Taking time to heal

Sept.26-Oct. 2, 2002

By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
Second annual retreat offers support for separated or divorced

The approximately 30 individuals who attended the retreat for those separated or divorced sponsored by the Syracuse Diocese last year found support and advice on coping provided by others who had survived similar situations. Many of those who attended the first retreat are returning to provide support and coping strategies at the second annual retreat to be held Oct. 4-6 at Stella Maris Retreat House in Skaneateles.

“This is geared towards helping people cope under the stress of a break-up and having to move on,” said Michael Fitzgibbons, a co-facilitator of the retreat. “At the retreat, we go through the weekend with a Catholic perspective.” With Mass celebrated every day, the retreat focuses on religion and faith as methods of healing. On Friday, a Mass will be one of the first activities allowing people to settle in and begin to meet others. A healing Mass, which is significant to the theme of the weekend, will be offered on Saturday night. Lastly, a Eucharistic service is being planned by the retreat committee to be held Sunday shortly before guests depart.

Throughout the weekend, events intermixing social and religious activities are planned to encourage participants to reflect upon their own situations.

“The events are designed to help in a healthy way of growing emotionally, physically and spiritually,” said Cindy Fallon, a participant in the first retreat who is returning to help organize the second. “It’s a whole weekend to share stories, to celebrate Mass, to spend time in private reflection, to laugh and cry together or just to socialize. It kind of runs the whole entire gamut. By Sunday you’ve made wonderful friends and grown a lot.”

The planning committee is expecting upwards of 50 attendees this year from across Central New York, including Binghamton, Utica, and Oswego.

In addition, participants are encouraged to attend bible studies, social hours and presentations offered during the weekend. At this year’s retreat, six participants from the first annual retreat will be speak for approximately 15 minutes each on how they’ve coped with separation or divorce.

“This time presents different perspectives of situations and gives a better understanding of what it is that they’ve gone through,” Fitzgibbons said.

Fallon, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s Church in Oneida, described these presentations as witness talks which are designed to help participants reflect on their own situations. “These are very powerful ways for other people going through this struggle to hear about what worked and how to cope,” Fallon said. “People going through a range of situations attend this retreat. We had people just beginning to go through the process and were devastated; some were hoping to reconcile and some didn’t know. Others in the crowd had been divorced for more than a year, and still others had been divorced for 10, 15 or even 20 years and were trying to proceed with their lives.” Fallon described the retreat as a forum in which participants are encouraged to share their feelings, stories and situations. The retreat for those separated or divorced encompasses the activities and resources offered through the Syracuse Diocese while developing the weekend into a time to concentrate more completely on healing and moving on.

“The day of renewal held in March is workshops and presenters to help them learn more. Then there’s a healing Mass sponsored in September at the Cathedral,” Fallon said. “But there wasn’t any annual event which is a whole weekend to yourself focusing on spiritual renewal and coping strategies specifically for the separated or divorced.”

The keynote speaker for the weekend, Terry O’Brien, is planning to discuss the three themes, “Forgiveness, Healing, Gratitude.” Fitzgibbons described O’Brien as a powerful speaker interested in human development and the healing process. His talk will summarize the three key strategies in dealing successfully with separation or divorce.

Bill Olon, chairman of this year’s retreat, explained that the first annual retreat for those separated or divorced was planned and designed by Patricia Ennis, Syracuse diocesan coordinator for separated and divorced, third option, and parenting. When she was looking for someone to take over directing and planning the retreat for this year, Olon and about six others who attended last year’s retreat volunteered to organize this one in order to provide others with the same advice and support they had originally received.

“Last year, we received more in the way of peace in our life through praying, meeting others in similar situations, sharing about our life and fostering friendships. It was a very healing time,” said Olon, a parishioner at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Liverpool. “In a sense the retreat is just getting away with other people to allow time to search for some answers while focusing on peace and happiness.”

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