Fr. John Gerritts - November 11, 2018
Last weekend we remembered our parishioners who have died
this past year. It amazes me as the list of names is read and I reflect upon
all the families whom we have served this past year.
We someone dies, if it is following an illness, we always
hope that the parish was notified that the person was sick. Please do not
assume that we know about everyone who is ill. If a family is working with
hospice, a nursing home, or hospital, they must request that the parish is
notified. Because of HIPAA laws we are not notified unless a family makes a
specific request. And if you have a family member who is dying, please notify
our parish office or me directly rather than relying on the care facility. If
you have a friend or neighbor who is seriously ill, let us know. Once we are
notified we can begin to minister to the individual and family.
Sometimes people die unexpectedly. I have found that neither
way can be described as “better”. Whether our loved ones die after an illness
or suddenly, both present their own set of emotions, difficulties, grief, and
When someone dies, the funeral home will typically set up a
time for the family to come meet with a funeral director. This individual will
have a degree in mortuary science, be licensed, and participate in the continuing
education of that science. Let the funeral home know that you want the services
to be with Saint Patrick Parish. The funeral home will notify me and Terry
Bogenhagen, our Director of Liturgy and Worship. We will meet with you at the
funeral home to assist with the arrangements. Between the funeral home and us, we
try to handle and anticipate many of the details associated with funerals.
During the meeting at the funeral home we will set the dates
and times for services. This may include an evening visitation at the funeral
home, prayer service at the funeral home (typically presided by one of our
deacons), visitation one hour prior at the church, Mass of Christian burial at
the church, burial, and luncheon. There are several options to discuss: a visitation
the night before is optional, or it may take place at our church if it is
expected that the visitation will be exceptionally large; a prayer service is
optional; if the individual was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the
Knights typically gather to pray the Rosary for their brother Knight; if the Mass
is expected to be rather small we can use our Eucharistic Chapel; and the
luncheon could occur before or after we go to the cemetery. The helping news is
we walk you through these arrangements and gently guide you to assist in these decisions.
None of us wants to be planning a funeral, but since we have been called to be
involved, we should do the best that we can.
When we leave the meeting, Terry Bogenhagen contacts the
musicians you have chosen and provides them with your musical selections,
arranges for servers, a sacristan, and a bell ringer for the Mass. The
necessary calls for a luncheon to be prepared and served – if this is your
desire – are made. Prior to the Mass, our staff and volunteers assist the
funeral home staff in setting up for the visitation at the church and meet with
anyone who is speaking, reading a scripture passage, bringing up the gifts, or
has any other role during the Mass. We devote a good deal of our staff’s time
and enlist the help of several volunteers when we have a funeral. We do this 40-50
times per year and often with only a few days’ notice.
We also do what we can to minister to the family and friends
of someone who has died with their grief. This could be meeting with
individuals privately or as a group to talk and listen. Many times people ask
what they should say to someone who has experienced the death of a loved one.
There is nothing that can take away the bitterness of death, no magical words.
Almost anything we say will come across as somewhat foolish. Which is ok. What
is remembered more than the words people speak is their presence. I know the
homilies I preach at funerals go mostly unremembered. But what people remember
is that I was there. That is the greatest gift we can offer grieving families –
our presence. Someone once said, “the greatest gift we can offer a friend who
has died is to be present for his or her family.” One of the most important
parts of our parish’s life is ministering to families at the time of a loved
one’s death – whether listening to them, helping plan, or handling details.
A Letter from Most Rev. Bishop James Powers
The U.S. bishops are joining together in a commitment of prayer and reparation leading up to the bishops' general assembly, where we will be making critical decisions in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. With my brother bishops across the nation, I will be dedicating myself to seven days of intensified prayer and fasting, from Monday, November 5, through Sunday, November 11. The intentions for this period of prayer and sacrifice are three-fold:
- For the healing and support of all victims of clergy sexual abuse.
- For the conversion and just punishment of the perpetrators and concealers of sexual abuse.
- For the strength of the bishops to be holy shepherds in protecting and leading our sheep from all harm.
If you feel called to do so, you are welcome to join me in praying for these intentions. I would also be grateful for any prayers for me and my brother bishops during our general assembly, that we may follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in responding to the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse in the Church.
Please be assured of my prayers as well.
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Rev. Bishop James Powers
Bishop of Superior