Anyone who joins the Church does so as a broken person. We come to the Church as if it were a hospital. We seek healing and rest for our souls and bodies. One of the major changes we have seen in the Church over the last 35 years deals with the question, “What is a family?” The idea of an intact family, in which father and mother come together in their only marriage — and both of whom are Orthodox Christians with their own children — is not as common as we would think.
More and more, Orthodox parishes and their priests are dealing with a variety of issues in this regard.
- Single parent families as a result of divorce or having children out of wedlock. As a bishop I know I am not doing what needs to be done to see that the needs of single parent families are being addressed.
- Families in which both parents are not Orthodox Christians, which is quite common in all Orthodox Churches in this country.
- Reconstituted families, in which previously divorced couples re-marry, bringing into the marriage their own children. The couple may be either Orthodox. Or in some instances, only one of them is Orthodox, while the other comes from another Christian faith background. Thus the children may have been baptized in a different faith tradition.
Today, I would like to speak about the single parent family. Of this group there may be some parents that do well financially with good-paying jobs. Some may receive generous monthly child support from their ex-spouses. Thus, they may have the financial means to seek necessary support for such services as house cleaning or live-in caretakers/daycare to help tend to the children. My guess is that this group would be in the minority. I think many single parents have full time jobs that may not pay as well, making it necessary to live check to check. Whether single parents are divorced or have had children out of wedlock, they may not receive appropriate financial support from their ex-spouses or the other parents of the children born out of wedlock. They may not have the means to pay for domestic support services. Single parents then face the demands of daily home life without the support of a spouse. Besides working 40 hours a week, they still need to prepare meals, keep the house clean and the laundry done, and pay the bills, including the cost of day care for children. After all is said and done, is there room for church? For those single parents who have their own parents (children’s grandparents) that are close by, they are a Godsend as they provide support in many areas and they do it for nothing. Thank God for the love and concern of grandparents who can still fulfill this role.
As I reflect on what we can do in parishes to support single parent families (and those single parents who are seeking and willing to receive this help), the following things come to mind:
- Can parishes support single parents by asking parishioners to prepare meals for such families?
- Can parishes engage a couple of people who would be willing to do house cleaning when needed?
- What can be done in parishes to link single parents up to appropriate childcare relief?
- I think it would be great if a priest or someone he appoints could form a support group in the parish for single parents. The group could focus on how single parents can live out their Orthodox faith in the context of the reality they live in.
I wish to thank parishes that may already be doing some of the above things. It would also be great to hear from single parents with regard to what the Church can do to better support them. May the blessing of the Lord be upon our single parents. Thank you for embracing your labors with joy and love, especially at times when this is difficult.
With love in Christ,
The unworthy +Paul