Episcopalians, Catholics reach out to divorced

Photo by Chris Grillot -- Angela Falgoust, left, and Melissa Anderson train facilitators in preparation for 'Return to Life,' a six-week, ecumenical divorce-healing program being offered during Lent by Baton Rouge's St. Aloysius Catholic and St. James Episcopal churches.
Photo by Chris Grillot -- Angela Falgoust, left, and Melissa Anderson train facilitators in preparation for 'Return to Life,' a six-week, ecumenical divorce-healing program being offered during Lent by Baton Rouge's St. Aloysius Catholic and St. James Episcopal churches.

Baton Rouge’s St. Aloysius Catholic and St. James Episcopal churches are collaborating throughout the Lenten season in a healing program for people divorced or separated from their spouses.

The program, “Return to Life,” a six-part series, will meet from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays beginning Feb. 17 at St. Aloysius.

The venue will alternate between the two churches for the following five Sundays, culminating in a “Day of Healing,” administered by the program’s creator, Maryanne Skrobiak, of Hales Corner, Wis., from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 23 at St. Aloysius.

“It’s for people who are divorced or divorcing and who are looking for a way to heal through this grieving process,” said Angela Falgoust, the Catholic co-director of the program.

Falgoust divorced seven years ago and has led three divorce healing programs at St. Aloysius.

The ecumenical partnership between Episcopalian and Catholic churches marks the first time in the program’s 15-year history that “Return to Life” will be used by those other than Roman Catholics, Skrobiak said.

And because of the cooperation, it is available to people of all denominations, said Melissa Anderson, the program’s Episcopalian representative, who also is divorced.

The fact that the Catholic Church and Episcopalian Church differ in their law on remarriage — divorce is forbidden but Catholics can have a marriage annulled whereas Episcopalians allow and recognize a civil divorce — does not matter, Anderson said. “The truth is, the pain of divorce transcends all denominations.”

St. Aloysius parochial vicar the Rev. Al Davidson said ecumenical partnerships are important for communication between faiths. “Part of spiritual formation is to learn about other denominations and to see how few differences we have.”

St. James’s rector, the Very Rev. J. Mark Holland, shared similar thoughts. “It’s important for faith communities to reach beyond their own faith and offer these types of programs.”

Pastors at both churches approved the program but will not participate formally.

The program will operate in a workshop setting where participants watch a DVD each week, then break into discussion groups for more personal observations.

“It’s only in telling your story that you’re releasing those feelings,” Falgoust said.

Falgoust and Anderson began planning the series in late December after Anderson attended a similar divorce-healing workshop led by Falgoust last spring.

Impressed with the results, Anderson approached Falgoust about hosting another program.

“We sat down and said we need to do this thing together,” Anderson said.

Skrobiak, a psychologist, began the series in Milwaukee in 1997, combining her psychological training with her Catholic faith to help divorced people in her community heal.

With the national divorce rate hovering around 50 percent for first-time marriages — even higher for second-time marriages — the program is especially important, Anderson said. “Divorce happens. It’s the healing that matters.”

Divorced and separated people need to discover what went awry to have successful relationships in the future, Falgoust added. “You resurrect the same problems because you haven’t gone through the process of finding what went wrong.”

The program costs $50 and has a limit of 50 participants. Find more information or to fill out a “Return to Life” application at http://www.aloysiusbr.org.