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The Bereavement Committee: Honoring and Celebrating Life

Many years ago, Kate Walsh was visiting a priest who served a remote and rural community. He had just returned from officiating at a graveside service of a 100-year-old woman, and no one was there.

“I have never forgotten how disturbed I was that someone could live that long and then have no one present on her final journey,” Kate says. “There was no one to honor and celebrate the life she had lived, and Christian life is sustained in community.”

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Through the Bereavement Ministry, the faith community of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish has the opportunity to care for those who are grieving by offering prayer, support, and assistance.

“Our goal is to represent our parish members as we offer care and compassion to those in our parish who lose a loved one,” Kate says. “We strive to assist Fr. Eduino in reaching out to those who experience the death of a family member and to be there for them as they bear their loss.”

Members of the Bereavement Committee meet with families after the loss of a loved one and work with them in creating the Vigil Service and Funeral Liturgy. The parish offers the family a hospitality space, and if needed, the Martha and Mary Ministry can provide a luncheon. “We guide and support the family in planning these rituals by assisting them in choosing Scripture readings, prayers of intercession, music, lectors, and working out any other details that the family may request,” Kate says. “We send condolence cards on behalf of the parish to let the family know that we are thinking of them in their time of sorrow.”

The Bereavement Committee also sets up a photo of the deceased in the church which is left for all weekend Masses so that all members of the parish will remember the family in their prayers.

“Many parishioners appreciate having the picture displayed in the church,” Kate says. “Even if they don’t personally know the deceased, it helps them put a name to the face.”

Members of the committee are often verbally thanked for their work by the family and sometimes even receive ‘thank you’ notes.

“Dona Hoffman, in her book, Yes, Lord, comments, ‘Listen: It is the greatest compliment you can give: that I am worth hearing,’” Kate says. “We try to listen to the needs of those who ask for our help so that they may find comfort. It is often just by listening and lending an ear that we can help the most.”

Originally New Yorkers, Kate and her husband joined Our Lady of the Assumption in 1973 when they moved to Sacramento for work and bought a home a short distance from the parish. Kate retired in 2008 after 30 years at the parish school.

“This ministry allows me to answer God’s call to serve others,” Kate says. “It was born out of the 2008 Parish Renewal’s Outreach Committee. Our pastor at that time was Fr. Brendan McKeefry, who strongly expressed a desire and a need for this ministry to assist him in serving the members of our parish when they suffered a loss.”

Though the ministry has been on hiatus since last March during the COVID-19 pandemic, members are hoping to resume an active role in parish life soon and continue living the spiritual and corporal works of mercy by consoling and comforting the living and burying the dead.

“As Christians, we are called to reach out to others,” Kate says. “We are sustainers of one another as we face the challenges and struggles of daily life. It is comforting to know that we are part of a family that cares for one another and to whom we can turn in times of need.”

If you would like more information about the Bereavement Committee or if someone is in need of their services, reach out to Fr. Eduino Silveira through the parish office at 916-481-5115.