12 notary-auditors commissioned to assist with marriage cases

By: By Jennifer Willems

PEORIA HEIGHTS — As the Marriage Tribunal of the Diocese of Peoria prepares to implement new church laws concerning the procedures for dealing with marriage cases, the staff will have the assistance of 12 more notary-auditors in parishes around central Illinois.

The new notary-auditors were commissioned by Father Martin Mwongyera, judicial vicar, during a prayer service in the chapel of St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Oct. 24. During the ceremony they made a profession of faith and took an oath of confidentiality, which they also signed.

The commissioning followed six months of classes given by the staff of the Marriage Tribunal, led by Sister Marianne Burkhard, OSB, judge and director.

The new notary-auditors, as pictured above, are:
Front row, from left, Karen (Kay) Buettner of St. Philomena, Peoria; Alba Martinez of St. Mary, Moline; Barbara Roedel of St. Pius X, Rock Island; Domine King of Epiphany, Normal; Theresa Hardesty of St. Jude, Peoria; and Kathleen Taylor of St. Mary, Canton;
Back row, from left, Deacon Gary Koerner of St. Patrick Church of Merna, Bloomington; Sister Mary Lou Owens, OP, of Holy Family, Lincoln; Marleen Schmidt of St. Joseph, Pekin; Jeraldine “Jeri” Dennis of Holy Family, Lincoln; and Susanna Prushinski of St. Louis, Princeton.
Not present for the photo was Jacqueline Scott of St. Matthew, Champaign.

Notary-auditors work with Catholics who are divorced and would like to initiate a marriage case with the Tribunal. Sister Marianne said these specially trained people will help petitioners fill out the necessary forms, collect the narrative about the marriage, and write the petition.

“The petition states who is the petitioner and asks that we study the marriage and investigate it for nullity,” Sister Marianne explained. “It states the reason for the petitioner’s desire to have us look at whether this marriage might have been invalid.”

She said the forms can be hard to fill out, so the work of the notary-auditors makes it possible to accept the petition quickly and initiate the case on the diocesan level without delay.

People may go to any notary-auditor they wish. They do not have to be referred by a priest or their pastor.

“We try to make sure every area has notary-auditors so everybody has someone not too far away,” Sister Marianne told The Catholic Post.

The first class was commissioned in 1992. There are currently about 45 serving in all vicariates of the Diocese of Peoria.

“FACE OF THE CHURCH”
Father Mwongyera expressed his gratitude for their hard work and told them he brought with him the “warm and personal greetings” of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

“You will be the face of the church and of the Tribunal in carrying out this important ministry,” he said, noting that they would be required to listen attentively and employ pastoral sensitivity as they did their work.

“It is a serious responsibility you are being entrusted with and we trust and pray that you will do it with love, with diligence, with patience and mercy, and justly,” Father Mwongyera said, assuring them that the Tribunal staff always stands ready to provide help and support.

They join the Tribunal at a time when Pope Francis has promulgated new canons for the process of investigating marriages. They will take effect on Dec. 8.

“Some of the rules we had to follow are now simplified and that will be helpful,” Sister Marianne said. “They are basically procedural changes.”

She emphasized that “the grounds are still the grounds. The annulment is still the annulment. So there is no huge change in the substance.”

In addition, Pope Francis has said the new rules do not favor nullity. They favor the speed of the process, Sister Marianne said.

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