Sunday, April 14, 2024

‘Life-Giving Wounds’ Ministry Offers Healing for Adult Children of Divorce

‘Life-Giving Wounds’ Ministry A new ministry emerging in the Diocese of Harrisburg is giving voice and offering healing to an often-underserved part of the Church community: adult children of divorce.

Life-Giving Wounds is a Catholic, peer-led ministry focused on helping adults whose parents are divorced and separated acknowledge their pain and find healing in Christ.

Developed by husband and wife Dr. Daniel and Bethany Meola, the ministry was born of the couple’s theological studies on marriage and family, and of Dr. Meola’s personal experiences as a child of divorce.

Its approach for finding healing is advanced through support groups, community, spiritual formation, resources and retreats – including an upcoming retreat April 12-14 at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg.

During a recent interview with Rachel Troche of the Diocese’s “Candid Catholic Convos” podcast, Bethany Meola shared where she and her husband found inspiration for Life-Giving Wounds, dug into some of the wounds adults children of divorce carry, and spoke of how the ministry can help them find hope and joy after giving their wounds to Christ.

“What we’re doing with Life-Giving Wounds – no matter what the scenario or circumstance was for any child of separation or divorce – is helping them figure out where God is in all of it and how He can help them heal through whatever losses they’ve experienced,” Meola said.

The Meolas were inspired to delve into the ministry during their theological studies on marriage and family at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C., where they first met.

“We were really just diving deep into all these beautiful teachings that our Church gives us on marriage and family. Part of where we were getting hung up was, what happens – especially to children – when marriages don’t last forever? And one thing we saw during our time there and afterwards was that there is a gap in Church ministry to children of divorce,” Meola said.

They set out to help fill that void with Life-Giving Wounds. The ministry’s name is taken from 1 Peter 2:24: “By His wounds you have been healed.”

“That verse speaks to us in the sense that the wounds we experience in our lives are hard to deal with and difficult to go through, but the Lord does not leave us there. Through His wounds, He heals us,” Meola said.

Through their international ministry, which began in 2018, the Meolas have meet people with diverse experiences, including adults who have no memory of their parents ever being together, men and women whose parents cohabitated and separated, adults who parents divorced when they were children or teens, and even those whose parents split up in their later years.

More than half of adults in the United States come from a broken home, Meola said, and it’s a statistic that deserves attention in order to help heal wounds and build healthy relationships, marriages and families.

“Adult children of divorce may have some wounds that carry on throughout their lifetime,” Meola said. She said these wounds can lead to fear of intimacy, commitment and abandonment; lack of trust; and cynicism and loss of hope when going through rough patches in relationships.

In addition, a breadth of statistics show that men and women who come from broken homes are more likely to never marry, to cohabitate, or to become divorced themselves.

“But we always stress that statistics are not your destiny. Just because it’s a statistic we see and are aware of doesn’t mean you are destined to be among that number,” Meola said.

“Hope is found in being honest and willing to look at our wounds and find the way to move forward,” she said.

‘We Get You’

Life-Giving Wounds is a new ministry the Diocese is introducing through the Office of Laity and Family. Melissa Maleski, its director, was familiar with Life-Giving Wounds during her time in the Diocese of Arlington, and found it to be a valuable initiative in strengthening marriages and families today.

“If we want to help strengthen marriage as the sacrament we know it is, and even marriage in the civil sense, Life-Giving Wounds is a ministry that is invaluable in helping individuals understand how divorce may have impacted their own impressions of marriage and family,” Maleski told The Catholic Witness.

“What excites me about this ministry is that it is aimed at healing wounds people might not even realize they have,” she said. “It’s not about hand-holding while you cry and let out all of your emotions; it’s more about conversation and accompaniment. It’s us saying, ‘We get you. We hear you.’ It speaks to people who might not think they have ongoing wounds.”

Acknowledging those wounds, however, is the first step in the journey toward healing.

“Grief is where we start our retreat weekends, our support groups and our book,” Meola said. “We really see it as an important first step in healing, to acknowledge that you’ve been hurt. It’s really only when a person is able to do so that they can then look at the ways they have been hurt and where they need the Lord’s healing in their life.”

For many people, grief can go unacknowledged for years, especially in a culture that says divorce isn’t a big deal if both parents wind up happy, or that kids are resilient enough to get through the experience.

“To be able to sit back and say, ‘This is not what the Lord intended for me; He wanted me to have my mom and my dad together,’ is a healthy acknowledgement. Grieving that loss is not a selfish thing to do; it’s a human thing to do,” Meola said.

Upcoming Retreat in Harrisburg

Life-Giving Wounds will present its first ever retreat in Pennsylvania on the weekend of April 12-14 at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg. It will begin on Friday evening and conclude on Sunday afternoon.

It will give participants a greater understanding of the wound of divorce and the ways it affects their lives; offer advice about the difficulties concerning love and trust of others; and explain how the Catholic faith, spiritual practices and the Sacraments are essential to self-knowledge and healing.

The weekend will be facilitated by the Life-Giving Wounds team and include presentations from adult children of divorce, small-group discussion, Holy Mass, and time for prayer, Adoration and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

“The retreats obviously deal with a very heavy subject matter. There are personal and emotional things that we talk about and sad things in people’s stories that they share,” Meola said. “But the Lord always meets us there with an abundance of joy, even through the tears. That gives us the impetus going forward, even if it’s difficult.”

The retreat in April is Life-Giving Wounds’ introduction in the Diocese of Harrisburg, and the start of its ongoing efforts here. Maleski said the Office of Laity and Family plans to build a Diocesan team for Life-Giving Wounds to help offer a variety of options for people to begin their healing process where they feel most comfortable, and to give people who feel called an opportunity to assist others through their journey.

“There are different things that happen throughout your life when your parents have split up, different milestones that hit differently and can bring up those wounds again. But despite those wounds maybe not being able to be fixed completely in our lifetime, our Lord can bring out so much goodness for us, for our families, for the world,” Meola said. “We talk a lot about redemptive suffering and finding meaning in the midst of our wounds, our mess and our hurt, knowing that Jesus meets us there and brings something greater out of it.”

“If you have come from a broken home, all is not lost. There is a great message of hope that we want to give,” she said.

For more information and to register for the upcoming retreat, visit this link. Learn more about the Life-Giving Wounds ministry at For the Candid Catholic Convos interview with Bethany Meola, listen here. Those who are interested in learning more about the retreat, the ministry and getting involved can contact Melissa Maleski at or 717-657-4804, ext. 331.

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

- Advertisement -spot_img

Submission Deadline

The deadline for submissions to the biweekly Notebook/Parish Obituaries listing is every other Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Please refer to the Publication Schedule for edition dates and deadlines.

Other News