Special to The Dialog
When Mary, Mother of Peace Church in Millsboro wanted to offer a “healing” program to participants of its bereavement ministry, Ann McGough called the Office for Marriage and Family Life.
“Have I got something for you,” McGough recalled Nancy Burke, then the office’s director, saying.
That “something” was “Seasons of Hope,” which McGough described as a Christ-centered healing process that incorporates a reading from the Bible with journaling and sharing.
Burke led an informational session on the program that led parish officials to offer the program with McGough as a co-facilitator.
“Nancy said to us, ‘If you get one or two people to participate and this program changes just their lives, then you’ve been successful, ’” McGough said.
Twenty people signed up for the first session of weekly meetings. When a second session began last month, the number mushroomed to 30, McGough said, including “everyone that went through the first session.”
Burke’s suggestion of Seasons of Hope to Mary, Mother of Peace leaders is one example of the ways that offices and ministries of the Diocese of Wilmington help meet the spiritual and temporal needs of people in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Those ministries may provide the services directly, as seen through such ministries as Catholic Charities, or through local parishes.
Appeal helps family life
The Annual Catholic Appeal helps fund more than 35 diocesan offices and ministries such as the Office for Marriage and Family Life. The 2015 campaign seeks to raise $4,347,000. Catholics in the pew will be asked to make a pledge to the drive on Commitment Weekend, April 18-19.
The theme for this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal is “He Reveals Himself … in the Breaking of the Bread,” taken from the Gospel of Luke 24:35-48.
Married and family life is a major theme for the Catholic Church this year, given last October’s Synod of Bishops on the family and another synod on the family scheduled in Rome this fall. The focus is heightened locally by Pope Francis’ plan to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September.
Most people know the Diocese of Wilmington’s Office for Marriage and Family Life for its work in marriage preparation, especially through Pre-Cana classes offered to couples before they marry; the curriculum was updated over the past year. The office also provides programs and resources for parishes, individuals, couples and families, such as parenting and marriage tips; Seasons of Hope; The Catholic’s Divorce Survival Guide program; and Women of Grace, a foundational study program for women.
“The spirit of the New Evangelization and the joy of the Gospel are reflected within each program,” Burke said. “Whether one has always been an active Catholic or has been away for a while, Jesus is always with us and welcomes us back with open arms.”
Burke quoted Pope Francis: “There is no aspect of family life — childhood and youth; friendship, engagement and marriage; spousal intimacy, fidelity and love; interpersonal relations and support — which is excluded from the healing and strengthening touch of God’s love, communicated through the Gospels and taught by the church.”
Burke left the Office for Marriage and Family Life last month to become pastoral associate at Marydale Retirement Village in Newark, which provides rental housing for low-income seniors. Her work at Marydale also is supported in part by the Annual Catholic Appeal.
But the programs she helped develop for the Office for Marriage and Family Life over the past three years will continue.
One of those programs was last year’s Women’s Conference for Women of Grace, based on St. John Paul II’s views on the dignity of women.
Nancy Frick, a member of Church of the Holy Child in Wilmington, said the Women of Grace program “really focused on and brought out the strengths and assets that women have, the spiritual powerhouse they can be.”
Sessions include a video and time for reflection and sharing. Participants have homework each week with a scriptural reference and questions.
“A lot of things came out about things going on in their lives that were part of the session” in a given week, said Frick, who participated in a Women of Grace program two years ago.
Seasons of Hope, which includes four sessions of multiple weekly meetings, is another Marriage and Family Life program. Season One is being offered at St. John the Beloved in Wilmington. St. Jude in Lewes is expected to offer the program in the near future, Burke said.
McGough, Seasons of Hope co-facilitator at Mary, Mother of Peace, said leaders were seeking a more structured, Scripture-based program for the bereaved of her church when they found Seasons of Hope.
The regular parish Bereavement Ministry remains active, with about 55 participants, McGough said. A 10-member ministry team tries “to stay in touch weekly,” with each participant. A monthly luncheon draws about 30 people. Other activities, such as walking the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, or going to different churches for services, are scheduled to help coax those struggling with the loss of a loved one.
Sharing is encouraged at Seasons of Hope sessions but not required, McGough said. One sign of the program’s success came during the first Seasons of Hope meeting, when she expected little if any sharing.
“We had at least half the people open up and start sharing,” she said. “The program is just so faith-driven that it gives people the courage to share.”