Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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 returns to diocese, ministering to those experiencing loss of relationship

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the March 1, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

The weekend of March 16–18 Spokane’s Immaculate Heart Retreat Center will host a Beginning Experience. This is, in words from a Beginning Experience website (, “a program for those who have suffered from the loss of a spouse or significant other through death or divorce. It is a weekend retreat that provides a nurturing place for people to deal with the pain of loss.”

Pat Reeves, who is with the Seattle area Beginning Experience team, said of the upcoming Spokane Beginning Experience weekend: “We have five team members from Sacramento flying in, four from Tacoma, four from Seattle, and probably two from Wyoming. Also, we were lucky enough to get Father (Robert) Fitz (from Gonzaga University’s Jesuit community), who was on the Anchorage team for eons, but now lives in Spokane, and who wants to participate with us. That’s our team, and we already have three participants signed up, so that’s all good.”

Reeves said that she was living in Spokane in the mid-1980s when she became divorced. She attended a Beginning Experience weekend at that time and went on to become a team member.

“Then I met my husband at a Beginning Experience convention,” she said. “We met and later married. He was the trainer on the Anchorage team, and I was the trainer on the Spokane team at that point. We promised each other that when we lost each other through death the surviving spouse would come back to Beginning Experience. So when he died in April 2001, from colon cancer, I waited six months or so, and then my very dear friends, who were on the Spokane team with me, called and said, ‘Well, Pat, it’s time!’”

Reeves helped give a couple of Beginning Experience weekends – “I cried the whole weekend, of course,” she recalls – and then in 2003 moved to Seattle, in part, she said, to be a member of that city’s Beginning Experience team.

Reeves said that Spokane hasn’t had a functioning Beginning Experience team for a couple of years now. She and the other team members who will be facilitating the March 16-18 Beginning Experience hope to get the program reestablished in Spokane so that the weekends may be offered again on a regular basis.

A Beginning Experience-related program, “Coping,” has been offered in recent months at Spokane’s St. Ann Parish, 2120 E. First Ave., Thursdays at 7 p.m. (For information send inquiry email to: SpokaneBE@yahoo .com.) “This offers a very minute part of what a Beginning Experience weekend is all about,” said Reeves. “The way that Beginning Experience is set up, you do six weeks of Coping, then you have a Beginning Experience weekend. Then probably two weeks later you have a reunion, and after that you have Continued Beginnings, which again meets for six weeks after the weekend to help people have a bond of support and begin to pull themselves off the weekend. Because you’re so vulnerable, and you’re so in touch with your feelings from the weekend that you need a little bit of a buffer when you go back to the real world, because it’s pretty much of a big shock.”

The Beginning Experience weekend is open to people of any denomination, not just Catholics, she said.

Another Beginning Experience weekend will probably be scheduled in October, but a specific date has yet to be decided upon. “We hope that the person that does the training for the team in Seattle will be willing to go to Spokane and do the training for some people from the March weekend who have the courage and the ability to be team members,” she said. “If this happens, then we’ll be able to bring the program back to Spokane. It has to be able to sustain itself if it’s going to survive.”

(For information on the March Beginning Experience weekend, leave a voicemail at (509) 277-8949, or send an email to, or visit the web site: www.

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