From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Beginning Experience program aids those recovering from loss of a relationship

Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Feb. 27, edition of the Inland Register)

There is an organization in the Catholic Church to help people whose marriages have ended because of divorce or death. Beginning Experience, an international support program, provides weekends in the diocese during the year for now-single adults. During the weekends, formerly married or widowed persons can come to grips with their grief and pain to bring about healing and make a “new beginning in loving God and others.”

The next such weekend is coming up March 21-23 at Camp Twinlow in Rathdrum, Idaho. All single persons – divorced, widowed, or separated – are invited to attend.

Sister Josephine Stewart of Fort Worth, Texas, a former counselor, is the founder of The Beginning Experience. In 1974, she and a divorced friend, Jo Lamia, attended a Marriage Encounter weekend. Even though Lamia was divorced, she found that she gained great benefit from the ME format of talks and reflections. The Beginning Experience was born from the two women’s experience.

The national office is located in South Bend, Ind., and executive director is Kathleen Murphy.

Mike Brock is president of The Beginning Experience in Spokane.

Teams of people who have previously participated assist newcomers during a BE weekend. According to information on the program’s web site, people on the teams are “trained to be good listeners, to ask questions that encourage participants to look inside themselves, and to stay on target.”

Currently there are 140 BE teams in English-speaking countries around the world.

The requirements to attend a BE weekend are minimal. Persons must be over 21 and separated, divorced, or widowed. If they are in counseling, they must get written permission from their counselor to attend.

Brock sees the program as “an aid” to counseling. “We’re not counselors, but we facilitate that,” he said. However, “nobody but nobody offers as much help as The Beginning Experience. Unresolved grief is destructive, and (the program) gives people permission to move through it.”

Participants do not need to have become single recently either. Brock told about one participant who had been divorced 14 years prior to attending a BE weekend. “She was so busy raising her family,” he said, “that she hadn’t been able to come before. Then she felt bad she waited so long.”

Even though the program is “very Catholic,” the weekends are open to all denominations.

Brock likened the BE process to looking at the two sides of the life of Christ: “the death side and the Resurrection side,” he said. During the weekend, “we look at redemptive suffering.” He didn’t want to elaborate too much on the format, encouraging participants instead to “trust the process. Believe me, it works.”

Brock said nearly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. “That’s the reality,” he said, “and we need something to deal with that. I just don’t know of a better program than The Beginning Experience.”

Brochures about The Beginning Experience are provided to parishes and counseling agencies. Brock also gives talks at churches when asked.

The program offers some follow-up support and some socializing. Brock emphasized, however, that the primary focus of The Beginning Experience is the weekend.

Persons wishing more information about The Beginning Experience or about the BE weekend can call Brock at (509) 238-4341 or Audrey Wilson at (509) 924-7386. There is also a web site.

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