SASKATOON — A ministry aimed at supporting Christians who are struggling through the trauma of separation and divorce is celebrating a milestone in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon: Transitions is 10 years old.
The diocese began offering Transitions in the autumn of 2007.
The program originated in Connecticut and came to Saskatoon via the Diocese of Calgary where Saskatoon resident Sharon Powell heard about it. Powell introduced the program to the Catholic Pastoral Centre, and with the support of the bishop piloted Transitions in the diocese.
Powell emphasizes the need to offer outreach and support to those who are struggling with separation or divorce.
“People don’t come to the end of their marriage usually without a lot of pain and sometimes that pain has been occurring for many years,” says Powell.
“We have people who attend Transitions and their marriage breaks up after 40 or more years, but when we have a conversation they reveal that often 30 of those years were very painful. So there is lots of healing that is necessary.”
Transitions has been facilitated by the diocese some 20 times and has been attended by nearly 200 people over the past 10 years. Originally, many participants came to Transitions after being separated or divorced a year or more. Recently, more people are coming to the program in the early stages of shock.
“Those going through divorce and separation are grieving the death of their relationship, and most importantly the death of their dreams,” explains Powell. “Each of our participants went into their marriage thinking they would be married forever, so when the marriage comes to an end it is devastating and it feels like their world is falling apart. This is when the person needs the most help.”
The 12-week program addresses topics such as grief, anger, self-image, stress, guilt and blame, children, forgiveness, and loneliness, as well as coping with challenges, such as how to get through the holidays. Participants are asked to be present at every session in order to maintain trust and confidentiality in the group.
When a couple gets divorced, it is one of the most painful experiences for a family. For many Catholics, the experience was doubly difficult because on top of the actual schism of the marriage, there was often a feeling of rejection or alienation from the faith community. Divorced Catholics often felt ostracized by their fellow parishioners.
In an early letter from then-Bishop Donald Bolen about Transitions, words of assurance were balm to participants: “It is important that you do not consider yourselves as separated from the church. As a baptized person you can be assured that the church is there to support you in your need.”
The diocesan Transitions team currently has nine facilitators. All of them are either separated or divorced, and have been through the program themselves.
“I had been separated two years when I went through the program,” says Judy Douglas. “What I found was a safe place, where I was not judged for saying and feeling what I felt.”
Transitions is open to people of all faiths, and to both men and women, offering balance and perspective, as well as support.
“As a non-Catholic, I think it is important to keep it Christian,” says Jan Bigland-Pritchard, an Anglican pastor. “The spiritual aspect is so valuable to those who go through something so difficult.”
For information about the fall session of Transitions in the Diocese of Saskatoon, contact Sharon Powell at (306) 374-1425 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org.