My name is Michele Coppola-Wilson. I met my husband, Jim, on Catholic Singles in 2011, and after two years of dating, we got married in 2013.
Together, we have six children, my two daughters and his daughter and three sons. It is a blended family and while it isn’t always perfect, there is always opportunity for healing and hope and love, most of all!
MY DIVORCE EXPERIENCE
My first marriage of 18 years ended in divorce in 2010, a process which took about 18 months. I always think about those two numbers being the same. How could it only take 18 months to end an 18 year marriage?
And I come up with this……
God always answers us, sometimes it’s a “yes”, sometimes it’s a “not yet” and most times, it is “I have a better plan for you”. However, that does not mean that I believe divorce is always the answer, and I don’t think it should be the only choice!
After my divorce in 2010, I attended a divorce support group at my parish. It was my lifeline! Being around people who understood me and shared my feelings and experiences was comforting when it seemed as if I was so alone. Through a book program, the facilitator led us to healing and hope!
MY FACILITATOR ROLE IN DIVORCE
In 2012, at a meeting that took place at the Family Life Office at the Archdiocese of Newark, Archbishop Meyers recommended to the priests in attendance, a new program to be instituted in all the parishes for divorced and separated Catholics. It was a program developed by Rose Sweet called “Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family”. (Rose Sweet was the only speaker on divorce at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015).
My pastor, Father Anthony Randazzo of Notre Dame in North Caldwell was at that meeting. He took this part of the agenda and wrote my name on the paper and handed it to his secretary when he got back to the church that afternoon. Angela then reached out to me and said Father Anthony wanted to see me. When I went to the Rectory that week, he handed me a box of supplies and told me that God was calling me to this ministry. We talked for hours and I entered a part of my prayer life and spiritual life that I did not see coming. I was newly divorced and I had no idea how I was going to do this ministry as a layperson. However, I was always taught that when a priest asks you to do something, it is like God is asking you, and so….you say “yes”!
I received my training to facilitate this program (www.catholicsdivorce.com) in 2012. Being only divorced a year myself, at first I found it quite daunting. I wanted to help, but I didn’t know how. My training through Janet McCormack, a wonderful kind soul at the Family Life Office in Newark, revealed to me that all I had to do “was set the table, and God would do the rest”. I discovered that just when I didn’t know how to help or what to say, the Holy Spirit would enter the room. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of them” Matthew 18:20. In our meetings, the Holy Spirit entered and it wasn’t me that brought them to healing. I was blessed to witness the awesome presence of God while He met them where they were and helped them discover themselves that, in them were all the answers and the strength they needed to heal. I was graced to just watch. It has been a great blessing in my life!
For 4 years, I ran this program in Essex County traveling up the parkway in 2013 after my re-marriage and move to Monmouth County, and I continued to facilitate at my home parish. By 2014, I had successfully recruited and trained two of my co-facilitators in Essex County to take over the program there. So, on I went to bring this ministry to Monmouth County.
In 2014, I called the Diocese of Trenton and asked for their blessing. I was asked by the Director of Pastoral Care to be part of the Core Advisory Group for Divorced and Separated Catholics at the Diocese of Trenton. What a great honor that has been! With that designation, I could help other facilitators grow this program in Monmouth County and be a resource to so many more people looking for help just like I was so many years ago! However, we hit a dead end. The Diocese was only running a yearly event and there was no support on the parish level from the Diocese to grow the ministry. I realized I had to take matters into my own hands!
With my ministry being supported at Nativity by Father Jim Grogan, I was able to release the ties that bind and flourish with the full support of my new home parish. The resources provided to me through Nativity have been instrumental in helping me grow this ministry. In 2018, I received training to “train facilitators” in this program directly from Rose Sweet and have already started a group in Ocean County. I am currently scheduled to train at least 6 other facilitators in January to run groups out of two other parishes in Monmouth County.
My dream is being realized!
I am on fire with the Holy Spirit and hope to duplicate the success I have had with my divorce program at Nativity in Fair Haven. My goal is to spread support groups throughout New Jersey so that everyone can find a group for healing in their area!
I have a Psychology degree, and a Paralegal Certification from the American Bar Association. I received training and am certified as a Professional Divorce Mediator in the State of New Jersey. Through this experience, I have formed a business called, “Life Change & Transitions LLC”. (www.mylifechangecoach.com). The goal of that business is to (1) help couples consider reconciliation one more time before divorcing, (2) provide marriage coaching to couples who are struggling, (3) provide divorce coaching to individuals who are in need of healing post-divorce and (4) to show couples a more amicable way to divorce through different avenues that do not involve contentious, litigious and expense divorce through litigation in the Courts.
My business is comprised of all of the training, certifications and skills that I have acquired for decades leading me to my passion which I have coined “Discernment Coaching”. The goal is to help guide couples to consider reconciliation. I do not believe that divorce is the only choice! Through mediation-style techniques, and with compassion and empathy, I help couples explore marriage education. We are taught how to get married, but we are not taught how to be married. Divorces occur because couples don’t know how to make this work. Marriage counseling doesn’t help. So, couples are left with the only other avenue they see, divorce.
It is imperative that couples return to the place where it all began: the Church. As we empower couples with the knowledge on how to have a sacramental marriage, how to carry what they promised at the altar into their lives with concrete tools on how to get there, we begin to “divorce proof” marriages and provide couples with the skills and tools to have an extraordinary marriage.
If the couples choose divorce after Discernment Coaching with me, I strongly urge them to choose Mediation and Collaborative Divorce over Litigation. I work with a team of professionals who work effortlessly together with Catholic values and principles, in order to help families “divorce” in an amicable and loving way - - so that the relationship between the former spouses can be civil for the sake of their children. Maintaining a compassionate relationship is key in ensuring the least possible amount of collateral damage to their children. Divorce does not have to destroy families.
MY ROLE AS FACILITATOR OF MARRIAGE MINISTRY
I have been an Ambassador at Dynamic Catholic, Matthew Kelly’s company since 2014 as part of his initiative to “re-energize the Catholic Church in America by developing world-class resources that inspire people to rediscover the genius of Catholicism”.
In 2015, my husband and I handed out one of Matthew Kelly’s books called, “Rediscover Jesus” at St. James Parish in Red Bank and were successful at handing out hundreds of books on Christmas Eve in the snow to fellow parishioners. It was a magical night!
In 2016, I ran a book club for divorced and separated Catholics at Nativity using Matthew Kelly’s book, “Resisting Happiness” which helped the brokenhearted to harness the power to find their happiness through our Lord and our faith, where true happiness lies!
In 2017, I became involved in marriage ministry at Nativity. I have recruited a team of four couples, including Jim and I, and through Team Formation we have begun to see how to bring a marriage enrichment program to the Diocese at the parish level. Our Team decided on a program called “Better Together” by? You guessed it! Matthew Kelly! Once our Team decided on this for the program, I met with Peg Hensler, Director of Marriage Ministries at the Diocese of Trenton, to apprise her of our team formation and selection of program. Imagine my surprise to find out that the Diocese is using the same program for marriage ministry at the Diocesan level!
In 2018, I received Certification through Connected Marriage (www.connectedmarriage.org) to assist couples in Marriage Coaching to help me prepare for this ministry. I also read books and listened to podcasts about marriage from the top experts, Mort Fertel, Gary Chapman and John Gottman.
Nativity is going to be the pilot program for struggling marriages. We are going to be working with our Pre-Cana team to help form this Marriage Enrichment Ministry. We hope to get this running by the Spring of 2020. It will be a program to help couples who are looking to renew and strengthen their marriages. Through my personal practice, I have had much success in helping couples consider reconciliation one more time before choosing divorce as an option. I have had a 97% success rate with many couples choosing to stay together and “divorce proof” their marriage. I will bring this success of my business to the marriage ministry at Nativity.
I don’t have all the answers, but I can promise this. People will find support and healing in my ministry or in my business, no matter which route they take because I understand marriage difficulty and divorce. I also understand re-marriage and blending of families. I have a keen awareness of what a marriage needs to thrive and be successful, as I work on that in my own marriage every day. I have been through the tragedy of divorce and I have emerged on the other side. I have had to research what makes a marriage successful because I don’t want my second marriage to fail. I understand the pain and the conflict of divorce, having also been a child of divorce. I want…. No…..I NEED to help people because it is what I am being called to do. I welcome this gift with boundless energy and hope. God is waiting in the quiet, empty spaces where people find themselves when they feel they are alone. They are not! God is there waiting. My programs and ministry are designed to help people find Him, themselves and peace. All they have to do is say: “Yes”!