One of the frustrations of divorce ministry is keeping the energy going that existed when the ministry began. Whether one parish or a coalition of parishes sponsors a group for the separated and divorced, keeping it going and maintaining its vigor is no little job!
Part of seeing to it that there can be a "staying power" for divorce ministry has to do with what kind of support you have on the parish level. That's why putting a group together is not just a month's worth of time. To inaugurate divorce ministry that will last, it is important that it has the broadest support possible. Before getting a few parishioners excited about the prospects of a starting a group, it may be very smart to prepare the parish staff and parish council in such a way that you will get a mandate, from these groups to minister to this population!
Once the green light is given, there are many aspects to preparing to start a group. What kind of resources already exist in my area for the divorced? Who will sponsor this group, just our parish, or a group of parishes? What form will their sponsorship take, will they provide a budget, space, training of facilitators, etc? Who will be our facilitators, and what qualities will we be looking for? What kind of supervision will be provided for them so there will be less burn-out? How do we get the word out? What benefits/drawbacks are there in being ecumenical?
Who hasn't dealt with diminishing numbers, when you know there are many people out there who are hurting because of separation and divorce? How do you help them to understand that they belong to the faith community, that they shouldn't go away?
All of these issues and more are of paramount importance in planning for divorce ministry in a parish or region.
It will be exciting at the North American Conference for Separated and Divorced Catholics conference at Notre Dame to share with each other some of the accomplishments and challenges that exist in the ministry.