Formation for divorced, separated

Sessions for divorced Catholics start up again at Church of the Ascension, Overland Park, in September. Michael Palitto, left, will help facilitate the course. Kate McKeag, right, helped develop the ministry. LEAVEN PHOTO BY STEVE BUCKNER

by Steve Buckner
Special to The Leaven

OVERLAND PARK — A ministry for divorced Catholics and those currently going through a divorce, entitled “The Call to Love Again,” will start a new session in early September at Church of the Ascension here.

The six-month course is open to all.

“‘The Call to Love’ Again ministry accompanies those who are divorced or experiencing marital separation by offering a formation series based on biblical principles for relationships and helping them develop a deep prayer life,” said Kate McKeag, an Ascension parishioner who helped develop the ministry.

“This formation program helps individuals find joy and hope that a new love awaits those who trust in the love of Jesus,” she said. “Our goal is to prepare the faithful to truly make a gift of oneself in remarriage, which restores the individual, family and church.”    

Michael Palitto, an Ascension parishioner who helps facilitate the course, emphasized that the teachings were not his words or those of McKeag.

“A lot of the content is out of the Catechism [of the Catholic Church],” said Palitto. “We teach a lot of Pope Saint John Paul II’s work in love and responsibility, which he talked about in his theology of the body.

“And the more we talk about it, the more passionate we get about Pope Francis’ [apostolic exhortation] . . . ‘The Joy of Love.’”

Many priests serve as guest speakers at the sessions.  

“It’s also an evangelization program,” said Palitto. “It’s calling Catholics to be further converted, and it’s a call to our brothers and sisters who have left the church.”

The formation series is divided into six sessions, which will run through February 2018:

  1. Created for Love – Fully Alive
  2. Giving vs. Using – Loving Kindness
  3. True Love – Chastity
  4. Separation, Divorce and Annulments – Protection of the Church
  5. Finding Adam, Finding Eve – Courtship
  6. The Call of Vocation – Marriage Defined                

Participants will meet the first and third Thursdays of each month. Every first Thursday of the month will focus on the content presented, said McKeag, and the group will also pray together.

The third Thursday of the month is more casual, where participants review the previous session with further discussion, questions and answers.

It’s more of a discussion of how the lesson applies to real life, explained McKeag, of “how [participants] are dealing with some of the content that was presented, and how it is applicable in their lives.”

“It’s about how it is affecting their relationships,” she added, “and how God is showing up in the trials of their divorce.”

Finding where they fit

“The Call to Love Again” was first offered from January through June of this year. Beyond its stated objectives, it was based on the “Divorce Survival Guide,” a 12-week course facilitated by a Catholic counselor who has experienced divorce. The course is also offered at Ascension Parish.

“What we were noticing was when people were finishing that session, they were feeling, ‘OK, what’s next?’” Palitto said. “So out of that was what Kate was called to by the Spirit — the ministry that came alongside these people who are suffering from, or transitioning out of, broken marriages.

“So, we started looking for a way to meet and accompany them with whatever the needs were.”

Palitto and McKeag are no strangers to the topic of their ministry. Both are divorced. Palitto has had his marriage annulled. McKeag is in the final stages of the annulment process.

They are also aware of the statistics that show that when Catholics divorce, they tend to leave the church. Perhaps they start dating a Protestant and don’t know where a potential relationship might lead them. Or perhaps they feel judged by the church and maybe don’t feel worthy of the sacraments.

“They no longer know where they fit,” McKeag said. “It’s an interesting dynamic of ‘How can I be an integral part of the church?’ It’s easy for people to stop coming to Mass and being active in parish life. It contributes to more isolation.”

McKeag added that people who were seeking to remarry were wondering how to do it differently than they had the time before.

“We called it ‘The Call to Love Again’ because we’re all made to love,”   she said. “We’re all seeking love.  

“And . . . the church invites them and welcomes them back. And offers such a rich and beautiful plan for how to live out the call to love that we long for, and want and seek, and are called to give.”

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