Lifelong Catholic Mark Padilla never expected to get divorced. Like most married couples, Padilla thought his first marriage would be his last.

Married in 1988, his marriage started showing strains in the mid-90s. Then, in 1997, his wife moved out. A year later, they divorced. 

The divorce proved to be devastating to Padilla and his three children.

“I lost everything, my business and my home. It was not a pleasant experience,” Padilla told The Tidings. 

Today, he believes that the divorce adversely affected his children in many ways, including their faith.

“None of the kids are practicing Catholics. I attribute it to the divorce,” Mark said.

After the divorce, Padilla sought an annulment from the Church.

“I wanted to get married again in the Catholic Church and receive the Holy Eucharist. To me, it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Ultimately, through the annulment process, Padilla finally understood what contributed to the breakdown of his marriage: unhealed wounds from both Padilla’s and his ex-wife’s past.

“It was difficult. At that time, it was 60 questions. Each one was like an essay. The questions weren’t easy. They were probing. It took me a year to go through the questions, to write and think about them,” Padilla said. 

The annulment process proved to be a healing experience and helped him to move on.

“It was very therapeutic. The questions that were asked, what led us to the divorce. The questions surprised me. It was a process of reconciliation,” he said.

According to Father Truc Nguyen, who is the judicial vicar of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, “The Catholic Church is here to journey with them through compassion and healing of God’s love and not to condemn them. The essence of Church law is for the salvation of souls and not punishment.”

Following his annulment, Padilla began to put his life back together. He moved back to Montebello, close to St. Anthony’s Church, where he went to parochial school and which is now his home parish.

In 2000, the “Great Jubilee” year in the Catholic Church, Padilla had what he calls a “reversion.” He began the journey back to his Catholic faith by seeking spiritual direction from Father Pat Brennan, then at the Passionist Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre. Father Brennan encouraged him to listen to Catholic radio.

“It was Catholic radio that helped me rebuild my faith as an adult. It led me to Bible Study, too,” he said.

Padilla began going to Bible study at St. Joseph’s Catholic Resource Center in Covina, where he learned to study the Bible using apologetics. He continued Bible study at the Father Maguire Council Knights of Columbus in Covina and occasionally at the St. Joseph’s Center in Alhambra for the next two years. 

Inspired by a better understanding of his faith, Padilla became a parochial teacher for St. Anthony’s School in San Gabriel, where he served from 2001-2010.

“I did it as a vocation,” he said. 

Padilla felt a “calling” to educate children and inform them that the secular society we live in is broken. A former self-proclaimed “cafeteria Catholic,” he now practices what he preaches and is working to educate the masses on how to live a truly Catholic life. 

No longer a school teacher, Padilla is an administrator at an immigration law firm. He is also deeply involved with the Knights of Columbus, where he encourages men to return to their faith. Padilla aptly named St. Anthony’s Knights council “Finder of the Lost,” which was the number one council in the state two years ago.

“We need to re-evangelize Catholic men,” he said.

He has been chapter president for San Gabriel Valley Knights of Columbus and was the Culture of Life chairperson for the state of California. He was instrumental in the referendum against the physician assisted-suicide petition and for parental notification in Southern California.

Padilla has been happily remarried to his wife, Lisa, for 14 years. They have two children together. He is determined to break the cycle of divorce and despair for his two youngest children, Anthony, 14, and Trinity, 3, who has Down syndrome.

“Ultimately, it is about my kids’ souls. It is all the more important why we teach them our faith,” Padilla said.

When he is not busy with his family, working, volunteering for the Knights of Columbus or the archdiocese, he is promoting faith-based films to help “educate the masses.”

Padilla is currently working on pre-production for a film about parental notification called “Notice.” The film is based on Padilla’s own experiences and the stories he heard while gathering signatures for the petition to allow parent notification when a minor seeks an abortion.

“I do all the things I do to teach the youth, to teach our culture that divorce doesn’t work and that there is healing. There is life after and to help youth avoid the mistakes that my generation made,” he said.

According to Padilla, his personal journey from divorce to reconciliation through annulment is a testament to God’s grace and his desire to live a faith-filled life despite the trials that may come his way.

What is an annulment?

An annulment is a declaration by a Church tribunal (a Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union.

For a Catholic marriage to be valid, it is required that: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they are capable of giving their consent to marry; (3) they freely exchange their consent; (4) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to having children; (5) they intend the good of each other; and (6) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by Church authority.

Why does the Church require a divorced Catholic to obtain a declaration of nullity before marrying in the Church?

In fidelity to Jesus’ teaching, the Church believes that marriage is a lifelong bond (see Matt 19:1-10); therefore, unless one’s spouse has died, the Church requires the divorced Catholic to obtain a declaration of nullity before marrying someone else. The tribunal process seeks to determine if something essential was missing at the moment of consent, that is, the time of the wedding. If so, the Church can declare that a valid marriage was never actually brought about on the wedding day.

If a marriage is declared null, does it mean that the marriage never existed?

No. It means that a marriage that was thought to be valid civilly and canonically was in fact not valid according to Church law. A declaration of nullity does not deny that a relationship existed. It simply states that the relationship was missing something that the Church requires for a valid marriage.

If a declaration of nullity is granted, are the children considered illegitimate?

No. A declaration of nullity has no effect on the legitimacy of children who were born of the union following the wedding day, since the child’s mother and father were presumed to be married at the time that the child was born. Parental obligations remain after a marriage may be declared null.

I do not plan to remarry. Why should I present a marriage case?

Some people find that simply writing out their testimony helps them to understand what went wrong and why. They gain insights into themselves. Others say that the process allowed them to tell their whole story for the first time to someone who was willing to listen. A person cannot know today if they might want to marry in the future when crucial witnesses may be deceased or their own memories may have dimmed.

Learn more:

Metropolitan Marriage Tribunal

The Metropolitan Tribunal is one part of the Church’s effort to offer healing and hope to those who have experienced failed marriages. The tribunal investigates these situations to determine whether the parties in certain instances may be free to remarry. For more information, call (213) 637-7245.