NCReg profiles Springfield deacon ministering to divorced Catholics

CHICAGO — Deacon Patrick O’Toole remembered how far away he felt from the Church 17 years ago. He wasn’t a deacon then — his wife had left, divorced him and took his children. He felt broken and angry, until a meeting with a Catholic Church official corrected his many misconceptions about the Church, sacramental marriage and annulments and put him on the path to healing.

“He had the opportunity to help me understand what it was all about,” O’Toole said. “It prompted a whole conversion experience for me.”

O’Toole re-engaged with his faith and discovered the Church’s rich vision of sacramental marriage. He went through the process to obtain a declaration of nullity, commonly referred to as an annulment; and then, several years later, he married in the Church.

Now, Deacon O’Toole helps prepare people to go through the annulment process as part of his special ministry to divorced Catholics in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill.

“Generally, I begin the process with our theology of marriage: why we believe what we believe and why the Catholic Church recognizes marriage between two Christians — just like baptism — as a sacrament, whether their denomination would call it that or not,” he said.
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