By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

ROSEMONT – The first Thanksgiving and Christmas that follow the death of a beloved family member can be difficult.

For that reason, and to commemorate Respect Life Month in October as well as the month of the Holy Souls in November, the archdiocesan Family Life Office sponsored “To Comfort All Who Mourn: A Workshop for Parish Bereavement Ministry Teams” Oct. 23 at the Chapel of St. Thomas of Villanova Parish in Rosemont.

Among the workshop presenters was Father Stephen P. DeLacy, school minister at Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford, in residence at St. Mary Parish in Schwenksville. {{more}}

Father DeLacy reminded the attendees that Thanksgiving and Christmas are times “that the Christian community needs to step up and offer greater support – an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on, to be present with people as they are actively grieving so that these holidays aren’t them grieving by themselves, but with the Catholic community.

“God helps us profoundly in our grief,” Father DeLacy said. “Grief is a time of profound grace. God draws close to us when we’re grieving the loss of a loved one. So it’s important for those that are grieving to be able to recognize that, to tap into the grace fully.”

Geared to bereavement and grief ministry teams, clergy and others planning to become involved in bereavement ministry, the gathering, which drew nearly 100, provided practical tips on how to help those who are grieving.

Among other themes, the forum highlighted how a parish bereavement ministry team is built, how bereavement ministry meetings are conducted and how to provide ongoing formation for bereavement ministry members.

The importance of consistent collaboration and communication between the parish bereavement ministry team and the parish pastor was also underscored.

Other presenters at the workshop were Dominic Lombardi, director of the Family Life Office and Tara Plymouth, coordinator of Family Life Ministry in the Family Life Office.

Father DeLacy likened a Christian death to that of a sunset. “When the sun sets, you can’t help but pause and observe the beauty and the brilliance and the warmth and the goodness of the sun. So, too, when a loved one dies, you can’t help but pause and ponder their goodness, their beauty, the gift that they were to the world.

“When the sun sets, though,” he said, “there is a real coldness and darkness that set in. So, too, even with a Christian death there is real pain and grieving that people must go through.

“And we know that with every sunset there is a sunrise. It is our sure and certain hope that we will rise on the last day with Christ and receive our glorified bodies. So death is not a ‘goodbye.’ It is merely, ‘I will see you later,'” he concluded, “for at the end of time there will be the resurrection of the dead.”

The relationship between baptism and the dignity of the body of the deceased was discussed within the context of why the priest anoints the corpse and why family members place a pall over the casket.

Christ’s presence at all times was also acknowledged at the bereavement workshop. The ongoing responsibility on the part of the living faithful in praying for the dead was also addressed.

“Even though it’s very painful when our loved one dies, we know that we’re still connected to them through Christ Jesus, especially in our participation in the Eucharist,” Father DeLacy said.

“There is a very real bond with our loved ones through, with and in Jesus Christ, our Eucharistic Lord, where we have an opportunity to participate in what’s happening in heaven,” he said.

A question-and-answer session followed the presentations.

For more information visit the web site of the Family Life Office at, call the office at 215-587-3516 or e-mail Tara Plymouth, coordinator of Family Life Ministry in the Family Life Office, at

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or