Beginning Experience® is an international ministry which began in 1973. Sister Josephine Stewart and her good friend, Jo Lamia, attended a Marriage Encounter Weekend while they were developing an Engaged Encounter Program. During the weekend Jo Lamia, who was divorced, wrote a letter of closure to her ex-husband. This experience had a profound effect on her. Sr. Josephine, a Family Counselor, realized then that there was a need for a program to help those who have experienced the loss of a spouse, either through death or divorce. By working with Catholic and Protestant clergy, Beginning Experience International was born.
In 1975, a handful of Beginning Experience® groups were established. There are now over 100 Beginning Experience® teams throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore, Great Britain, and other countries around the globe.
The birth of the Pittsburgh Beginning Experience team parallels the beginning of the first team. In 2004, Mary Lou Joseph from Lancaster, PA attended a Beginning Experience® weekend in Harrisburg. As a newly divorced person, she found much consolation following her participation in the weekend. She shared her experience with her sister, who then shared it with Sister Marguerite Kropinak, one of the Sisters of St. Joseph located near Pittsburgh. Seeing a great need for this program in Pittsburgh and being determined to bring it to this area, Sister Marguerite received permission and assistance from the Beginning Experience International Ministry Center to hold the initial Pittsburgh weekend. Assistance for this weekend came in abundance from the Scranton Beginning Experience team.
March 24, 2006 marked the first Pittsburgh Beginning Experience weekend. It was held at the Sisters of St. Joseph Spirituality Center in Baden, PA. Out of that weekend a group of 6 volunteers were trained to become the first Pittsburgh Beginning Experience team. Through the dedication and profound caring of the International Ministry Center and Susan Jolley, then president of the Scranton Beginning Experience team, our Pittsburgh Beginning Experience weekends have now been held for over ten years. Over this time close to 300 individuals have participated in the program.
Organizing the weekends is a labor of love by every Beginning Experience® group, and the Pittsburgh volunteers are no exception. Each weekend is our gift to you as we all journey together from grief to renewed hope.