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Hope and healing through Christ: Deacon Donald Weiss’ ministry to adult children of divorce and separation

2024 marks the 50th Jubilee of the Permanent Diaconate here in the Archdiocese of Denver. Through preaching, service, worship and prayer, deacons serve the people of God in unique ways through their various ministries and lives. This article is one of a series of articles the Denver Catholic will publish in 2024 which will feature local deacons and/or a diaconal ministry. There are many Deacon Saints who were martyred for their faith. In this year of Jubilee, the deacons of the Archdiocese of Denver are asking for prayers through the intercession of Saint Euplius of Cantania, deacon and martyr. Learn more about this Deacon Saint here.

 

Imagine finding your seat at a parish dinner and then finding… your vocation?

For Deacon Donald Weiss, there were certainly a few steps between, but it was a providential seating next to his parish pastor at a parish mission dinner that opened the door.

Invited by his pastor to a retreat at the Abbey of St. Walburga, Deacon Weiss and his pastor made the trek some time after the parish mission. On their way, Deacon Weiss’ pastor looked over at him and asked, “Have you ever considered the diaconate?”

“From that point on, there was this incredible sense of joy that came over me, and I couldn’t get rid of it in the weeks after that,” Deacon Weiss said of the initial invitation to discernment.

From there, he prayed, discerned and applied, but he missed the application deadline for that particular formation year.

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Disappointed, Deacon Weiss prayed, “Okay, God, if you want this to happen, then let it happen.” Sure enough, he received a phone call a year later, “and the rest is history,” he said.

Years later, his sense of joy continues and permeates Deacon Weiss’ ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Collins and with Life-Giving Wounds, a ministry to adult children of divorce and separation.

With the estimates of between 25 and 50% of American children having experienced the divorce of their parents, Life-Giving Wounds seeks to help individuals “give voice to their pain and find transformative healing in Christ,” as the organization’s mission statement says.

Though many speak of divorce in “happy talk,” with two Christmases and two birthdays, Deacon Weiss said the reality is quite different.

“What we’ve learned since then is that this is really a trauma,” he told the Denver Catholic. “A trauma is something where you can’t match up what you’re experiencing with what your mind is telling you that you should be.”

Whether the wound of the loss of their parents’ love, the wound of silence or any number of other wounds, the adults Deacon Weiss serves often find themselves deeply affected in ways that many do not understand fully.

“Oftentimes, they’re told to get with the program,” he said, pointing to the mistaken belief that divorce is only between the parents and that it does not involve the children. This belief often silences the children’s reactions, though “it really does affect them,” Deacon Weiss shared.

In the face of such difficulty, Deacon Weiss serves as a beacon of the hope, healing and joy made possible in Christ. Through his ministry with Life-Giving Wounds, he points to the deep wounds of Christ, the source of life for the world, as a source of new life for those he serves.

“‘Life-Giving Wounds’ comes from the greatest wounds, which are the wounds of Christ,” Deacon Weiss said. “His were the most life-giving because they gave us salvation and victory over death.”

“We invite Christ into their own wounds. He’s the great healer. He’s the one that does all the healing,” he continued. “Of anybody that could have gotten rid of his wounds in the Upper Room, it would have been Jesus. And he chose to keep his wounds so that he can help us to align our wounds, our hurts, with him and to invite him into those wounds and let him help heal those wounds.”

As they draw near to Jesus, himself wounded, and understanding of their own wounds, greater healing is made possible. Just as Christ’s own wounds were glorified – not rejected – in his Resurrection, so too can the wounds of adult children of divorce and separation – and ours, too.

“To be able to take the wounds of those adult children of divorce and to bring them to Christ and have him help to heal them, that provides a great sense of hope, I think,” Deacon Weiss concluded. “People will say, ‘It’s great that I know that I’m not alone.’ And there’s some hope. That’s what we’re trying to do: bring them hope and some tools to help them to work with Christ to do that healing.”

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For more information on the ministry of Life-Giving Wounds in the Archdiocese of Denver, click here.

André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira, Jr.
André Escaleira is the Managing Editor of the Denver Catholic and El Pueblo Católico. Originally from Connecticut, André moved to Denver in 2018 to work as a missionary with Christ in the City, where he served for two years.
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