Conference offers hope to widowed, divorced, separated - Catholic Courier

Conference offers hope to widowed, divorced, separated

Everyone needs to lean on someone else at some point in life, and people who are separated, divorced or widowed are no exception. That’s why “Lean on Me” is the theme of the ninth-annual Hope Conference, which will be held April 12 at St. Theodore Church, 168 Spencerport Road in Gates.

“The title and lyrics to (the song) ‘Lean on Me’ also lets us know that we can lean on others and on our Lord through others during our difficult times,” said Peggy Cunningham, who organized the conference with her husband, Deacon John Cunningham, who ministers at St. Christopher Parish in North Chili.

The daylong conference is devoted to a holistic approach to the journey through the process of grief and the renewing of hope within oneself. It will include a keynote presentation by Dr. Dennis Boike, a Rochester-area marriage and family therapist; workshops about grief, rebuilding and moving on; Mass with Bishop Matthew H. Clark; and three meals. Boike’s keynote, “Pain, Pain, Go Away, Come Again Some Other Way,” will look at ways to work through the pain and problems that go with becoming single again, so they do not become a barrier in the way of future relationships and emotional health.

After the keynote presentation, participants may choose to attend one of four workshops offered in the morning, and after a lunch break they may choose one of the three afternoon workshops offered. The morning workshops will deal with grief, annulments, the clutter in our lives and ways to look at the past, present and future to determine who God is calling us to be now. The afternoon workshops will deal with grief, hope in spirituality and a holistic health perspective to self-care.

Participants will come together again at 4:15 for Deacon Cunningham’s closing presentation, “Lean on Me,” in which he will talk about mending relationships, the healing power of forgiveness and the value of leaning on someone else for strength. Bishop Clark will celebrate Mass at 5:30 p.m., and the conference will conclude with a pizza dinner at 6 p.m.

The conference provides an important opportunity for widowed, divorced and separated people to come together, realize they’re not alone and support each other, Peggy Cunningham said.

“Grief due to loss of a relationship can lead a person to withdraw from life and destroy their self-image. They often think they are unique and don’t have coping skills. It is important to let them know that the church loves and cares for them,” she said.

Cunningham said divorced, widowed and separated people often tell her it’s hard for them to go to church by themselves, and that it seems as though everyone else is there with a spouse. Others might feel uncertain about where they fit into their parish community now and what the church thinks of them, especially if they’re separated or divorced, she said.

“This is a peer-support ministry. The conference is a time to come together with others in their state of life for support, hope and healing,” Cunningham said.

Preregistration for the conference is encouraged, but walk-ins will be welcomed. The cost of the conference is $20 per person for those who preregister, and the fee includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. After April 5 the registration cost goes up to $25.

For more information or to register, call the Cunninghams at 585-617-4614 or e-mail them at To view the conference brochure, visit and click on the Hope Conference link.

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