A Divorce Group at Old St. Pat’s and Someone You Should Know
By: Kim Nugent
In spring of 2013, I found myself separated with an impending divorce and a young child. I saw the add in the bulletin for YANA and showed up. I remember I didn’t want to be there.I didn’t want this to be my story. I was scared, and didn’t know what to expect.
Debbie Romeo (left) began this drop-in group over 6 years ago, when she realized she needed more support to heal from the ending of a 26-year marriage. Debbie navigated co-parenting two beautiful daughters and finding new employment. She started this every other week, drop-in group on Sundays at 10:45 am after 9:30 mass. Out of her suffering and need, she gave birth to a vocation that many have benefited from after walking through those doors. She leads this peer-based group with a gentle hand. She keeps in touch with alumni, as well as has encouraged more social connection outside of group meetings for those seeking more community.
The gift she created for me:
“I felt listened to. I could share my pain and being lost without being judged. I could talk in circles until I could start hearing my own voice and some light returned. I was Not Alone. I saw parts of my story in others’ stories. I realized I was still worthy of love and belonging.”
From this vantage of receiving generous, compassionate listening without judgment and seeing myself in others’ stories, I slowly gained insight and peace.
Experiencing joy and suffering is an inevitable part of being human. All of our lives have taken hits. In our American and Catholic culture, we invest a lot of energy and celebration at the beginning of love and marriage. But little time, as things can unravel or end in separation or divorce, for any myriad of reasons. I’ve said to many that the people I’ve met through YANA are some of the most courageous, beautiful people out there.
Omid Safi writes in an OnBeing post, “My friend and his former wife had gone through these divorces in secret and silence. Their union and wedding had been public. Their divorces took place mostly in the shadows.
And it made me ponder, how is that the coming together is in the light, in public, a public celebration — but the falling apart done in the shadows, in silence, in loneliness?
If we are a community, we should be together through thin and thick, for better and for worse. We stand together in the valleys and on the mountaintops. How do we make it possible for us to stand together when each of us goes through the valleys?
Why do we celebrate together but suffer in silence?”
YANA meetings, as well as an upcoming retreat, offer this community that Omid Safi ponders for suffering and reminds me of where Jesus is even in this mess, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Thank you Debbie Romeo for how you transformed your suffering into vocation here at Old St Pat’s, what a gift and legacy of healing you have created! You are a bright light. On behalf of the many who have attended (or will attend) your group over the years, thank you.