When his nearly 30-year marriage ended in divorce last year, “Steve” felt a keen sense of shame and failure for his broken wedding vows.

“I felt I wouldn’t be able to be welcome in the church,” said Steve, a pseudonym for a participant in the archdiocesan Office of Family Life’s ministry for separated, divorced and widowed people. He credits the parish S/D/W support group he joined for giving him “spiritual hope and emotional healing at a time when I knew for sure I had failed as husband, father and to God as well. Attending the group showed me that it was okay for me to grieve and be okay with God.

“[Catholics] generally are raised with a firm belief that marriage is a commitment for life,” he noted. “We probably have a higher expectation for the success of our marriages. And so when the divorce is filed, there is probably a higher feeling of spiritual disappointment and guilt compared to non-Catholics.”

According to Dave Muckley, one of three facilitators at a “Beginning Again” S/D/W support group at American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach, the spiritual needs of those going through the divorce process are “huge.” Currently in his 26th year of marriage to his second wife, he remembers what it was like when his first marriage of nine years ended in divorce followed by five years as a single parent.

“Having been raised in the Catholic Church, and having a strong moral fiber, I felt a lot of guilt getting divorced, even though I had gotten to the point that it was the right thing to do. Our relationship was truly broken,” said Muckley. He struggled in his relationship with God and wondered what good would come out of the divorce.

“I look back now and see a lot of good,” reflected Muckley. “I became a healthier person; my ex-wife became a healthier person; we succeeded well in co-parenting our two kids who have grown to become wonderful healthy adults.

“I met and married a wonderful woman and have enjoyed a beautiful relationship with her; and God has worked through me and the other facilitators to provide a ‘beacon of hope’ during the most crushing period of their lives.”

Four months into her marital separation before her divorce was final in 2005, Diana Salinas joined the S/D/W support group at Immaculate Conception Church in Monrovia. “It was an environment that was relatable — very comforting to open up and share,” said Salinas. She served as a group facilitator for five years and during that time pursued an annulment, which she received in 2012.

Recently remarried, she still feels a commitment to the S/D/W ministry, and she plans to attend the annual S/D/W ministry conference sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Family Life at the Cathedral July 26. The event from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. includes Mass, a Cathedral tour and a workshop titled “Lord, How Can I Know the Way?” given by Father Patrick Hill, archdiocesan spiritual director for the Separated, Divorced & Widowed Ministry.

“I feel that people need to know there’s a ministry within the Catholic faith,” said Salinas. “I wish we could touch more members of the community going through separation and divorce. Through the recovery and healing process, I made really good friends I would never have met that I’m still friends with today.”

Those planning to attend the July 26 S/D/W event at the Cathedral are requested to pre-register by July 21 with the Office of Family Life, (213) 637-7249 or contact Julie Monell-Auzenne ([email protected]). A $25 registration fee covers lunch and materials; parking at the Cathedral is an additional $8.