by Carolyn Kaberline
OLATHE — Loneliness, isolation, anger — all are feelings experienced by men and women going through a divorce. But for Catholics, the feelings of loss and failure can be particularly intense — as can be a new feeling of uncertainty about their place in the church
A 10-week series called “The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide” is designed to address exactly those issues. And a new session of the program, to be held at Prince of Peace Church in Olathe, starts next month.
“The purpose of this series is to help the healing of families who go through divorce,” said program leader Julie Knoche. “This program does not encourage or endorse divorce; it just tries to help those who go through a divorce [feel] comforted and loved in the church.”
Knoche knows of what she speaks: She herself has been through a divorce and annulment. Now, as program leader, she draws from that experience.
“I have felt that God uses me to help those going through this, who are in pain,” she says.
The 10-week session, which can accommodate 40 to 50 people, is a mixture of discussion and videos, Knoche said. Each video features a different theme, ranging from “Don’t Let Worry and Fear Overwhelm You” to “Loneliness” to “Getting through your Anger,” “Finding Peace,” and “Forgiveness.”
As the sessions progress through the themes, said Knoche, “the films show people who have gone through the process as they talk with Catholic experts like theologian Christopher West and psychologist and marriage counselor Dr. Ray Guarendi.”
“Rose Sweet is the author and co-producer of this program,” said Knoche. “She is an expert on divorce issues and a frequent guest on national radio and TV programs.”
Knoche said others going through the program have found it as helpful as she did.
“I had already been attending a divorce support group at a Presbyterian church,” said Mary Schugart. “It was a really good program. Then I heard about this and felt it couldn’t hurt to go to it, too. In fact, I really wanted to go with this since it was at my home church, a Catholic church.”
Schugart says that while the program she had been attending was very well presented and very professional, it was missing the Catholic point of view.
“I hoped to experience further healing and wanted to know more about the annulment process,” said Schugart, adding that the “The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide” definitely met — and even exceeded — her expectations.
“When attending church as a newly divorced person, I felt like everyone around me was married, and I didn’t know where I fit in any more,” said Schugart. “After going through the program, I felt like the church was there to support me, embrace me. It made me feel so good that the church was reaching out to the divorced members.”
In fact, Schugart said, “I felt I was still looked upon as a valued member of the church community even though I was going through a divorce. It also gave me somewhere to go where I could be around people who were in a similar situation. I met new friends and heard their stories.”
Dan Schumaker felt much the same way.
“My divorce was finalized right before the program started,” said Schumaker. “I saw the advertisement in the church bulletin at Prince of Peace. I hoped to learn how to move on and gain inner peace and meet others that were going through the same thing.”
Schumaker says he “totally got out of it what I expected and more. When going through a divorce, many people aren’t quite sure how they fit into the church any more. When a church has a program like this, it says, ‘We know you are hurting, we love you, and we want you to get back on your feet and trust and know that God will help you do it.’”
In addition, Schumaker says the program explained what relationships were most important in people’s lives.
“God must come first and spouse before children,” he said. “[The program] also makes us look at ourselves to try to realize what went wrong in past relationships in hopes of avoiding the same mistakes in the future.”
Both Schugart and Schumaker would recommend the program to anyone experiencing a divorce or separation.
“The book and video series were very well done,” said Schugart. “I’m a changed person and see people differently because of the program. Finding that we had the church behind us was very comforting.”
“I would definitely recommend this program to others,” said Schumaker. “It helps you heal. It gives tips on how to do things better if we choose to look for another spouse. Also, you will find a support group and/or friends in the process.”
The next session of “The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide” will begin Sept. 9 and will meet every Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for 10 weeks. There is a charge of $50 to cover expenses such as books and the film series. Each attendee will get his or her own “The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide” to keep. To enroll or to obtain more information, contact Knoche at (913) 710-7083 or by email at: juliempa@hot mail.com