There are “housekeeping” duties, to be sure, for the Bereavement Ministry when the members make the arrangements for wakes and funeral Masses at our parish. But there is another side to the ministry’s work: reaching out in prayer and comfort to the families who are grieving their losses.
Our Bereavement Ministry, with 13 members led by Val Standing, not only assists the priest during the funeral Mass but also helps with the physical setups to help the families and other mourners.
Before COVID, the wakes typically were held at a funeral home. Now, however, both the wakes and funeral Masses are held at our church.
When there has been a death, the family contacts Fr. Ace and chooses a date for the service.
“Once the family has done that, Father will send us an email with the information,” Val says. “Then I contact the family, talk with them, ask them what they want, and prayerfully grieve with them. Quite often I know them. This is a small community and there really isn’t a funeral that happens that someone in the ministry doesn’t know the deceased.”
Some families will have a slide presentation of the life of the deceased, and sometimes special musicians are brought in for the wake.
“We arrange for the timing of everything leading up to the actual Mass,” Val says.
The ministry members arrive at the church as early as 7:45 a.m. up to 8:00 a.m. to begin preparations. They set up the Deacon Borges Meeting Room for the families to have some light refreshments. The members also set up tables, and easels, as needed, and move furniture to allow the casket to be brought inside. All the floral arrangements are set up, as well.
“We greet the family when they come in and direct them to their seats, and we also take care of the receiving line,” Val says. “We arrange for the family to place all the faith symbols on the casket, help them do the readings and eulogy, and assist at Mass itself.”
Many of the Bereavement Ministry members take part in other ministries, such as Lector, or Eucharistic Ministers, and therefore help at the funeral Masses.
Besides caring for St. Anthony of Padua parishioners’ needs, the ministry also is helping with funerals among parishioners of Maria Lanakila Catholic Church in Lahaina. Although the historic church was not destroyed in the fire, the building received smoke damage. The building also is in an area that has been placed off-limits at this time. As a result, our parish and others in the north and south of the island are helping meet those needs.
Throughout the ministry’s work, there is the common thread of community, of deep roots, within our parish that is a blend of ethnicities.
“Our priests are very mindful of ‘coming home,’ because this parish is where some were baptized, confirmed, married,” Val says. “There is a long history of families in our community for years. We have great-grandchildren of members now in the parish.”
This thread of community is woven through the Bereavement Ministry. Many of our senior citizens have transitioned from physically active ministries to the Bereavement Ministry.
“We can provide this comfort,” Val says. “This group is wonderful. They never say ‘no.’ If we want to emphasize anything, it is the kindness, loving concern, and comfort these folks offer. They are so wonderful and gracious, very gracious. It all comes naturally: ‘What can I do? Shall I do this?’”
There are no real skill requirements for the Bereavement Ministry, other than when there is a need for Liturgical Ministers.“They have to be a practicing minister sanctioned by the priest,” Val says. “They have to have appropriate training and be in good standing with the sacraments. But, to just come and help – you just need love and warmth and a desire to offer support.”
The ministry began years ago with Val’s father. “When he was asked years ago by the priest to help at a funeral, my Father said, ‘I’m not qualified.’ The priest said, ‘God is calling you to help,’” Val says.
New members are always welcome and encouraged to join in helping with this important ministry.
For more information about the Bereavement Ministry, contact Val Standing at 808-281-1749.