Lend an Ear

Sept. 9-15, 2004
Lend an Ear
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
Support Groups for Separated and Divorced are Needed

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Coping with a separation or a divorce can be a difficult process, and it can be made even tougher because it is hard to find a support system of compassionate, understanding people to lean on during this time.

Many people coping with a separation or a divorce turn to a support group for some kind of help. Currently there are seven parishes in the Diocese of Syracuse that offer a separated/divorced support group. Those parishes without a support group will be given an opportunity to start a group at the Annual Leadership Training for leaders of separated/divorced support groups. Sponsored by the Office of Family Life Education, the training will provide a solid foundation for parishioners to build a support group. The program will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bishop Harrison Diocesan Center on 1342 Lancaster Ave. in Syracuse.

Pat Ennis, diocesan coordinator for the separated and divorced ministry, has offered the Annual Leadership Training through the Office of Family Life since 1991. She sees the event as a unique opportunity to encourage parishes and parishioners to start a support group. “Starting a support group is not just another job,” she said. “I hope that people look at it as a way to offer a real service to their parish. You are helping people who are hurting.” The leadership training offers participants a blend of discussion, educational resources as well as pointers for facilitating a support group.

“We cover everything from how to get a group started to how to lead and manage group discussions,” said Ennis. “Facilitators need skills to help their group members handle huge, raw emotions like anger, rejection and loneliness.” Ennis explained that oftentimes a support group is the best medicine for a broken heart. “They need to tell their stories to people who really understand,” she said. “This is very healing. Unfortunately in the outside world people sometimes don’t know what to do. This support that people receive in groups is important.”

Three years ago, after going through her own divorce, Kathy Corey started a separated/divorced support group at St. Catherine of Siena in Hillcrest. Corey, a mother of three, said that at first starting a support group seemed like a daunting task. “God had a plan and He pushed me to get involved,” she said. “If you have been through it [a separation or divorce] then you can support and encourage others who are going through the same thing. You have to believe that your experience will help you guide other people.” The group at St. Catherine’s meets once a month. Corey recently opened it up to parishioners from nearby St. Christopher’s Church in Binghamton. She said the number of participants varies from month to month, but the impact it has on the participants remains constant. “I know that the group has made a difference in their lives because they have told me,” said Corey.

Ennis understands that it can be a challenge for every parish to find the resources to start its own support group. “It is not realistic to think that there can be a group in every single parish,” she said. Rather, Ennis encourages parishes to work with other parishes within their pastoral care area to find ways they can work together to offer a support group. “Not every parish can do everything,” she said. “Maybe one parish can concentrate on starting a support group for the separated/divorced and another can offer a bereaved group. You should try to find ways within your area that you can reach out to people who need help.” She cited the Eastern Region as an area in need of a parish to offer a separated/divorce support group.

“As a church, we need to reach out to people who are hurting,” Ennis said. “It is a terrible thing not to have anything.” Pre-registration for the Annual Leadership Training is required. Contact Pat Ennis at (315) 472-6754 ext. 320 for more information.

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