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Virtual support group for divorced Catholics to be offered

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SAN DIEGO – The diocesan Office for Family Life and Spirituality will be presenting a 10-week virtual support group for divorced and separated Catholics.

Janelle Peregoy, an associate director at the office, will be facilitating the group along with members of St. Brigid Parish’s divorced and separated ministry team.

The weekly meetings, which will be conducted via Zoom, are scheduled to begin in late January or early February.

The support group will utilize a recovery program called “Divorced Catholic.” Each participant will receive a copy of the book “Divorced. Catholic. Now What?: Navigating Life After Divorce,” and a prayer journal. Each meeting will include the presentation of a brief video based on that week’s chapter, followed by discussion questions and personal sharing.

Peregoy promised that the group would provide “a safe, confidential space” and would be “rooted in prayer … really emphasizing that we’re people of faith, sharing this journey together.”

Peregoy, whose leads the ministry for divorced and separated Catholics, used the phrase “divorce triage” to explain the essence of her job. She regularly fields calls from divorced and separated Catholics and directs them to the parish-based programs that would best serve their needs, but she typically doesn’t engage in direct ministry to this hurting demographic.

For that reason, the upcoming support group represents a unique venture for her and for the Family Life and Spirituality Office.

“It’s really exciting,” said Peregoy, who explained that she is especially glad to be able to facilitate alongside the “incredible team” from St. Brigid’s and its leader, Lino Camacho.

Plans for the support group developed after an earlier event hosted by her office, titled “Surviving the Holidays,” was held for divorced and separated Catholics in mid-November, also via Zoom. That event was a collaboration with Peregoy’s Divorced Advisory Committee, which is composed of all the parish team leaders who have active divorce ministry programs.

“We just knew afterwards that we really tapped into a need,” said Peregoy, who shared that various parishes have continued to offer virtual support groups in Spanish since the pandemic began, but she is unaware of any English-language support groups.

In the early days of the pandemic, Peregoy said, “Many of our ministries assumed a ‘wait and see’ before resuming their work.” But, nine months in, she said, it has become that more critical that this assistance and accompaniment not be postponed indefinitely.

In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have only served to exacerbate the pain that many divorced and separated Catholics are feeling, she said.

Some are feeling isolated, other divorcing couples have the added stress of being forced to quarantine together, and newly single parents are having their lives further complicated by new challenges like distance learning for their children.

Though Zoom is an imperfect medium, Peregoy said, a virtual support group is far better than allowing these challenges to continue unaddressed.

She added that one positive aspect of the online format is that there are no geographical limitations to participation.

Peregoy said her hope for the upcoming support group is the same as her hope for all such groups, whether virtual or in-person, and that’s that divorced and separated Catholics receive the message that “they are loved, we as a Church love them, and they have so much to offer the rest of us.”

For more information, contact Peregoy at (858) 490-8292 or jperegoy@sdcatholic.org.

More information in English and Spanish about the diocese’s ministry for divorce and separated Catholics is available by contacting Janelle Peregoy at (858) 490-8292 or jperegoy@sdcatholic.org, and on the page https://www.sdcatholic.org/office-for/family-life-and-spirituality/

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