About Beginning Experience

In 1973, Sister Josephine Stewart, a family counselor at the Catholic Renewal Center in Fort Worth, Texas and a divorced friend, Jo Lamia, attended a Marriage Encounter weekend with the intention of developing a program for engaged couples. In the course of the weekend, Ms. Lamia adapted the Marriage Encounter process to face issues and concerns in her own life that had never been addressed. At the close of the weekend, Sister Josephine saw a profound change occur in her friend. Sister Josephine and other professionals in grief resolution, counseling, psychology, education and spiritual renewal, adapted Ms. Lamia's writings to outline the process for the Beginning Experience weekend.

The copyrighted program was soon in motion throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Great Britain and Ireland. Today, 117 certified teams of peer ministers present the program in communities on three continents.

In 1978 Fr. Val Boyle, O.Carm. was involved in divorce ministry in Phoenix and was one of several local people  who participated in a B E weekend in Fort Worth, TX. All in the group were deeply impressed with the program and were successful in establishing the initial B E Team in Phoenix.   Since then, thousands of single-again persons have attended a Beginning Experience weekend, experienced healing in their lives and turned the pain of loss into an experience of positive growth.  Fr. Val has served the ministry for over 30 years.  He is currently our spiritual advisor, serves on the board of directors, celebrates mass on weekends and guides our active team. 

Our Purpose

The purpose of the Beginning Experience ministry is to help divorced, separated and widowed men and women heal the grief of their loss and free them once again to love themselves, others and God. These individuals, in turn, offer a better quality of life to all those with whom they come in contact.

The lay ministers in the Beginning Experience ministry are "wounded healers" - specially trained men and women who are themselves widowed, separated or divorced, but further along in the grieving process.

Text Box: Fr. Valentine Boyle and Sr. Josephine Stewart
International Convention, Phoenix, AZ 2008 

The Pain of Loss

The loss of a loved one through separation, divorce or death is one of life’s most traumatic experiences.  It can result in nearly unbearable feelings of loneliness and grief.  Many people who have suffered this loss feel left out by their church, uneasy around married friends, unsure of themselves and uncertain about their futures.

Hope for a New Beginning

The Beginning Experience weekend program helps grieving single-again persons emerge from the darkness of grief into the light of a new beginning, and move into the future with renewed hope.  The program helps deal with the natural grief process and offers an opportunity, through God, for turning the pain of loss into an experience of positive growth. Founded by a Catholic nun and rooted in the Christian tradition, the ministry’s open, ecumenical spirit serves those of all faiths.

Experience of Community

From Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, the Beginning Experience program is presented by a team of people who have suffered the loss of a loved one and are willing to share their own experience to help others.

Team members lead participants through a program of presentation, personal private reflection, and small group sharing.  A sense of community develops in an atmosphere of care and concern that is a hallmark of each
Beginning Experience weekend.

Who Should Attend

The Beginning Experience weekend is designed to be a time of closure on the past and renewed hope for the future.  Those who come should be beyond the initial feelings of anger and despair which usually follow the loss of a loved one.  They should be at the point of wanting a new beginning and ready to work to make that desire a reality. Once the application for the weekend is received, someone is available to help each person determine his or her readiness for the program.

The Results

Those who’ve attended the weekend program report:

· Increased emotional health and self respect

· New skills to deal with the pain of loss

· Healthier family relationships

· Renewed energy to be more effective parents, return to their church, and improve the standard of living for themselves and their families


The Invitation

Whether you choose to attend the Beginning Experience weekend only, or in addition to offer support for the single again, the program’s invitational process offers the opportunity to move toward a new beginning in life.  Its quality and effectiveness are well documented. 

· Developed by respected professionals in grief psychology, ministry, education and organizational process, the program is both psychologically and spiritually sound.

· The ministry has been honored by the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics and the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers, participated in the International Conference for the World Federations for Mental Health in Ireland, and addressed the Australian government’s Year of the Family Congress.

· To ensure the integrity of the copyrighted program, the Beginning Experience International program, the Beginning Experience International Ministry Center periodically certifies 117 peer ministry teams worldwide to present the program.