North Jersey Friar Helps Heal Estranged Couples

HNP Communications Friar News

WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. — Thomas Kelly, OFM, of Assumption Church here, led a retreat for separated and divorced men and women last month, following a tradition he started nearly 14 years ago with two Secular Franciscans.

Approximately 30 people attended the June 12 to 14 gathering at the Sacred Heart Center in Newton, N.J.

kelly-bThomas, parochial vicar at Assumption, gave the retreat with Mary Ann and Milton Smilek, members of the Secular Franciscan Organization from West Milford, N.J., who have been giving retreats for nearly 40 years.

Each year, Thomas and his Franciscan retreat team give three retreats for separated and divorced individuals. The retreats comprise talks, discussions and prayers. Thomas is careful to distinguish the event as a retreat and not a workshop.

“About 14 years ago, we realized the need for those who have been separated or divorced to participate in a retreat,” he said. “The purpose for giving this type of retreat was to help strengthen family life and heal broken spirits. Those who attend are helped to cope by giving them hope and purpose in their new lives. The retreat helps them to reconnect with the Church and their sacramental lives.”

He added: “Our first hope, of course, is always reconciliation of the troubled couples.”

If reconciliation is not possible, then Thomas said the retreat helps them examine their situations and their futures in creating new lives.

“We help the participants determine what they think the Lord wants them to do now,” he said. “The team helps them go from Gospel to life and life to Gospel by helping them implement the Gospel into their lives.

“The team also helps them to cope with the stress, grief, emotions and suffering they may experience. It helps them plan for a new life for them and their children.”

The Smileks are parishioners of St. Joseph Church in West Milford, N.J., a parish formerly staffed by Holy Name Province.

Thomas, a native of Philadelphia, has been ministering for 14 years at Assumption, where Brian Cullinane, OFM, is pastor.