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Catholic Cemeteries Offers Training for Parish Bereavement Ministers

Participants pose for a class photo at session two of the six week Parish Bereavement Ministers’ Training Series. They include parish staff and volunteers, trained professionals, a deacon and Catholic Cemeteries pre-need and funeral staff.

By Kathy Fanger and Laura Schemmel

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

When death occurs or end-of-life choices need to be made, parishioners often experience fluctuating waves of emotions in the days, months and years to follow. Days of deep sadness, loneliness, even anger with God, may be sprinkled with more peace-filled, hope-filled days.

Many grieving parishioners look to the Church for spiritual strength. They seek support from those who share their faith, who will listen confidentially and encourage them on their journey.

Some parishes choose to offer grief support groups where, in a safe place, the grieving are able to share tears as well as laughter, often developing new relationships. They are reminded, through Scripture and prayer, that God understands, promising that one day they will be reunited with their loved ones in heaven. In addition, some parishes offer funeral planning or plan receptions with hospitality. Many of these ministers, staff or volunteers, have received formal training through a Catholic Cemeteries course, which stresses the importance of presence, listening skills and compassion.

Catholic Cemeteries bridges the gap before, during and after the death of a loved one, honoring a life legacy by providing hope, compassion and peace of mind. Catholic Cemeteries offers an in-depth “Parish Bereavement Ministers’ 6-week Training Series.” It is designed for parish staffs, priests, deacons and volunteers who wish to start or enhance a ministry of consolation.

Kathy Fanger and Laura Schemmel, Catholic Cemeteries Outreach Coordinators, are the instructors. The ministry of consolation depends on faith, compassion and prayerful presence.

Participants learn about the grief process, practices of effective communication and group facilitation, and knowledge of varied models of consolation programs. Participants engage in an established course of study with opportunities to learn, share, and practice elements of this ministry that enhance skills and resources. Each session includes prayer, music, reflection, sharing and skills used in a parish setting. In the final session, participants listen to a panel of experienced bereavement ministers from parishes in our diocese who share in their successes and challenges.

Participants looking to establish a parish support group are helped to design a program ‘just right’ for their parish, always with the support of the pastor and administrative staff. All are encouraged to recognize their individual talents to bring to the parish and use in any interaction with those who are grieving.

Those who have attended have said, “I learned to just be there to listen.” “The workshop provided the tools and framework we needed.” “The opportunity to be with other parishes is a blessing.” “I felt encouraged.”

Do you feel called by God to bring compassion and comfort to those in your parish who are grieving? Does your parish offer bereavement support? Consider registering for this series, offered three times each year.

For more information, contact Kathy Fanger at (650) 428-3730 x508 or cemeteryinfo@dsj.org.

Questions at End of Life
A Catholic Perspective
September 12 1 – 3 p.m.
Church of the Transfiguration
4325 Jarvis Ave, San Jose 95118
Presenter: Father Joseph Benedict

Choices at end of life present unique challenges, particularly within a complex and technologically advance society. Physical death is perceived within modern society as the ultimate human tragedy. This presentation will explore end-of-life choices within the context of faith in Jesus and the moral tradition of the Church. Free. For more information, contact (650) 428-3730 or cemeteryinfo@dsj.org.