Why Diocesan Leaders Should Consider Recovering Origins
Below is a wonderful story about the power of Christ working through our ministry from the perspective of a diocesan leader, Alexander Wolfe, who is himself quite gifted and knowledgeable about the need and ministry to adult children of divorce. We hope it will be a helpful testimony for other dioceses and parishes considering this ministry. You can start this ministry with minimal resources and we are getting better and better at making it as easy as possible to start! We are here to help you, like we did with the Arlington diocese mentioned below.
Why Diocesan Leaders Should Consider Recovering Origins
By Alexander Wolfe
Recovering Origins is a wonderful program which can equip adult children of divorce with the tools and support they need, and Life-Giving Wounds is an incredible team of witnesses and experts who can bring this program to you and your people as well as provide other needed resources for healing.
I have been on the Recovering Origins retreat myself, and I have now led the retreat for the Arlington Diocese as a Program Specialist in the Office of Marriage, Family, and Respect Life. My present intention is to encourage you to bring this program and team to your diocese, and I would like to do so by way of sharing with you my own “history” with this ministry.
Denial of the Wound
My parents got divorced when I was in college. After college, I went to the John Paul II Institute, which, at that same time, was creating the Recovering Origins retreat program. Not being emotionally ready for even the subject at the time, I tried to not relate to it in a personal way. If ever it hit too close to home, I would turn my attention to something much more abstract, such as Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Much safer!
For the five years I spent at the Institute, I did not go on retreat; I kept running away from it. Looking back, it was a heavy burden, keeping the struggle all to myself. I really needed to receive the graces of this healing retreat. God was patient with me, but he was not going to let me miss out on those graces.
I came face-to-face with this retreat when I took a job in the family life office in the Diocese of Arlington. Soon after I began working, my boss came to me and said, “Alex, we are going to sponsor a retreat in our diocese soon and maybe you could help coordinate. It’s a healing retreat for adult children of divorce called Recovering Origins. What do you think?”
I was shocked! Honestly, I thought: “Are you kidding me? This, again!? I can’t get away from it!” For a moment, I thought, “Okay, yes, that’s exactly what I’ll do: I’ll be an administrator. Brilliant! I will help with this retreat as long as I do not have to have my poor, delicate wound pried wide open.” I agreed to help with the retreat, but I felt very conflicted.
Acceptance and Healing
I began to think about my parents’ divorce, and, for the very first time, I accepted that it was a wound. Until that point, I had only thought of it as a “fact,” and one which did not deserve much attention.
I realized how ridiculous it was to be refusing a healing ministry designed for people like myself, as well as how mysterious it was that this retreat preceded me to my new job.
At long last, I sat down with my boss and said, “I… my… my own parents are divorced, and… I think… maybe I should go on retreat. Like, as a retreatant. I should pay the fee and be a retreatant.” She agreed whole-heartedly! I signed up and went on the retreat. I am so glad I did, and I’m embarrassed that I took so long to say Yes.
My Experience on the Retreat
For me, the greatest fruits have been in finding my origins not only in God our Father but especially in receiving Mary as our mother from Christ on the Cross (John 19: 26-27), learning how to transcend my anxiety and attachment issues, and in gaining a friend to whom I can turn when navigating between worlds becomes complex.
Recovering Origins is a work of genius: a unity of theology, psychology, and community. Having gone on retreat and experienced the amazing work that the Lord is accomplishing in this ministry, I have humbly taken the lead for this ministry in our diocese. We held our first diocesan-run retreat in August 2019 and it was fantastic. It was already a blessing to find healing by going on retreat, but now, as the leader, I have become the recipient of an even more profound gift: the Lord is using my wounds to give others renewed life.
An Appeal to Diocesan Leaders
There is such a great need for this ministry. Not every adult child of divorce will be as stubborn as I was, but the wound is real, and we need the opportunity and invitation to start a healing process.
As diocesan leaders, we have a privileged position to take up this ministry, especially from within a family life office. Of course, we have to work with the specific backgrounds, gifts, and limits of our team members and those who serve with us, but I think you may be surprised as to who steps forward as a child of divorce and as a leader if you bring this retreat to your diocese.
I encourage you to pray about starting this needed ministry and learn more about Life-Giving Wounds and Recovering Origins. If it weren’t for my own director bringing the retreat to Arlington (without even a clue as to how the ministry would continue afterwards), I would never have gone on retreat, and there would be no on-going ministry in Arlington now. May God be as generous with you as he has been for us!