“Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs.” (2 Mac 12:39)
“When the sun had set I went and dug a grave and buried the body.” (Tobit 2, 7)
One of the important Works of Mercy is being of assistance to families of the deceased. In many ways in the past, I have participated in this ministry at two parishes where I served as parish social minister, at St. Bartholomew in Penn Hills as well as St. Anthony in Monongahela. Most important of the many ways we helped the deceased is to pray for them and their loved ones as soon as we are notified of the death. Some people make their plans for their burial, either with the undertaker or their family. We can assist by notifying parishioners, friends, and groups that serve in funeral ministry as reader, Eucharistic ministers, candle bearers, rosary at the funeral homes or even doing the prayers at the casket if the priest is not able. Normally the parish secretary notifies the necessary persons but often if it happens on a weekend this falls to the pastor.
“Ladies of Charity” assist people in many ways, including preparation of a repast or reception at the parish if needed. After the funeral services, the ladies will call the closest members of the family to see how they are dealing with the death, especially when the loved one is left living alone. They will ask to visit the home.
There are bereavement groups in some parishes to assist in counseling the family if needed or referral to counselors if needed.
Some parishes hold a monthly mass for the deceased following the funeral. Also some parishes have a yearly remembrance mass for all the deceased and the families and parishioners are invited to attend and light a candle at the front of the church which has the deceased name on it. They are given the candle to take home if they wish. A reception is held for those who attend the mass in the parish facilities.
All of this helps to accept the loss of their loved ones and it is definitely a wonderful work of mercy. No one knows when their loved ones will be called home to the Lord and we all need friends to help.
Now, especially this Year of Mercy, I attended many funerals of my friends, members of our Associates, Sisters from other Religious Orders, parishioners in nearby parishes, even former Sisters of our community. Also Priests that we knew in the Diocese from parishes where our Sisters served.
We, as a community of Sisters, feel burying the dead, laying them to eternal rest is our part in the works of mercy. Often family or friends try to attend requested Masses for the deceased. "Death Life is not ended and we know that life continues in heaven. We continue to pray daily for our deceased Sisters in our chapel.
When a family member of our Sisters dies, some will even travel for the funeral service and help to celebrate their lives with their family.
We include all in our daily prayer intentions at our community rosary and Vespers.
We pray that when our time on earth comes to a close, there will be others to place us at rest and God can say about us, "well done, good and faithful servant of our Divine Redeemer."
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)
Sr. Rosemary, SDR