By Dan Russo
CEDAR RAPIDS — For Catholics going through divorce or separation, a torrent of emotions and a test of faith are often part of the heart-wrenching process. For those who love people who are divorced, it can be a challenge to figure out how to help.
If you are in one of these two groups, an event coming to the Archdiocese of Dubuque could provide some of the answers you need. Rose Sweet, a Catholic author who developed a parish program called “Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family,” is coming to the Archdiocese of Dubuque March 27 to address some tough questions and give guidance on divorce ministry. The “Come and See” evening, which is free and open to all, is scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids.
“It’s for anybody who is affected by divorce and really wants to know what to say, what to do, and maybe even to know what the church really teaches about divorce and separation and annulments and remarriage and all those scary topics,” said Sweet.
Her program for use in churches involves a 12-week video series followed by discussions. In addition to the “Come and See” event, she will be providing a full day of training for people who want to volunteer with divorce ministry in their parishes.
“When somebody dies or gets cancer, sometimes we don’t know what to say or we say the wrong things,” she said. “It’s the same thing with divorce. If your son or daughter or sister or neighbor is going through a divorce, we’ll help you know exactly what to say and to do to help them.”
Sweet got involved in divorce ministry after overcoming the pain of a failed marriage to an abusive husband.
“All I wanted was a husband, home and kids and I’d be happy,” recalled Sweet. “I married early to get out of the house and had no other option. … The guy was an alcoholic who beat me, and in nine months, I was back in my mom and dad’s home, now with a divorce and a failure. I was a mess. I was confused.”
Sweet was raised Catholic but got caught up in “pursuing her dreams on her own terms” with God being there only “in case of emergency.”
After getting divorced, she began asking questions about who she really was and where the path to true happiness lies. She allowed God into her life and he helped her heal and transform, she said. Sweet received an annulment, remarried and is a stepparent. Before that, she experienced what it was like to be single for 20 years.
Her presentations will cover how to deal with stabilizing one’s emotions during and immediately after divorce, how to help children involved in the process, stepparenting after remarriage, and what the church teaches about divorced people being involved in parish life and receiving holy Communion.
Sweet is also an advocate for people going through the annulment process. She will discuss the church’s teaching on annulments. She compared ministry to the divorced and the annulment process to what happens after a plane crash.
“In an airplane crash, the first thing they do is send out first responders to stop the bleeding of the survivors,” explained Sweet. “After that, the FAA comes in with their highly trained investigators to figure out what the heck happened, and the reason they do that is so that it doesn’t happen again.”
“A lot of people don’t qualify for annulments, but at least you should know about it and investigate it to see what happened to (your) marriage,” she continued. “Then (the annulment process) helps you determine your future, because if you don’t have grounds for annulment, you’re married. And then, how do I help that person remain a married person in the eyes of the church. That’s a tough thing. You can’t address annulments the first night someone comes into a divorce and recovery class. You have to take things slowly and take care of the basics first.”
To RSVP for the “Come and See” event, visit dbqarch.org/events. For questions, contact Matt Selby, director of the Marriage and Family Life Office for the archdiocese: firstname.lastname@example.org ph: 563-556-2580 ext. 233.