Daniel Meola, M.T.S. ’09, Ph.D. ’19, and Bethany Meola, M.T.S. ’10
The Pontifical John Paul Institute has played a tremendous role in our lives, individually and as a couple. We met at the Institute in 2008, married a year after Bethany graduated with her M.T.S., and later founded and now run a national Catholic apostolate (Life-Giving Wounds) dedicated to helping adult children of divorce find lasting healing—a passion of ours that is a direct outgrowth of our time at the Institute.
We founded Life-Giving Wounds in 2018, shortly before Dan completed his Ph.D. studies at the Institute. The mission of Life-Giving Wounds is to help now-adult children of divorce or separation find lasting spiritual healing from the wounds caused by their family’s breakdown. This shared work is a direct outgrowth of our time at the Institute: Dan assisted in an Institute project about children of divorce, and as an adult child of divorce himself, he felt a passion to expand ministry in this much-needed area. And we both received such a robust, deep vision of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family that we wanted to help provide pastoral care for those suffering from the loss of marriage and family wounds.
Our work with Life-Giving Wounds, with Dan as President and Bethany as Vice-President, involves everything from crafting and shepherding the ministry’s vision, to offering direct pastoral care via retreats and support groups for adult children of divorce, to creating brand-new initiatives to further address the wounds caused by divorce (one example is an online course about love, dating, and marriage aimed specifically at young adults from broken homes), to all the behind-the-scenes business aspects of running a non-profit. It’s been a blessing to collaborate with fellow JPII Institute graduates at numerous points, especially as we expand throughout the country and work with JPII grads who are serving the Church in numerous dioceses. We’ve also collaborated with graduates who are working in graphic design, psychological services, and other areas that overlap with our work.
In undergrad, Dan studied psychology and theology at the Catholic University of America, so the Institute was in his backyard, so to speak. As an adult child of divorce, Dan desired to probe the meaning of love and the Church’s teaching on marriage and family, as a way to better understand his own losses and his future dreams; the Institute was a perfect fit for this desire. Bethany, a Catholic convert, was drawn to the Institute because the teachings of St. John Paul II were integral to her conversion, especially his teachings on the theology of the body.
Upon graduation, Dan began studies in the Ph.D. program, which he completed after ten years of intensive study and writing. When Bethany graduated, she began work across the street at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, serving in the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. This was both a very direct way to implement the formation received from the Institute, and also a great foundation for our future work with our nationally-reaching ministry.
In short, the Institute prepared us extremely well for our future professional endeavors. But our time there also helped form our understanding of being human and the meaning of love and family, which has tremendously shaped how we live our marriage and family life with ever-increasing gratitude.