Reaching Out to the Divorced and Remarried

Schoenstatt Apostolate Teaches Couples They Are Children of God

ASUNCION, Paraguay, NOV. 27, 2007 ( The Church’s mission to lead everyone toward salvation should always embrace those who are divorced and civilly remarried, say members of a ministry for Catholics who have experienced broken marriages.

Benedict XVI spoke about divorced and remarried people during a question-and-answer session while on vacation last summer. He encouraged priests to help these couples grow closer to the Lord through their suffering.

The Pope’s address was an affirmation for a couple from Paraguay, Sonia and Eduardo Morales, of the Catholic Schoenstatt movement. The Morales had already taken the first steps in a ministry for divorced and remarried couples in 2005, at a meeting of the Latin American bishops’ council.

In that gathering, each of the countries represented spoke on the theme of “Irregular Families.” The presentations led the couple to ask themselves: If Schoenstatt is for everyone, don’t we have to do something for these children of God who find themselves in this situation?

The Morales shared their idea with other members of Schoenstatt. And two years ago, “Pastoral de Esperanza” (Ministry of Hope) was added to the pastoral initiatives of the movement’s family ministry, along with courses for dating and engaged couples and other ministries that aim to answer Pope John Paul II’s call: “Save the family at all costs.”

Mother and teacher

In May 2006, with a conference from Father Antonio Cosp and about 30 couples, the ministry was born, Kornelia Fischer, a Schoenstatt representative, told ZENIT.

“‘Pastoral de Esperanza,'” she said, “wants to be an answer from the Church, which cannot be indifferent to these painful situations, which as Mother and teacher […] fulfills its mission of leading to salvation all the baptized.”

Fischer continued: “The desire to welcome them in truth, with warmth and respect, moves [those who minister to these couples] to accompany them with hope in overcoming the strong impact of a separation, and taking on the challenge of building solidly the bases of a new life. Schoenstatt wants to show them that they are still children of God, like before the separation, and that the attitude of children who know they are loved will help them to experience healing forgiveness and open untold paths of spiritual growth.”

The ministry does not take on roles of mediation or negotiation in conflicts, she added. Nor does it offer couples therapy.

Fischer said that Schoenstatt, as an ecclesial movement, wants to fulfill that which John Paul II urged in “Familiaris Consortio”: “The Church’s pastoral concern will not be limited only to the Christian families closest at hand; it will extend its horizons in harmony with the heart of Christ, and will show itself to be even more lively for families in general and for those families in particular which are in difficult or irregular situations. For all of them the Church will have a word of truth, goodness, understanding, hope and deep sympathy with their sometimes tragic difficulties.”

The ministry works by offering a yearlong cycle of formative talks and monthly get-togethers, in which leaders seek to strengthen the couples in their Christian faith and support them in their roles as parents.

Spiritual retreats also form part of the process, during which the movement seeks to teach the couples what the Pontifical Council for the Family encouraged: “Bring these, our brothers and sisters, to understand that the Church loves them, that she is not distant from them and she suffers for their situation. The divorced and remarried are and will continue to be her members because they have been baptized and conserve the Christian faith.”

The retreats, said Fischer, are a chance for these couples to have “a very special blessing, an opportunity to again feel like they are beloved children of God.”

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