By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
CHELTENHAM – Annette Foley, the bereavement ministry coordinator at Presentation B.V.M. Parish in Cheltenham, contemplates the crucifixion as she consoles those who are grieving.
“As a Catholic, I look at the crucifixion and the promises of Jesus,” she said. “I know that what He suffered for us was not done in vain, and that His resurrection was a culmination of everything.”
Although she would never compare one person’s grief to another, or share her story with those she consoles, Foley, 54, can relate to those who are coping with the loss of a loved one.
She was 7 years old when her father died at age 42, and 27 years old when her mother died at age 59.
Foley said it wasn’t until she was an adult, working on a final exam in a course at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood about the Christian perspective on death and dying, that she began to reconcile the loss of her father. Her mother was still living at that time. The instructions for the final oral exam were to discuss a death in the family. “Through my whole exam, I cried. I never experienced grief until then.”
She received an A on the exam and in the class.
Sharing in the sorrow of others is a privilege that Foley takes to heart. “One person cannot suffer without humanity suffering,” she said. “We have to be there for each other and be able to accept help from each other.”
That, she said, is the beauty of parish-based bereavement ministry. “We don’t discuss our lives. We’re there for the families. They need to tell their stories. They need to talk about their loved ones. They need the love, they need the support.”
The youngest of two daughters of the late Kenneth and Nancy Stratton graduated from St. Martin of Tours School in Philadelphia in 1969 and Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in 1973.
She attended Holy Family College then enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where she served for two years in the medical field, lastly as an operating room technician. Foley has also received certification from the archdiocesan Church Ministry Institute.
Foley is currently enrolled at La Salle University, working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology and next week will begin duties as a clinical nursing assistant at St. Joseph’s Manor in Meadowbrook, a long-term nursing care and personal care facility run by Holy Redeemer Health System.
She and husband Francis, together the parents of four grown children, are co-owners of Foley Funeral Home in the Burholme section of Philadelphia.
As a coordinator for her parish’s adoration chapel, Foley is also aware of the consolation the Blessed Sacrament brings the bereaved. “There’s nothing more phenomenal than to be in the adoration chapel, especially when you’re overwhelmed, to experience God’s loving embrace.”
As the Church celebrates All Saints Day Nov. 1 and All Souls Day Nov. 2, Foley said those who have lost a loved one “should try … to allow themselves to experience God’s love through the memory of that person.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.