Newry Cathedral Parish Commission Laity for Bereavement Ministry
On Sunday 3rd April, 16 members of the laity were formally commissioned as Bereavement Ministry Members at 12noon Mass in the Cathedral. Canon Francis Brown said he was delighted to welcome members of the laity to support this very important ministry in support of our parishioners. He said,
‘there are around 200 deaths in our parish each year and lay members will be working in conjunction with the clergy to enhance the support of families in one of their greatest time of need’.Canon Francis Brown
‘My hope and prayer, is that we call on as many as possible here in Newry Cathedral Parish to nurture the faith and ensure a place of welcome for everyone. Lay people in our parish should play their part in the mission of the word of God as we are all called to ministry through baptism’.Canon Francis Brown
He encouraged parishioners to volunteer for different forms of service ‘becoming missionary disciples of Jesus’. In a Parish that serves 30,000 parishioners, a lot of people are needed to ensure adequate coverage for a wide range of ministries.
The goal of Newry Cathedral Parish Bereavement Ministry will be to ensure that no member of our faith community should grieve alone. The outreach of the bereavement ministry will strive to embody the loving comfort of God here and now. In the last 4 months the group have received training in grief and bereavement, funeral liturgy as well as an understanding of the current bereavement services in the area. This has included sessions from Cruse, Southern Area Hospice (Sister Fiona Galligan and Ms Emily Murray), PIPS (Eleanor McKenna), Funeral Directors in the area who advised us on procedures as well as preparation in Funeral Liturgy by Deacon Brendan McAllister. He, alongside members of the Parish Pastoral Council continues to be a wonderful support and champion for the Bereavement Ministry.
The group have also been shadowing members of the clergy over the last few weeks and in spite of a few initial nerves they have been very encouraged by the warm reception from parishioners. They have found it a privilege to be with families and work alongside the priests of the parish. They would like to express their thanks to the families who have welcomed them into their homes in their time of their bereavement. This experience has helped the Bereavement Team to gain the confidence to embark on this ministry. They are deeply indebted to Canon Francis for his encouragement and to Father Alphonsus, Father Callum and Father Robert for their support. Together with the clergy they wish to ensure that there is a genuine partnership in the lay ministries existing and working alongside the hierarchy.
The initial pilot of the ministry will last until September, after which the team will hope to further develop their services. In the short-term members will in partnership with clergy, give help with the Liturgy at the time of death, helping the family to decide on readings, Prayers of the Faithful, Offertory Procession, reflections by family, hymns etc. Many of the members have also been commissioned as Eucharistic Ministers and Ministers of the Word so will be on hand to play a part in prayers in the home of the deceased, transfer of remains to the church as well as the funeral Mass.
In future the group hope to develop tailored online liturgy support for our website and become a support and a listening ear to the bereaved. They will offer information/support groups in the Parish Centre. This will provide opportunities for bereaved to talk and share experiences. They will also in conjunction with the clergy, organise and facilitate the November Masses for the Dead discerning the needs of the Parish.
While laity taking a more formal role in church life is not new, Canon Brown feels that, ‘the laity has increasingly important role to play in the mission of the Church. Many signs indicate that the Spirit is empowering many of our parishioners to accept an even greater role in our Parish. Their commitment and involvement in ecclesial life are to be welcomed particularly in Bereavement Ministry as collectively they have a good knowledge of the needs of our community. Along with the other clergy in the Parish, I wish them well and I look forward to working alongside members in this important ministry’.
Eucharistic Ministers commissioned
There were also several Eucharistic Ministers commissioned at the same Mass.