“‘Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted,’ and that is where and why we begin a bereavement ministry in our parishes in the Diocese of Allentown,” said Madeline Gardner, Hospice RN and Bereavement Coordinator at St. Ursula Parish, Fountain Hill, quoting one of the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:4.
A total of 40 parishioners have participated in the bereavement ministry trainings representing 14 different parishes including one parish from Philadelphia.
Gardner has been the facilitator of the two bereavement ministry trainings that have taken place at St. Benedict Parish, Mohnton, and St. Ambrose Parish, Schuylkill Haven. She received her training through the National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved where she was certified to start a Bereavement Ministry in her own parish.
“My experience as a Hospice nurse brought me into bereavement work head on as we comforted the patient who was dying, and comforted the family left behind,” said Gardner.
The goal of bereavement ministry trainings is to prepare parishioners to lead bereavement ministry at their parish with the approval of their pastor and support of other parishioners. During the trainings, participants learn about their role as bereavement ministers, listening skills, personal death awareness, stages of grief (i.e., denial, anger, bargaining, etc.) and aspects of grief (i.e., physical, emotional, spiritual, and social).
The trainings are offered during a free two-day session from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with breakfast and lunch included. These trainings prepare participants with all the materials they will use to start the ministry.
“We want to reach out to those in our parish and beyond who have lost a loved one. We want to let them know that the Church loves and supports them in their grieving process and will provide an opportunity for them to talk through their pain, if they desire,” said Deacon Jack Mroz, Immaculate Conception Parish, Jim Thorpe and participant at the trainings.
Deacon Mroz liked how Gardner presented the stages and aspects of the grieving process, and her sharing of her own experience in her ministry was very valuable. Deacon Mroz’s parish is planning to offer a Spring and Fall bereavement seminar to “help [parishioners] understand the grieving process, see where they are in the process, and regain the ability to feel a sense of a normal life again.”
For anyone interested in leading a Bereavement Ministry at their parish or joining an already existing one, Gardner invites you to “be not afraid, the Lord will guide you; take the steps to be trained and see if you would like to join a ministry that is much needed in our society.” It is rewarding to know that someone going through the pain of grief is receiving comfort, shared Deacon Mroz.