Divorced single parent with cancer


I am a convert to the Catholic faith (Easter 2003) from non-denominationalism and Lutheranism. I am also a divorced single parent of three. Ever since my conversion, I have felt marginalized by the parish and the Church. I feel like I have been treated as a 2nd class citizen because of my circumstances. I am divorced, I do not date, and try to live my life in accordance with Church teachings.

Last year I was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. I have been in and out of the hospital and continue to receive chemotherapy treatments. My medical bills are mounting. I continue to work because I am the sole bread winner and need the insurance. My parish priest and the faith formation director know of my circumstances. Yet they have not offered help of any kind except “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Some individual parish members have helped and one visited me in the hospital.

In the meantime, I had begun to attend a Foursquare home group that was studying Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project”. The people in this group have loved me and prayed for me. They have given me money (unsolicited, of course!) to help with the medical bills. They have called me and been my friends, and are even planning a garage sale to help defray the medical costs. They don’t treat me like a 2nd class citizen, they don’t care that I was married and divorced. They just love me as Christ told us to love.

So now I’m torn. I believe in the Church and all that she teaches. Yet in real life, day to day living in parish life, I don’t see the love and concern that you would expect from Christ’s Church. I felt excluded from the beginning, that as a single parent I had no role or place in the parish because we weren’t an “intact” family. And here this whole situation with the Foursquare folks really puts it in focus. I want to remain Catholic, but I feel marginalized in our Church. I am drawn to the Foursquare church because of the love and concern that they have shown us in this time of crisis. They don’t care that I’m divorced. They treat me as a person, not a sinner.

Right now my heath is fairly good, but the long term prognosis is less than 5 years. All the medical research that I have seen clearly says that this form of cancer has a poor prognosis. There is no cure except for taking out the tumor, and they tried to do that and failed. I’m really at a crisis of both faith and health right now.


For a start, I’m sorry you’re going through all this. I was once a single parent. I know how hard it is, and can’t begin to imagine going through all the heartache of terminal cancer.

Now then- Is the Catholic parish you attend the absolute, only parish available, period, in your area? I ask because in researching “Pacific Northwest” in Oregon or Washington or Idaho I see no bishop who mandates that people stay within certain geographical boundaries. Perhaps you could find another parish. I don’t know about BC, but I think Phemie or somebody could help out with that. But I’m assuming since you need help with medical bills, you are in the US.

My second question would be, have you asked your priest and your faith formation director for help, being as specific as possible? While I admit that in our parish, we would ask first, and our priest would ask as soon as he heard, some people might not know that you need help, or how to suggest it. They might not want to intrude on your privacy. And when people are dying, some people don’t know what to say.

If you are talking about hospital visits and you’re in the US, you have to tell the parish each and every time, due to HIPAA laws.The parish is not allowed to ask the hospital.

Finally, in additon to telling your priest or any other priest that you need help, have you sat down with him and said, “Listen Father, this is the assistance I have been receiving from the Foursquare church down the road. What’s up with my own parish, in that they can’t help me?” I think it’s a fair question. I also think he should know that you have resorted to the Foursquare church for your emotional needs. He’s human, and certainly not a mind reader.

I don’t know about in the Pacific Northwest, but here in the Chicago area, in addition to anything the parish did, you would be referred to St. Vincent dePaul and Catholic Charities, along with a Catholic hospital. Catholics are not as autonomous in their aid as other ecclesial communities, but generally work within a larger organization. When my husband was in the hospital for a life-threatening illness this past winter, it helped immensely that he was in a Catholic hospital. While they cleared some cloudiness in our helath insurance, he was never denied treatment, and I was told he would never be denied treatment, even if we had no insurance.

If you don’t think I’m trying to shove you off, you have my prayers as well.



I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through. I have a few questions because I was not sure from your post. You said that the priest was aware of your circumstances but you were receiving more support from your Foursquare group? Is it possible that this group knows more about what is going on? I know when I talk to my parish priest it is usually pretty brief after Mass and there is a large group of parishioners they say hi to. Being busy is not always an excuse but maybe that is it. When you attend this foursquare group do you have more time to go into detail about what is going on in your life? I could be wrong of course, but is it possible that the parish does not know that you need money and help because you have not asked?

Also, I am not sure what you mean by being treated as a second class citizen? Are you shunned or treated poorly? Have you been told that you are a bad person or is this an impression that you get? I know people in my parish that are single parents. In fact, I cannot think of a single church that does not have people attending that have been divorced or are single parents. I am not sure why your church members would treat your poorly, that would be just awful if they did. Is it that you are made to feel like a bad person or perhaps is it because they don’t have a support group for the separated and divorced?

I cannot imagine your grief at this time. I wish I had some magic words that could take away your pain. I only want to leave you with this: You don’t have to make a choice at this time…you can have friends of another faith and still remain Catholic! You said you beleived in all the church teaches…that is great. You said you have found good friends of another denomination, that is great too!

You have so much going on at this time, so many emotions, hurts and fears…this may not be the best time to make a decision to leave the faith you found because of the bad behavior of a few people. I beleive there are probably inconsiderate people in the Foursquare church too, there are sinners everywhere, including myself and everyone here. I hope you find peace somehow and that in addition to finding your spiritual home in the Catholic church, that you also find good friendship there too. You said some people visited you? Perhaps call them again, they must care! God bless, hope this helps a little bit, praying for you.


I live in a rural are in the Pacific Northwest, and the nearest parishes are 10-15 miles away. My priest does know that I have cancer and am fighting it, as does the DFF. After being self-sufficient for 13 years, it is hard to admit I need help. People in my parish do know that I’m suffering, but no one has stepped forward to help like the Foursquare folks.

Are the people at the Foursquare meeting my emotional needs? I would have to say yes. The Catholic Church has met my intellectual needs, but after nearly six years, I have really not made any emotional connections at my parish. I just don’t fit in. Everyone is married. I know of only one single man my age (mid-forties). I know no divorced people. I am not making this up. I tried to get a group for single people my age, and the DFF said there was “no interest”. I pointed out to him that maybe there is “no interest” is because they have gone elsewhere to get their needs met. I joined a Catholic Bible study group and everyone there was at least 20 years older than I and most have been married as long as I’ve been alive. Now that is a wonderful thing, but they certainly don’t understand where I am coming from, or relate to me in any way, nor I to them.

So here I am, facing this horrible cancer, and the people in my parish who should be there for me are no where to be found. This is very distressing and disappointing. I’m not going to say it’s all their fault. I could have made more of an effort. But trying to make a living and raise kids on my own has consumed all of my energies. The kids haven’t seen their father in about five years - his choice.

In a way cancer is a blessing, because now I don’t have to worry about retirement :slight_smile:


Dear Philena, I am sad to hear what is happening to you. I do understand you have only had energy for the children and work. I see my son in the same situation. He’s a single Dad and the mother lives in another state, giving no assistance whatever. He too is lonely.
Your situation make my heart ache. Unfortunately I’m on another continent…and I wish I weren’t living on the breadline myself as I feel helpless to help you. I care though.

With love, Trishie


As you can see by the number of responses to my thread, Catholics don’t really know how to deal with divorced people. This is why I feel like a second class citizen. You’d rather talk about “emasculated males” or some such nonsense.

Sorry I started the thread. And thanks to the people who care.


That is not true at all. There are periods where there aren’t many people on the forums and it takes a while for a response. I’ve been a single-never-been-married mother for almost 4 years now (4 year in October when my dd’s birthday is) and at first I felt as if I was being judged, but then I realized it was all my perception. I became friends with parishoners who were my age, as well as older than me. My friends are either single with no children or married for 20+ years. But guess what? Even those who are married have family (children, siblings, etc.) who are divorced and struggling and so have a lot of sympathy, but I needed to come out of my shell to tell my story. Sometimes you have to make yourself vulnerable to get what you’re looking for, and what you seem to be looking for is emotional help as well as monetary help. And maybe the monetary help will come in the form of someone offering to watch your children while you get some rest or provide a meal for your family. And as another poster stated, HIPPA laws are such that unless you speak up, no one can visit you in a hospital because hospitals are not allowed to even disclose your room number over the phone, let alone answer the question “Is Philena hospitalized right now?”

It will be okay to let your guard down and be vulnerable to your parish community. Not only will it help you, but it will be a good example to your children (do you really want them to try to do everything on their own, especially when they need help the most?). Married parishoners rarely judge divorcees. And you know what, there are probably a lot more divorcees or divorcees who are remarried in your parish than you think. They just may not want nor need the support group that you desire. And I’m almost positive that there are a good number of parishoners who have lost loved one’s to cancer. I know that in my own family I have lost 3 grandparents and two aunts to cancer, not to mention I have cousins who have had dramatic procedures done to their bodies to decrease their chances of cancer.

You will be in my prayers, first and most importantly for your health and your journey toward eternal life, then for your children and their strength through this, and finally for your search in healing from your divorce.


I’m sorry but you don’t get off that easily. That was unfair to Trishie, all the way in God’s Own Country. And unfair to us. You started this thread on Memorial Day (US)weekend. A lot of people are out of town, and not everybody packs a computer in their luggage.:wink:

I am **not **sorry you started the thread. It gives us the opportunity to talk.

What did you expect when you started the thread? That’s really a question I am asking, not rhetoric. I don’t know the answer, because you weren’t specific. Can you be more specific? Can you tell us what you expected when you started the thread? Are you looking for a way to make your parish change? Are you looking for a way to tell your priest you need assistance? Are you looking for other avenues to get assistance, whether spiritual or material? Are you just expressing a complaint? Do you expect us to complain as well? HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?

Maybe the people at the Foursquare church read minds. Maybe they are more 1-on-1. To write ALL Catholics off as treating you as a second-class citizen is disingenuous.

I flunked mind reading. I’m sure your parish priest and faith formation director flunked mind reading. Yes, you asked about forming a group that fit your criteria, for single parents, and it didn’t fly. Yes, you told them you had terminal cancer. You did not tell your priest or the FFD that you needed assistance. You expected them to guess. Catholics are more reticent than other groups. We don’t intrude if we are not asked. They might not want to offend you.

Catholic churches do not “do” groups based on age and marital status, unless you count kids. K of C, Catholic Daughters of American, Altar and Rosary- other than being an adult or a gender, age does not matter. Go look at a K of C meeting, with the young guys mixed in with the geezers. Even Theology on Tap programs and “youth” programs have a wide age range, and include people from a variety of marital status.

It is *not *wrong for those of us who are married and over 40 to be so. I am sorry your marriage failed. I am sorry you feel left out because you don’t have a husband, and everybody else does, or is a widow with 40 or 50 years of married life under her belt. It doesn’t make one group selfish, and it doesn’t make the other a pariah. That might be the way you feel, but it is not necessarily true.

You gave your parish the chance to try to come up with something, even though it didn’t work out. Could you not give your priest the opportunity to try to help you, after you tell him what it is you need? Could you not try the other parish, even if it is a bit of a drive? Maybe they are different at the other parish.

And once again, Catholic parishes are not autonomous as Foursquare churches are. Often, service comes in bigger groups that develop from the deanery, diocese, or even the country. Parishes have limited funds, and limited ways to assist. But the deanery, which is a congolmeration of parishes, has more opportunity, as does the diocese.

Perhaps in your literal neck of the woods there are no singles or divorced Catholics. Having been divorced once, I know in my area that often the divorced Catholics meet on a deanery or diocese-wide level. Have you inquired at your chancery office for the diocese? Have you told your diocese that you need help, that you are dying even if it is slow, and nobody in your parish will help you?

I am praying that you come up with the courage to ask some questions of the people in your parish, esp. your priest and the diocese staff. If you decide to contact your diocese, as I don’t know which one it is, here are the links to all in what could be considered the Pacific Northwest, and I don’t want to intrude on your privacy:










I can’t imagine how scary it must be to face cancer, especially as a parent…and even more a single parent. Do you have a support system from family or friends outside of your parish? You will most definitely find a support system here. We will be here to “listen” when you need to vent or ramble on about your most trivial thoughts. That I will promise you.

It sounds to me like maybe you are dealing with depression. Depression can really make us feel isolated. Maybe you should mention this to your doctor and see what he/she thinks.

Hang in there. You have one heck of a road ahead of you but there’s nothing you can’t get through with Jesus. He will be there for you even when if feels like nobody else will. So focus on Him and He’ll take care of everything else. You will be in my prayers. :wink:


**I am sorry you feel that way. I read your post the first day you posted but was unsure of what to say. And that is not because I don’t know “how to deal with divorced people” but because I wasn’t sure what you wanted. I hope you don’t truly in your heart believe that Catholics as a group really see you as a second class citizen!

I echo the thoughts of letting people like your priest and diocese KNOW what kind of help you need. It is great that the Foursquare people have reached out to you, and that is also God’s doing. But you can’t be mad because others have NOT. I know it is HARD to ask for help and it is always easier if someone just offers. But when that happens it is a huge blessing and rather rare, not something that should be expected.

There are many people in this world who are going through all kinds of situations that require assistance (emotional ,financial, spiritual etc) and I bet there are many in your own parish. It is impossible for everyone to help everyone all of the time. Sad as it is, some people just fall through the cracks. If and when that happens, nobody is going to speak up for you other than you. You have to be vulnerable in order to receive help. If you are still projecting that air of “I can take care of myself” then people are less likely to offer help because they risk offending you. They are not right or wrong. It is just how it is.

I am sorry that you are going through all of this. I can’t even imagine what it is like. Now I know why I hesitated in posting…it’s not because I don’t know how to deal with divorced people…it’s because I don’t know how to deal with terminally ill people. That is a failing in me that I need to work on.

I pray that you find some peace in your life and can experience as much joy as possible and if you do die young that you leave your children with happy memories of what a strong and loving mom you are.


I second the poster that said that a lot of us have problems of knowing what to say to someone with a terminal illness. I really don’t know what to say. My heart goes out to you!! It scares me just to think about it, I can just imagine how you deal with it every day!!!

As far as your parish goes, maybe you just have a bum parish. I hope to just remind you that if you do have a bum parish, it is the parish, not the Church!!! I am a letter writer, so I guess what I would do is to write my priest (and parish) a letter asking for help, if that does not work, I would then go to the diocese, and on up. I would also try to get an appointment with a social worker at any local Catholic hospital, if you have one. Social Workers seem to know the ins and outs of everything. As far as having more fellowship with the foursquare group, I guess all I can say is that I have seen many threads from people who say that some protestant churches offer more fellowship than they see in their Catholic parish. I guess that is just a fact that some parishes need to work on. Although, I do not see fellowship as a reason to leave the Church. I guess biblically the only way I can see it is that Jesus was not going around looking for fellowship nor preaching about how the Church needs to be fellowship minded. Personally, my parish offers this group called Christ Renews His Parish. From what I have heard those groups offer A LOT of fellowship in our parish. If your parish does not have one, maybe your diocese does, it is a weekend retreat and I know our diocese offers child care assistance when people with children attend. They also provide lodging and meals.

As far as your thread not getting as much attention as others. I am with you there. There have been some threads that just blow my mind how much attention they get and how others get lost. I think 90% of us do not know what to say to someone that has terminal cancer. Yes it is more our problem than yours, best we can ask for if that you stick around and help us through it :wink:

Please feel free to PM me anytime!!! I am always willing to listen to someone blow off steam!!!

Peace be with you!!


My, what a strange Parish you are in - there are no divorced people? I’ve been Catholic in different states across half the US, and in every place I’ve lived, the statistics for Catholics mirror the rest of the world. Roughly half are or have been divorced. Frankly, I’ve never seen a group in any Parish that excluded divorced people, single parents, etc.

Have you reached out to the other parents? You will meet most of these by becoming involved with CCD/RE or youth group (where there are kids, there are parents).

You might also check into your Parish pro-life group, the social justice committee… and do not be afraid to ask for help.

Praying for you!


**Let me address the spiritual warfare aspect here since it has not yet been addressed (I don’t think, sorry if I missed it).

You have a terminal illness. You are Catholic. The devil doesn’t have a lot of time left to win your soul. So he is LOVING that you are having doubts right now. He is LOVING that you are disillusioned with the Church and feel so isolated from your Catholic brothers and sisters.

Back when you first divorced he thought he won you. But you fought back. You stayed Catholic. You didn’t fall into the whole “I need to date to be happy so who cares what the Church says” lie. He was angry. So he devised an even better way to draw you away. Loneliness, fear, anger, and hurt. If you do not turn towards Christ and His Church during this time there is only one other way to turn. And he is LOVING it.

So fight. Fight like your soul depends on it. It does.

Have you ever thought that there may not be many Catholic divorced people who are still active in their faith life? Most examples that I know of seem to forget that the Church that they clam to believe in and love has the fullness of the Truth once it affects their sex life. So they ignore Her. Get invalidly married again. Pretend that all is well. I doubt there are as many as strong in their faith as you have proved to be. And before anyone gets upset, I know there are many faithful Catholic divorced people here at CAF…but this is not an accurate representation of “real life”.

Your faith is being tested. Give your children something to be even more proud of about you than they already are.



No prob. And it was sweet of you to open a prayer thread.


I agree with the others who wrote they didn’t know what to say to someone with a terminal illness. But I am going to tell you what I would tell anyone who might have written what I quoted above.

The wonderful people you met through this Protestant Christian group got to know you and you got to know them. *It is much easier to get to know people in small group settings. *There are small group opportunities in the Catholic Church, but frankly in my experience, Protestants tend to offer more small groups–or at least they are easier to find. Also in my experience, several denominations (and “non-denominations”) use the small groups a way that they recruit and grow membership. That’s not a criticism–we are called to evangelize.

Back when I attended a Protestant church with my husband, we participated actively in small groups and helped promote small groups. It was much easier back then for us to participate in (and even lead) these studies because we significanly fewer children. I miss small group studies, yet I have not been able to participate much in those that my parish offers because I have a larger family now that requires my attention. For many Catholics, the small group they participate in is their family.

I also recognize the wonderful experience that you write about regarding a small group study, but I sincerely hope this group does not draw you out of the Catholic Church. I do not snub divorced or single parents, nor do I look down on someone like you who strives to follow the Church teachings. If you are in need of financial assistance, I suggest you contact Catholic Charities. Also please note that many hospitals were started by small groups from religious orders within the Catholic Church. This isn’t quite the same as your small group experience, but Catholics do provide significant assistance to those in need of help.


Dear Philena, I’m thinking of you.

Am wondering though if you know the effect of the atmosphere we project that affect others’ impression of us. On the way walking home from Mass, thinking of you, I was recalling one evening in winter, when I came out of the church after Vigil Mass. It was dark, and as usual (except for the offered lifts home) I was walking. As I turned into the street, a man swung towards me, dressed in a tracksuit, with a knitted beanie on his head. “Hello”, he said. I felt nervous because one could sense he had an agenda, but I managed a smile and a mouthed “hello back.” I walked a little way, then felt quite stricken and hurried back. I was sad that the man had disappeared. I felt it didn’t matter I was nervous, but that he maybe needed help.

When my parish priest admitted next Sunday that he’d been trying an experiment to see how much welcome he would receive, I explained to him, “It was clear you had an agenda, and you seemed scary for that reason.” He hadn’t realised how he’d come across. And perhaps we often don’t. Did you come into the church feeling at a disadvantage? If you did, people probably picked up on it and felt you wanted distance. The sense they had of your tentative attitude would have made them unconsciously uncomfortable.

When my Mum died at age 43, leaving nine children ranging from 4 years old to 18, my Dad was desolate. However as soon as he recovered from illness that crashed in on him on the night of her funeral, my Dad went back to work. He was head of a government department, therefor took up his responsibilities with his usual natural dignity. He is a slim, handsome man who is quite naturally a gentleman.

Many of the staff did not approach or commiserate. The most senior woman later was to explain why. My Dad broke his clavical during a game of departmental Cricket. This senior woman, who lived deeper in the suburbs than we did, began driving him to and from work until his shoulder healed. She said, “we thought he was proud, so we didn’t want to bother him.” No, he’s not proud, but people interpreted his quiet dignity as such…and people don’t always read us right, but they do get that there is something, or some agenda holding them back, as your fear of rejection that you were a divorced Catholic. That lady discovered what a lovely man my Dad really is, intelligent, charming, good, and with a fine sense of humour, and the day came when I said to her, “you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for…” She replied simply, “I cant help it. I love him…” And so they married and she was deeply in love for him until her death in 2000. So much for wrong impressions!

It can be hard to change our projection to others, but nothing can make us more distant to others than self-doubt or fear of rejection. Unknowingly, we wear it like a shield. I know. I used to be the shyest thing this side of the Black Stump. Now, because every person I pass or meet is someone I have good-will towards, just naturally, not in a saccharine way, they “hook” into that and I couldn’t tell you how many strangers smile at me as I walk past, and how many acquaintances I have cheerful, and sometimes sympathic interactions with…my old schoolfriends would have been stunned if they’d know…athough I shouldn’t say “schoolfriends” because they hardly noticed, and walked around me!
What we believe and therefore project does radically affect how others relate to us…so please start seeing yourself as a precious, valuable member of your parish community. You’re not ‘a divorced person’ you are YOU.
With much love, Trishie


Whoa…I will try and be kind because you are hurting so much…

This board is active but I speak for myself and probably others here when I say I come to this message board about once a week! Your post was up here less then 24 hours and you are upset that people have not responded?!?!?!?!

I have had posts up with issues that were very important to me, and usually it took several days to get a good number of responses and dialogue going. Please know that just because you got a limited number of responses on Memorial Day weekend after less than 24 hours…does not mean people do not care.

You are hurting, badly it seems from your sensitivity and feelings of rejection that I do not think are warranted. You must be so hurt right now…I cannot imagine how scared and alone you must feel. Your anger is not rational, at least from what I can see, but your pain is very real and I would like to help. Many people come to this board just to read the stories and pray. Please know that people really care. Jesus loves you so much, please turn to him and try and hang in there as best as you can. God bless.


Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. Yes, I am afraid. I’m hurt, I’m discovering that I have emotional needs that I thought were dead and buried. I don’t want to leave my children with no parent. And really, there aren’t any single parents in my parish that I know of except me! My theory is that they left the Church and went elsewhere.
So I have a double whammy of loneliness and terminal illness. Sometimes I wish I had a husband to love and support me through this, but on the other hand I wouldn’t want someone I love watch me die. It will be hard enough on my parents and on my children.
The kind of cancer I have is rare, so there aren’t any support groups that I can attend. Most support groups at my hospital are for breast and prostrate cancers - the two most common kind. I wish I had breast cancer - it’s mostly curable and I could get a pink ribbon!
I don’t want to give up my Church, but I feel so alone there. We are losing our priest, and getting a new one this summer. Maybe he can help. I will call St Vincent de Paul tomorrow for help with the electric bill. It’s so humiliating… but I need help.
I was just scraping by before I got sick, and now with the added costs of cancer, it just puts me in the hole.

I was supposed to have infusion chemo today, but my blood counts were too low. I continue to take oral chemotherapy daily.

Thank you for your prayers. They really do help.



First, will certainly remember you in prayer.

Second, someone mentioned the Knights of Columbus. As a knight I can say that the knights can and often do assist people in your situation. Contact a local Knight’s group.

Secondly, there are orders of Religious that dedicate themselves to aiding the sick. You might do some looking into that area. Contact the bishop’s office at the chancery, they may be able to direct you to something.

Talk to Catholic Charities. If there is no one local, contact the national office. Often CC is adept at finding help, not only through Catholic resources, but also through secular and civil ones.

And pray. Please don’t take this a patronizing, but remember Christ’s admonition, “seek and you shall find, knock, and the door shall be opened to you.”

I wish I could more, but I will pray for you.

Peace and blessings…

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