the diocesan tribunal.
“I had always felt that it was important to gain an annulment,” Lamb said. “The process of that annulment was difficult for me. Because of the struggles I had, I decided to reach out to the local tribunal and the bishop to offer my assistance in making the process easier for others.”
That’s when he was introduced to Codden, who invited him to be part of developing the new program.
“Since my divorce became final nearly five years ago, I have found that I have learned much about myself,” he said. “I have also learned that there are a lot of individuals who are hurting when their marriages are breaking up and end in divorce. In a sense, it is easier, at least for me, to be [empathetic] when I have experienced something first hand.”
Lamb, who currently works as a support planner and caregiver consultant with Rural Stearns Faith in Action, hopes participants come willing to explore their concerns and desires for the future. Lamb is both a licensed social worker and has worked as a chaplain and will co-facilitate the sessions with Storms.
“Informally, I have been in conversation with a few men who have been divorced. Sometimes it is over a beer and other times over the ‘fence,’” he said. “I see the six-week Life after Divorce course as making it more intentional to reach those who are seeking healing. We will also be talking about the practical and logistic issues involved in divorce. I am looking forward to working with Roxann, who has the clinical expertise in helping people heal emotionally.”
Lamb hopes participants come willing to explore their concerns and desires for the future.
“I hope they will be able to live in the moment and not become overly anxious or worry too much about the future by placing their trust in God while gaining support from one another,” he said.
“St. Teresa of Calcutta has said, ‘The journey is the gift.’ It is difficult to see this journey as a gift much of the time, especially for me in the earliest months of the separation and later divorce. But in the end, the journey has been such a gift.”
Program begins Feb. 9
Part one of “Life After Divorce: A Catholic Survival Guide,” will be held every Thursday for six weeks from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
• When: Feb. 9 through March 16
• Where: Pastoral Center, 305 7th Avenue N, St. Cloud,
• Cost: $25 per six-week session
For more information, contact the Office of Marriage and Family at 320-252-4721 or email email@example.com. Register online here.