Support Community for the Divorced Starts Up in U.S. following the Example of a Community in Italy 

by Martin Barillas Wednesday, July 01, 2009
July 1, 2009

Press Release: Immediate distribution
Bai Macfarlane
Mary of Cana
A Mary’s Advocates Project
Westlake, OH

Americans, inspired by a ministry from Sicily, are starting a support community for divorced or separated Catholics who remain faithful to marriage. On June 21, the Italian Bishop’s conference’ newspaper Avvenire covered a retreat day in Palermo Sicily, for those who reaffirmed their marriage vows with the “Renewal of the I do.” The day “is the concluding moment of the year long encounter and healing activities of the Saint Mary of Cana group, founded by the family pastoral arm of the Palermo Archdiocese upon the initiative of Maria Pia Campanella.”

Saint Mary of Cana in the US is a project of Mary’s Advocates, a non-profit 501(c)(3). They are seeking to collaborate with diocese in the United States. Director, Bai Macfarlane says, “We reject the divorce culture’s indoctrination that our marriage is dead or that we have new lives as single people.”

In a June 27th e-mail interview, facilitated with a volunteer translator, Macfarlane asked the founder in Sicily to explain the benefit of this program. Campanella said, “This pastoral work of the Office for the Family is that it supports the separated/divorced person in being faithful to the obligations of the Sacrament of Matrimony. He who is faithful to the sacrament is faithful to God.”

Campannella expained, “The baptized choose to be faithful to the obligations of the sacrament at the time of the Matrimony. Matrimony is the state of life that a man and a woman have chosen freely as a way of holiness. Both of the spouses are able by the Grace of the sacrament to be ‘conjugal ministers’ for the sanctification of the their spouse and their children, in view of the whole Church (Gaudium et Spes 48, Lumen Gentium 11). This mission …does not end in the case of separation or divorce of the spouses (CCC 1615).”

The Saint Mary of Cana group serves that Church at large, outside of the participants in the program. “The separated/divorced person gives witness to not only the Church, but also to the world, that Jesus-Spouse remains faithful to the Spousal Covenant with the Church-Spouse even if the church is “adulterous,” said Campanella.

The U.S. group is raising money to publish and translate the study manual from Italian to English. Macfarlane says they have found an American translator who graduated with honors from Regina Apostolorum, Rome. Introductory sections are available on Those who want Saint Mary of Cana programs launched in their diocese can participate in monthly conference phone calls.

Fr. Timothy Cloutier, pastor of S. Mary’s Catholic Church in Waverly, Minnesota, who is fluent in Italian endorses the study manual:
The book, The Gift of Self, is long overdue because it addresses a topic for too long neglected: how to live one's marriage vows after divorce. This is not a self-pity book, laying blame or fault. Neither is it simply another book about coping with life after divorce.

It is an insightful work drawing on faith and love to face the challenge of continuing to live one's "I do" after the conjugal life has broken down. St. Paul says that "love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8). Maria Campanella, herself divorced, traces out of her own experience for the divorced Catholic how to live in an even deeper manner through the sacramental life of the Church the reality of what the marriage vows are intended to be for each spouse: an enduring path of personal and mutual sanctification through married love, and as a process of true and all-encompassing healing for spirit, mind and soul. She shows how married love not only can, but needs to continue for the spiritual growth of the spouses themselves.

An entirely new dimension of married life and love is opened up for divorced Catholics in The Gift of Self. The reality of Christ's love as source and example for a divorced Catholic is revealed with a clarity that can only be called inspired, and truly timely.

Lisa Everett, who along with her husband co-directs the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Forte Wayne-South Bend in Indiana, also reviewed the St. Mary of Cana study manual. She said the book, “contains a beautiful and profound spirituality for spouses who find themselves drawn into the mystery of Christ’s passion and death because of separation and divorce.” On a practical note, Everett explained that the manual “offers helpful direction to parishes and pastoral ministers in providing concrete material, emotional and spiritual support to those who have been abandoned by a spouse.”

The mission of Mary's Advocates is to strengthen marriage, to eliminate forced no-fault divorce, and to support those who have been unjustly abandoned by their spouse. We emphasize the constitutional rights of those who choose to enter traditional marriage, namely the right to uphold the intentions of both parties in a contract, and the right to freely practice one's religion. Bai Mcfarlane is the founder.

Mary's Advocates:


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