By Arlene Edmonds

Special to The CS&T

YARDLEY – The sanctuary at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Yardley was a place of healing Monday evening. Nearly 60 families, all of which lost a child, pre-registered for this Mass of remembrance and healing. At the second annual Mass, grieving parents and other relatives were able to openly send out intentions for their lost child.

Some lost children to illnesses and disease; others may have lost a child through miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth, or even violent crime. Yet the bond that all these parents and other family members shared is that they are now seeking a renewal of spirit through a faith community lifting up prayers for their lost loved ones.

“This is part of our outreach to the churches in Lower Bucks County,” said Msgr. Samuel Shoemaker, pastor of St. Ignatius Parish. “We did the first one last year and received a good response. They were just overjoyed with the program. Even though for some of them it was a long time since they lost their child, they found the program (meaningful). I know that this program provides healing for so many of them in a way that is really real.

“Last year, we had 47 families that came out,” continued Msgr. Shoemaker. “We had up to 59 families call to register by the deadline [to be] able to have their child’s name listed in the program. The program includes their family name, their child’s name and the date of death.”

After the celebration of Mass, Msgr. Shoemaker invited each family to form a single line down the center aisle of the church. One of the family members held a framed photograph of their loved one. Msgr. Shoemaker allowed a family representative to say the name of the deceased into a microphone he was holding.

A single live red rose was handed to one of the parents or a designated relative, who placed it in one of two containers. The photograph was then placed on one of two tables draped in red and gold. The tables were located on both sides of the sanctuary next to the floral containers.

After the processional, a family member retrieved the family picture for safe-keeping, and they also reclaimed one of the long-stemmed flowers to take home as a memorial. Each participant was given a small candle for the concluding vigil.

“Of course, not all the children who have died are children,” noted Msgr. Shoemaker. “We have adults who have died in car accidents and things like that. We even have one of our committee members who lost five children. There are many different ways to lose a child. So, it’s very moving for all.”

It was last September that the planning committee sent invitations to parents and other family members who lost a child by notifying the surrounding parishes. The committee members, which include Bob and JoAnn Cumming, Alma Ennis, Barbara Holmes, Rosella Rago and Nick and Frances Tarallo, all have lost at least one child. They helped plan both the 2007 and 2008 special healing Masses.

Msgr. Shoemaker said he could not have coordinated the evening without their help. “We plan on making this an annual event,” he said. “We usually start with a couple of meetings where we discuss what we want to do. We plan the Mass and the refreshments that we serve after the program. We will be having a meeting to discuss how the Mass went, what we plan to do next year and things of that nature.”

For more information about the Third Annual Mass of Remembrance and Healing to be held in 2009, call Msgr. Shoemaker at 215-493-3377.

Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at