Annulment Process Provides Healing, Hope and Restoration
Overwhelmed. Unsure. Hesitant.
Those are just a few words Mark Schmitz, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence, uses to describe how he felt when he began the annulment process more than 17 years ago.
Yet, he has never regretted his decision to seek an annulment. It provided him healing — healing he didn’t realize he desperately needed.
For Father Joseph Arsenault, SSA, the archdiocesan judicial vicar, helping couples heal from brokenness is what brings him joy in his particular ministry.
“Ultimately, that’s what we want it to be, a process of healing,” he said.
While he doesn’t always hear back from petitioners after annulments are granted, there have been occasions in which people have thanked him and the entire tribunal, saying the process has brought them healing, peace and closure. Some petitioners have even sent wedding pictures.
‘A very healing process’
Father Bruce Ansems, the associate judicial vicar and a judge of the archdiocesan tribunal, said he has found that the process of helping people heal from their brokenness can be quite fulfilling to him as a priest.
“I enjoy being an instrument of reconciling people to the sacraments of the church and helping them come to a better understanding of the beauty of the teachings and laws of the church,” said Father Ansems.
“The annulment process can be a very healing process for those who participate in it,” he continued. “I think when marriages end, the parties sense that ‘something wasn’t right’ . . . or was ‘not the way it was supposed to be.’ Most times the annulment process helps to confirm what they already sensed. It can help give closure.”
Father Joseph is a 20-year veteran of tribunal work — nearly his entire priesthood.
He tries not only to be an instrument of healing, but also works to dispel some of the common myths and misunderstandings about annulments and the process.
Father Ansems said dispelling these myths “can be difficult, because it’s like changing folklore.”
“I talk about annulments occasionally in my homily,” he said, “speak on it to people who invite me and try to make myself available to answer questions, whenever and wherever people have them.
“It’s kind of amazing at times how many people are just curious about the process and what it really means . . . even if they don’t need an annulment.”
Children are not illegitimate
Perhaps the most common misconception the two priests encounter is that an annulment means any children are illegitimate. Nothing could be further from the truth, said Father Joseph.