Catholics gathered at St. Ann Church in Burleson for the Catholic Divorce Ministry Conference

By Jacqueline Burkepile

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

December 6, 2012

Participants at the Catholic Divorce Ministry Conference, held at St. Ann Parish, gathered in a prayer circle. (Photo by Wendy Pandolo/NTC)

Catholics from across the country gathered at St. Ann Church in Burleson for the Catholic Divorce Ministry Conference Oct. 4-6. The non-profit organization met for the first time in six years with hopes of restoring the ministry.

Executive Director Gregory Mills of Fort Worth said the ministry is not well publicized due to inaccurate presumptions of its mission. Mills explained CDM’s purpose: to reach out to divorced or separated Catholics in need of healing. They work to keep them in the Church and do that through the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.

“Our mission in this ministry is to provide care and comfort to divorced and separated Catholics and their families as a peer ministry, meaning we are all equals,” said Mills.

The weekend first featured a leadership training led by Marianne Skrobiak, a psychologist from Milwaukee who developed a six-week healing series for the divorced and separated. Also divorced, she ministered to leaders seeking to start support groups for divorce ministry.

“I’ve had excellent feedback from people,” said Skrobiak. “Because I’m  a therapist, and I guess because I’ve been in recovery for so long myself …I challenge leaders to look at themselves and see what areas they still might need help in.”

Gregory Mills, executive director of Catholic Divorced Ministry, addresses the participants during the CDM conference held at St. Ann Parish is Burleson. (Photo by Wendy Pandolfo/NTC)

Saturday began with an opening prayer and a tribute to the late Father Jim Young, a Paulist priest who founded the organization in 1974. Mills said his mission as a Paulist is important to the ministry because the charism of the order is to bring people to the Church and to help Catholics remain in the Church.

Bishop Kevin Vann, the episcopal liaison for the CDM, delivered the keynote address reflecting on the Year of Faith. He encouraged them to lead others to Christ, to serve others, to deepen their prayer and spiritual lives, and to reflect on the new evangelization and the notion of gratitude.

“The image of the family of God is shown to me in another way with the colonnades of Bernini at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, where the colonnades extend to embrace the whole world, to embrace us here today, as the arms of our mothers,” Bishop Vann said in his address. “The Church, as a mother, seeks to embrace all who seek the love of Christ in all moments of their lives, good and bad.”

The conference also featured talks by Chris Vaughan, diocesan director of Marriage and Family Life, and Father Hector Medina, pastor of St. Matthew Church in Arlington.

Vaughan plans to help develop the Catholic Divorce Ministry by encouraging other parishes in the diocese to start support groups. He said this ministry is greatly needed.

“So many people call me and want to know, ‘What can the Church do for me? I am really hurting right now,’” Vaughan said. “Sometimes the answer is, ‘Well, there’s a class starting in two months,’ and that’s just to me unacceptable.”

Fr. Medina gave a talk about annulments. He said Catholic Divorce Ministry impacts those suffering from separation or divorce in a positive way, especially by addressing problems in a group setting.

“It helps them to heal, and it lets them see that they’re not the only ones going through this. The more that people get the chance to tell their stories and name those hurts, the more control they have over their lives,” said Fr. Medina.

One Grapevine resident who had separated from her husband five months earlier said the conference helped her to know she is not alone in this struggle.

“It’s giving me more direction. You question a lot of things when a tragedy like this happens, and then you try to figure out your purpose in life, or what you’re supposed to do, or what to do now,” she said. “I often see the need for myself to be strong because I have three little children. I guess this affirms what I’m doing — that I’m doing the right thing to find strength in the Lord and with this. I give the same lessons and faith to my children.”

For more information about Catholic Divorce Ministry, visit www.nacsdc.org.

Catholics from across the country gathered at St. Ann Church in Burleson for the Catholic Divorce Ministry Conference Oct. 4-6. The non-profit organization met for the first time in six years with hopes of restoring the ministry.

Published (until 12/31/2031)
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