By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
For individuals dealing with separation or divorce, “healing doesn’t follow a specific timeline.”
That was the message delivered by Chris Easterly, a filmmaker, author and Catholic blogger, to a group gathered for the Diocese’s “There Is Life After Divorce: A Day of Renewal, Hope and Healing for Separated or Divorced Catholics Who Long for God’s Healing Love.”
As the day’s keynote speaker, Easterly shared the experience of his own divorce, telling those present, “We are all on our own schedules, and I congratulate you for being here.”
The event, held Oct. 20 in St. David the King Parish, West Windsor, drew about 40 participants, some who are engaged in ministry to the separated and divorced and others who are in the midst of their own personal healing journeys. Easterly included film clips in a series of presentations to encourage discussion on the emotional journey separated and divorced people, including himself, endure.
Raised Baptist, Easterly came into the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in 2009. He is the author of “Falling Forward: A Man’s Memoir of Divorce” and writes articles on divorce, dating, the single life and spirituality. Currently developing several feature film projects, he is based in Los Angeles and Kentucky. His next book, a Catholic devotional published by Our Sunday Visitor, is due out in early 2020.
Easterly shared that when his marriage crumbled two days before Thanksgiving, with the announcement of his wife’s infidelity and her determination to leave, he “felt like a bomb had been dropped.”
Periods of severe depression and intense pain followed in “the same journey we are all on,” said Easterly, who likened his life to a “country song. We didn’t ask for it but here we are.”
Over time, he said, the wounds began to heal, and he began to reclaim his life.
According to Deanna Sass, director of the Diocese’s Department of Pastoral Care, this day of outreach is held each year on behalf of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., “who wants to convey to the separated and divorced that they are members of the community, that we need them to be whole as a Church and that we welcome them with open arms.”
A tangible sign of that invitation and love was expressed in the concluding Mass that was celebrated by Msgr. Michael J. Walsh, episcopal vicar for Mercer County and pastor of three parishes in the Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley.
Mary Alice Laird, who has regularly attended the annual event, has been involved in ministry to the divorced and separated for 50 years in Bayville’s St. Barnabas Parish. She said she attended to “get a sense of whether we are satisfying the new needs that have arisen in society.” Of particular concern, she said, was the effect of social media on the community.
Laird admitted, “One of the things that strikes me is that people will be comfortable with the internet but not comfortable with their friends, family and parish.” That being the case, she said, it’s vitally important to keep lines of communication flowing so that people know help is available.
Laird’s work was recognized by Sass at the end of the session for her many years of service.
The value of the day was underscored by Easterly, who encouraged those gathered to “share the strategies you come up with today. Make the most of them. You are the hero of your own story. It really is heroic what you are doing here.”
To learn more about the services the Diocese provides for separated and divorced Catholics, visit https://dioceseoftrenton.org/separated-and-divorced.