November 3, 2023

A dark time in a woman’s life leads her to be embraced by God’s healing presence

Kerin O’Rourke Buntin beams and outstretches her body toward the heavens during a visit to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 20, a time when she felt wrapped in God’s presence. (Submitted photo)

Kerin O’Rourke Buntin beams and outstretches her body toward the heavens during a visit to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 20, a time when she felt wrapped in God’s presence. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion invited our readers to share their stories of how God has made his presence known in their lives. Here are the first two stories in a series. See part two)

By John Shaughnessy

The photo captures Kerin O’Rourke Buntin in a moment of pure joy.

Buntin is beaming as she stands in front of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on May 20, her whole body outstretched toward the heavens.

The scene reflects the feeling that fills her—“as if a perpetual blanket of peace and love was wrapped around me,” she says.

In that moment, she also feels God’s presence all around her, knowing in her heart that he has delivered her from one of the darkest times in her life, a time when she felt “guilty and unworthy.”

When she and her husband were married 30 years earlier in the Church, she says, “My plan was to celebrate our golden years in the same manner that my maternal grandparents modeled their faith to me.”

Yet, in 2020, she reached the heartbreaking point that her marriage was “irretrievably broken.”

“To observe the gut-wrenching breakdown of the family unit that was my most prized possession felt as if my heart was being torn from the inside out of me,” says Buntin, a mother of two grown children and a member of St. Louis de Montfort Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

As she filed for a divorce that year, the now-57-year-old Buntin also turned to the source in her life that has always sustained her—her faith.

She has often encouraged people to pray to the saints, to ask them to intercede to God. So, she prayed to St. Helen, the patron saint of broken marriages. And she prayed to St. Faustina, the patron saint of mercy whose feast day is the same day—Oct. 5—that Buntin was married.

As she prayed, she continued to struggle with the end of her marriage. Then came a conversation with the pastor of her parish, Father Thomas Haan.

“He encouraged me to find the healing presence of God in the annulment process,” she recalls. “I had not even given an ounce of thought to it. I was taught that marriage is forever. I felt guilty and unworthy. The darkness was real.”

Yet, she found a touch of light in early 2022 as she started the process of seeking an annulment, the common term used to describe what the Church officially calls “a declaration of marriage nullity.”

Buntin began writing a journal, reflecting on her thoughts and feelings from her 30 years of marriage. She relied upon the advocate that the Lafayette Diocese assigned to guide her through the process. And she began to recognize the importance of each step along the way.

“It consumed my time for over a year, yet I would not change a thing. I felt called to embrace the journey forward,” she says. “It empowered me to completely surrender my life to God. God gave me hope in the required witness testimonies.”

That hope turned into relief when the tribunal committee reviewed her case earlier this year and found there were sufficient grounds for her marriage to be annulled.

“Shortly after the annulment was granted, I felt so much gratitude not necessarily for my situation, but grateful for what I learned about myself in the process.”

Buntin felt the full, powerful impact of that turning point a short time later when she led a women’s retreat to Tuscany, Italy, in May of this year.

After landing in Rome, she and a friend made a quick tour of the city, eventually ending up in the area outside St. Peter’s Basilica. As her friend stood in awe of the basilica that she was seeing for the first time, Buntin was overwhelmed for a different reason.

“What happened next had to be the grace of God,” she recalls. “It felt as if a perpetual blanket of peace and love was wrapped around me.

“The feeling at St. Peter was a holy moment right up there with the birth of my two amazing, determined and motivated adult children. I felt the kind of peace and love that only God can provide, not the kind obtained from a person or material things.”

That feeling of being embraced by God’s love continues for Buntin.

“My relationship with God now is a continuous trust walk,” she says. “God continues to open doors for me to walk with others who are on a similar journey.

“I feel the real presence in me, receiving Communion at daily Mass, bringing the Eucharist to my aged friend, and by contemplating the life of Christ in the mysteries and virtues of the holy rosary. Now I see why so many of the saints found respite in the rosary. “

The joy that filled her that day in St. Peter’s Square has stayed with her.

“I am not the same woman I was years ago,” she says. “I have a healthy perspective, and life is radically better than I could have ever imagined.” †


Related story: God makes his presence known in special way at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House

Local site Links: