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The Bethany Journey

Revised by Mary Brady

Acknowledgements Deep gratitude is expressed to Mary Brady for her diligence and dedication in compiling this revised edition of The Bethany Journey. Gratitude is also due to Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ for his encouraging foreword that will inspire Bethany members to continue on their journey in supporting the bereaved. Thank you to Eda Sagarra for her valuable contribution towards editing. A special word of gratitude to all the members of the GEC for their enthusiasm, support and contributions in bringing this revised edition of The Bethany Journey to fruition. Finally, thank you to the design team and staff at Messenger Publications. Moira Staines Chairperson 2012

Mission Statement To provide a voluntary parish-based ministry, which aims to support all the bereaved through the grieving process.

First edition 1999 by Gregory Allen Revised Edition 2012 by Mary Brady

Bethany Bereavement Support Group c/o Rathfarnham Parish Centre, Willbrook Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14

Printed in Ireland The material in this publication is protected by copyright law. Except as may be permitted by law, no part of the material may be reproduced (including by storage in a retrieval system) or transmitted in any form or by any means, adapted, rented or lent without the written permission of the copyright owners. Applications for permissions should be addressed to the publisher.

Copyright Š Bethany Bereavement Support Group

Designed by Messenger Publications Design Department Typeset in 10.75/14 Times New Roman & Trajan



THE BETHANY JOURNEY............................................................9

Finding The Way .............................................................................. 9

Bethany Beginnings ....................................................................... 10

FIRST STEPS ON THE JOURNEY ..............................................13 MAKING A MAP...........................................................................15

Father John Murphy ....................................................................... 15


Bethany Launched .......................................................................... 17

The Parishes ................................................................................... 18

A Milestone .................................................................................... 19

LOOKING FOR SHELTER...........................................................21 OBSTACLES ON THE PATH........................................................23

Father Donal Sullivan and the Constitution ................................... 23

A GUIDE BOOK............................................................................27

Post Constitution ............................................................................ 27

Consolidation ................................................................................. 28

SUPPORT ON THE JOURNEY.....................................................30

The Christian Death Weekend ........................................................ 30

The Retreat in Orlagh ..................................................................... 31

The Weekend Retreats at Orlagh .................................................... 33

HELP ON THE WAY......................................................................35

The Grant from The Family Support Agency ................................ 35

FINDING THE VOICE..................................................................37

Making The Bethany CD ............................................................... 37

A Review ........................................................................................ 38

KEEPING A RECORD OF THE JOURNEY.................................40

The Newsletter ............................................................................... 40

ENCOUNTERS ON THE ROAD..................................................43

Funeral Ministry ............................................................................. 43

NEW BRANCH ROADS...............................................................44 Expansion ....................................................................................... 44


Constitutional Changes................................................................... 46

THE JOURNEY AT PRESENT......................................................47 RESOURCES FOR THE JOURNEY.............................................49

Support for the Bereaved ................................................................ 49

APPENDIX ..................................................................................51 Prayers .......................................................................................... 51

FORE WORD The enormity of human suffering pouring into our homes through TV, radio and computers, reporting wars, revolutions, famines, ecological disasters, unemployment, banking and sexual scandals, challenges us daily to make a choice on how we are going to respond to these disasters. Are we going to be so overwhelmed that we descend into despair and hopelessness? Are we going to ignore these disasters and distract ourselves by getting lost in pleasure and activities? Are we going to find someone to blame and become more self-righteous than compassionate? Are we going to just harden our hearts and become immune to it all? Or are we going to turn our ire on God, giving up our faith in Him and blaming Him for making such an imperfect world? We may never understand the reasons for all that happens but we are free to choose how we are going to respond. There is little we can do about much of this suffering as it is outside our sphere of influence. But there is suffering that is occurring daily at our doorstep, to people that are part of our everyday lives. One form of this suffering is the pain of grief which comes from the loss of our loved ones. Bethany is a movement of people who choose to respond to bereaved people with their hearts and their compassionate presence. They allow themselves to be conduits for God’s loving compassion, acting in and through them. They believe that it is not acceptable to God, or to them, that the bereaved suffer alone and without any comfort. They believe that the Christ presence did not leave the earth with the Ascension of Jesus, but that at Pentecost His Spirit was poured into our hearts enabling us to become the new body of Christ in the world. Each of us manifest that loving presence in our own unique way and express it appropriately to meet the needs of the bereaved. Bethany volunteers know that despite their generous offering of themselves to be comfort for the bereaved they nevertheless need training to be more fruitful instruments in the hands of God. So in the course of a twelve week training programme they learn that grief unfolds in recognisable stages and has many faces; and above all they learn the art of listening in a way


that is healing. They undertake to work through unresolved grief in their own lives; and they learn the importance of letting go of bitterness and resentment in the grieving journey to enable them to move on. All this, along with ongoing training, make Bethany members more effective and consoling companions to the bereaved. After the Second World War, the people of a town in France looked through the rubble to find and put together the pieces of their much loved statue of Christ that had been blown to smithereens in a bombing raid. They wanted to mount it again in the town. All the pieces were found except His hands. After a town meeting they came to an inspired solution; they would mount the statue without any hands but with a notice underneath it saying ‘He has no hands but ours’. For 30 years since its inception, I have witnessed people being drawn to minister to the bereaved through Bethany, to be the hands and ears and heart of Christ. This year 2012, Bethany is still thriving and expanding because people are still coming generously forward with the realisation, ‘He has no hands but ours’ and offering themselves to be balm for the bereaved in their parishes and in their everyday lives. So the story of Bethany is still unfolding. It is an honour and privilege to be still part of it. Long may the Spirit prompt and guide us. Amen Myles O’Reilly SJ Chaplain to Bethany


THE BETHANY JOURNE Y Finding the way

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matt 5.4 ‘How do we learn to die?’ In 1995 Marie de Hennezel, a french psychologist working in the palliative care of the dying, in her book Intimate Death poses this question. She goes on to say: ‘Death is an immense mystery, a great question mark that we carry in the marrow of our bones’ but in our present society ‘we panic at this question and turn away. Never perhaps have our relations with death been as barren as in this modern spiritual desert, in which our rush to a mere existence carries us past all sense of mystery.’ In 1999 Gregory Allen, in the first edition of The Bethany Journey, repeats the question. How do we learn to die? Though many things in our society have changed since that time this question remains relevant. The Hospice Movement was an enlightened approach to answering the question. The psychological insights on which the Movement is based have led to a new awareness and sensitivity to the needs of the dying. The palliative care it offers them; the opportunity for them to voice their hopes, their fears and regrets and the loving concern it extends to those that take care of them, has changed our approach to death. But for those who are left behind to mourn alone, something more is needed, and it is out of this need Bethany bereavement support emerged. The need for a Bereavement ministry in the church was one among


many needs that emerged in the vast housing estates built on the outskirts of Dublin in the 1970s and ’80s. Community life was slow to develop due to the lack of infrastructure to support it. The rapid growth in telecommunications also tended to isolate families and even some individuals within the family. In these estates, where families were divided, the loss of support from the extended family resulted in loneliness and isolation for many people. The lack of vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious life also left a vacuum. In sickness and death the loss of traditional community support left many people feeling helpless and bewildered. In the past communities announced a death by pulling down blinds; by pinning a black bordered card to the door; by women wearing black and men black arm bands or a black square stitched to the sleeves of their jacket. These signs of mourning have disappeared, and now there is no sign that a death has occurred. The traditional wake when friends and neighbours came with words of comfort, gifts of food and Mass Cards also disappeared in urban areas. More and more people now die in Hospitals or Nursing Homes. The bereaved gather in the impersonal atmosphere of a Funeral Parlour instead of the healing intimacy of the wake at home, where traditionally, bereaved people were surrounded by friends and neighbours who came to give comfort and to pray. Now death makes us feel uncomfortable and many people avoid their bereaved neighbours because they are unable to deal with grief. Where now are people to turn when they need support and comfort? Bethany is a response that emerged in a society that had need of it and was open to accepting its support.


Bethany Beginnings The story of the Bethany Bereavement Support Groups began in New York where the first vague idea was born. In the summer of 1975, Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ worked as chaplain in the Presbyterian/Colombia Medical Centre in New York He was impressed by the deep sensitivity in their care of the dying. He only learned later that in that very Hospital the Swiss psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, was the inspiration behind the dramatic change in the institutional care of the dying. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was always attracted to medicine and had a deep desire to care for the sick. In her autobiography The Wheel of Life, she drew a picture of the life of a country doctor. She believed a doctor should be first of all ‘a good, caring, sensitive, loving human being.’ In America, moving from one hospital to another, the young doctor opened herself as she says to ‘the misery, loneliness and fear felt by dying patients. They sensed this and weren’t so alone and fearful anymore.’ She ‘sat on beds, held hands and listened for hours’ and learned, as Mother Teresa found in the gutters of Calcutta, there wasn’t ‘a single dying human being who did not yearn for love, touch and communication’. Dying patients didn’t want a safe distance from their doctors, they craved honesty. ‘Tell me what you are going through’, I would say, ‘it will help me to help other people.’ Every patient and doctor thought about death. Most feared it. Sooner or later, everybody has to confront it. It was something doctors and patients had in common and it was probably the greatest mystery in medicine and the biggest taboo also. When she was given the opportunity to deliver her first lecture she chose the subject of death. And before she spoke she recalled the prayer of serenity. God grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can And the wisdom to know the difference.


Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. In her seminal work, On Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross defines five stages in the universal experience of grief, both for those facing death and those left behind to mourn. 1. Denial. 2. Bargaining in a futile search for reassurance. 3. Anger at life’s raw deal. 4. Depression, including unreasonable personal guilt. 5. And finally, in the eventual renewal of faith, the acceptance of reality in a new life alone. In the compassionate work of bereavement support, Kubler-Ross urged ordinary people to play a central role. ‘You do not need special Gurus or Babas to grow. Teachers come in all forms and disguises… All the theories and science in the world could not help anyone as much as one human being unafraid to open his heart to another… There is no mistaking love. You feel it in your heart. It is the common fibre of life, the flame that heats our soul; that energises our spirit and supplies passion to our lives. It is our connection to God and to each other.’ Following a disagreement with the administrator of a Family Service Centre who reprimanded her for counselling patients who couldn’t afford to pay, Kubler-Ross launched her own Life, Death and Transition workshops. As a teenage volunteer working for refugees in Poland, Kubler-Ross made a pilgrimage to the concentration camp at Maidenek. In graffiti on the barrack walls she noticed ‘one image repeated over and over again. Butterflies… Surely they had some special meaning… For the next twenty-five years I asked myself that question and hated myself for not having the answer.’ She learned the answer in her work with the dying when she was converted to a belief in life after death and in the transcending unconditional love of God. ‘When we have done all the

work we were sent on earth to do, we are allowed to shed our body which imprisons our soul like a cocoon encloses the butterfly. And when the time is right, we can let go of it and we will be free of pain, free of fears and worries… free as a very beautiful butterfly, returning home to God.’ Theological students also sought her advice. Dr Kubler-Ross was not surprised. ‘They had as much reason to study death and dying as any doctor,’ she said. ‘They dealt with dying patients too. Certainly they had their own questions about death and dying that could not be answered by reading the Bible.’

FIRST STEPS ON THE JOURNE Y In 1982 when Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ again visited the United States, he found the Hospice Movement for the care of the dying was taking root throughout America. It occurred to Fr Myles that a retreat, combining the Christian response to death and the approach fostered by Kubler-Ross, was an idea whose time had come. In August 1982 he was appointed Director of Tabor Retreat Centre at Milltown Park, Dublin. With the help of his co-workers, in November that year, he designed a Weekend Retreat for people who wanted to come to terms with death, whether it was their own experience of dying or the death of a loved one, relative or friend. He and his team called this weekend event Death: A Christian Exploration. They also welcomed those who were professionally engaged in the care of the dying and those who wanted to live more fully by coming to terms with death from a Christian perspective. It was a tentative beginning. Working in small groups led by Tabor staff and members of Anamchairde, who were trained in the art of listening and ‘soul friendship’, participants were invited to share the stories of their own experience of death. Though every story was different, when taken together they became the collective human story of our encounter with death. The process of coming to terms with mortality was assisted by appropriate meditations on various aspects of death and by prayer and relevant liturgy. The team also invited Christy Kenneally, who, through his experience as a chaplain in the Cork Hospice, had developed

a unique and comforting way of communicating about the final journey of death. The participants left invigorated and challenged. This was the first of many such retreats that were to bring great blessings to the life of the Church in the Dublin Diocese. The second retreat at Milltown Park in the winter of 1983 was attended by Derek Whelan, a company executive, sent by The Samaritans to assess the value of the retreat for their own needs. He was so moved by the experience that he discussed with some of his fellow retreatants the possibility of forming a support group. The telling of intimate stories of their own grief had, for some, proved a liberating experience. For some others who had years of anger, regret, and sadness deep inside them, it was more traumatic. For Derek there was affirmation but also concern, that the initiative might be short lived, leaving some bereaved souls in a friendless limbo. ‘Once we are committed then we are committed full stop. To work well, we must build friendship with the people who seek our help. The work cannot stop at the end of a session or a weekend. I think there has to be an ongoing aftercare process, without becoming too intrusive,’ he said.

MAKING A M AP Father John Murphy Early in 1984, at the suggestion of Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ, Derek Whelan called at the old cancer hospital, St Anne’s in Northbrook Road, to meet Fr John Murphy SJ, the chaplain. Working in an inner city parish, Fr John, concerned with the plight of the socially deprived, developed a scheme to find accommodation for newlyweds called House A Marriage. On his retirement from parish work Fr John, now in his seventies, was appointed chaplain to St Anne’s at his own request. In the wider ministry of his contacts with visiting relatives, he became aware of a need for bereavement support that was not being adequately catered for in the modern world. Having attended the Death:

A Christian Exploration Weekend he recognised that this was exactly what people needed. It was not reaching enough people being confined to a Retreat house; a similar experience of support for those bereaved needed to be made available to people in their parishes. With Fr John’s flair for organisation, his leadership and drive and his vision for how it could evolve, Bethany began to take shape. He was, in the words of Derek Whelan who worked closely with him, ‘a most loving and caring person, of so many talents and strengths, of enormous energy, totally committed and selfless.’ His deep spirituality inspired all who worked with him. He was to dedicate the last years of his life to the care of the bereaved. In the summer of 1984 he was present at a meeting in Derek Whelan’s office in Botanic Road, Glasnevin, to launch the as yet unnamed bereavement Group; a handful of people searching for a means to respond to an urgent social problem. This first group of people willing to train and be trained were Alice Barry, Miryam Duffy, Kathleen and Tom Keleghan, Brigid Kinsealla, Stasia O’Byrne, and Derek Whelan in whose office the meeting was held. The vital need for someone with pastoral experience was recognised by Fr John, so he invited Sr Breeda Treacy of the Little Company of Mary, Hospital Chaplain at Mount Carmel, to the meeting, and she became Director of Training and a key figure in Bethany. As the year progressed a Steering committee evolved with Derek Whelan as Chairman and including Tom Keleghan, a Dublin business man, and Anne Scott, a ward sister in charge of the maternity unit at Mount Carmel. Alice Barry became Secretary and Miryam Duffy was Treasurer. At a further meeting, Fr John introduced Dr David Louis Magee, a clinical psychologist working at Trinity House, who was to instruct the founding committee on bereavement and on essential empathy and listening skills. Seeking a description that best conveyed their vision, the group enthusiastically endorsed Fr John’s proposal to adopt the name Bethany for the new movement. Bethany was where Jesus consoled Mary and Martha on the death of their brother, and where He Himself wept at

the death of His friend. The Bethany Movement seeks likewise to be a support and consolation to those who suffer the pain and bewilderment of loss. Fr John was confirmed in his role as Spiritual Director of the group by Bishop Desmond Williams.

EQUIPING OURSELVES FOR THE JOURNE Y Bethany Launched In January 1985, following months of training, Bethany was ready to launch its service. Core group volunteers waited at Tabor House on Tuesday evenings and in Tom Keleghan’s office in Mountjoy Square on Saturday mornings, with a daytime telephone service at Tabor House, Monday to Friday. They offered their services to anyone who was bereaved, to both individuals and to families. They were now putting into practice what they had learned from Dr Magee, not as counsellors but as helpers offering a sympathetic ear to people needing to talk to someone about their feelings of loss. As a response to his experience of the ‘Death: A Christian Exploration Weekend, Fr John wrote an article on the new movement which appeared in The Sacred Heart Messenger in November 1985. The response in letters to the author confirmed the demand for the service. He had written, ‘some came wishing to come to terms with their own deaths; others came to seek relief from the intense pain they knew in the death of a loved one; others for support and guidance in their work of caring for the dying and the terminally ill. They shared together: above all they listened with understanding and empathy… For the bereaved the feeling of not being alone in their grief or of not having it pushed aside by friends was a deeply healing experience.’ Bernadette Hegarty, writing in Carmel in 1987 following her own bereavement, says family and friends coped ‘with me in my need to be listened to as I repeated the same grief and worries again and again. The need to be listened to is one of the most necessary therapies for the bereaved but a very difficult role for the listener.’ Being listened to with love and understanding was for her almost a revelation of the existence of God. For many people there are no friends and family available to listen to the endless repetitions with understanding and love. The bereaved feel themselves alone and lost. There was now an urgent need

for a meeting place at a central location where the bereaved could more conveniently contact Bethany. The December meeting of the core group was attended by Sr Catherine Prendergast of Centre Care, an initiative of the Catholic Social Services Conference. Centre Care provided counselling and support in resolving personal problems, including spiritual problems and difficulties in family relationships. Centre Care was about to occupy premises in Cathedral Street in the inner city, and Sr Catherine generously invited Bethany to share the accommodation. This little group of idealists, who had recognised the need for bereavement care, listened patiently to the clients who called at Tabor House and Centre Care. But the numbers availing of the service dwindled. Realising they were making no real progress they made the critical decision to go to the root of the problem, which was to take Bethany to those suffering bereavement in the parishes.

The Parishes To establish Bethany in the parishes, a course of training for bereavement ministers was designed by Sr Breeda on the foundations laid by Dr Magee. The training sessions were held at Tabor House in September 1985. They were facilitated by Fr John, Derek Whelan, and Sr Breeda who invited people with pastoral experience in social work to join them. These newcomers were Mairead Allen, Doris Burt, Gabrielle Flynn, and Sean Moore. Lectures on the following topics were given over a period of ten weeks: Reflections on Bethany by the Spiritual Director; Dying and the Needs of the Terminally Ill; Skills of listening and Empathy; Personal Growth; Grief; Healing and Reconciliation; and Cot Deaths, Neonatal Deaths, Still Births and Miscarriages. An extended twelve week course was later redesigned to include a lecture on The Structure of the Parish Group; and two lectures were given by Fr Myles O’Reilly, one on Forgiveness in the grieving Process and the other on The Dynamics of Groups. The course concluded with Experiential Workshops, the presentation of Affiliation Certificates, and

the celebration of Mass. To meet the demand for affiliation and the increasing workload in organising training courses, it was found necessary to form a SubCommittee with Doris Burt in the chair and Sr Breeda as Course Director. The Sub-Committee was joined by Sr Sheila McAuliffe of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart, a hospital chaplain who was instructing seminarians on pastoral care. The panel of distinguished lecturers included the late Dr Therese Brady, Department of Psychology, UCD, and a luminary of the Irish Hospice Foundation; Dr Esther Bradley, National Rehabilitation Hospital; Fr Bob Whiteside C.M. All Hallows College; Sr Sheila McAuliffe and Anne Scott, Mount Carmel. To bring further depth to understanding the problems of bereavement, the training team began expanding its activities in 1990 to include refresher courses for established parish ministers.

A Milestone The spring of 1986 marked an important milestone. The training for the first parish groups from Bonnybrook, Larkhill, and Marino was completed. The new Bethany ministers were commissioned at a liturgical ceremony celebrated by Fr John during Mass in each of the parishes. In association with this development, Fr John prevailed on Fr Myles to repeat the successful Christian Death Retreat at Tabor House, and recommended the attendance of the recently commissioned ministers. When he had taken the retreat himself as a participant, he expressed a wish that such a fruitful exercise be made more available, but at that time Fr Myles was unable to give the retreat due to other commitments. However, bereavement retreats sponsored by Bethany continued alongside the drive to organise the parishes. The new direction coincided with the introduction of the very popular November Service of Light, commemorating all who had died during the year. This is now a high point in the Bethany calendar. Bethany

members organise it in the parishes. They make sure that every family bereaved during the year are contacted and made aware of it. Candles with the name of the deceased are given to each family, one of whom carries it to the Altar where they are all lighted and left during the Mass. The music and the prayers are specially chosen. People feel comforted, their pain eased. Afterwards, Bethany members provide tea and support. In July 1986 Fr John became seriously ill. He wrote to the group, ‘I want to tell all the members of the Bethany Support Group how deeply grateful I am for their prayers, their concern, their visits and their great giving.’ On September the 23rd 1986, Fr John Murphy died. A meeting of the Steering Committee scheduled for the same evening duly convened with a deep sense of sadness, knowing Fr John would have wished it so. They ended the meeting with the prayer of Cardinal Newman: May He support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then, in his mercy, may He give us safe lodging, a holy rest and peace at the last.

LOOKING FOR SHELTER In the reorganising following Fr John’s death, Derek Whelan resigned and Tom Keleghan was elected Chairman; Sr Breeda Treacy Vice Chairman, Sean Moore Treasurer and Mairead Allen Secretary. On the recall of Sr Breeda to a world-wide role in the Little Company of Mary and her retirement as Course Director, her place was taken by Sr Sheila McAuliffe. Before the end of the year the Archbishop appointed a new Spiritual Director, Fr Aquinas Duffy, Westland Row, who was to organise the first Annual Day of Recollection the following year. Training of parish ministers continued at the Dublin Institute of Adult Education. At one point the Institute became so congested that serious consideration was given to running a second course. The hope for a new venue for courses at the more spacious Loreto Hall in Stephen’s Green was realised. At the end of a successful year the committee published an information

leaflet, Bethany Bereavement Support Group: An Organisation to Help the Bereaved. In two years of endeavour, 1986-1988, no fewer than forty parishes had been catered for and assistance given to form groups outside the Archdioceses. This was a remarkable achievement for a small organisation without premises or a telephone, administered by unpaid voluntary workers using much of their own resources. The Steering Committee had long been hampered by a lack of settled accommodation for meetings and training courses. These had been held at a variety of different venues all over the city, from commercial offices to the private residences of members of the committee, from Vincent’s Hospital to the Dominican Priory in Tallaght. This was very unsatisfactory. There was a lot of good will but very little available space. The organisation needed a permanent office with a fixed postal address, centrally located, to be manned by volunteers from the core group with assistance from parish groups. A telephone was essential, with an answer-phone service to enable callers to be referred to the appropriate parish group. A series of leaflets on basic information was needed such as On Setting up a Bethany Support Group in your Parish; Training for Bethany Support Groups; and The Parish Group in Operation, and a leaflet outlining the liturgical commissioning service for ministers. There was also a pressing need for a supply of stationery and a petty cash account. It was a frustrating time.

OBSTACLES ON THE PATH Fr Donal Sullivan and the Constitution Early in 1990 Fr Donal Sullivan, a gentle but determined man, became the new Spiritual Director of Bethany. In 1991 Tom Keleghan resigned as Chairman and, pending the appointment of a successor, the chair was taken by Fr Donal. He was faced by some unexpected problems. On a general invitation to send

delegates to the core group, one parish nominated a candidate who had not completed a training course. The candidate was turned down. The group involved had attended a course of lectures organised by the parish itself, under the Bethany banner. This group had not conformed to a condition laid down by Fr John Murphy to preserve the integrity of Bethany, which was written into the draft of a constitution as ‘members of Bethany Support Groups shall be selected and trained in accordance with procedures and standards set by the General Executive Council’. In another parish, a member of Bethany felt obliged to respond to local pressure to hasten the training of ministers, and delivered their own lectures to the group. This problem was resolved by a visit to the class by members of the Steering Committee and by co-opting the Course Director on to the Training Sub-Committee. In both cases the Committee felt in honour bound to act in the spirit of Fr John’s legacy; otherwise, Bethany as a responsible organisation, guided by central authority, could not have survived. These difficulties hastened the consideration of the draft Constitution. From its formation a decade earlier, the Steering committee had been preoccupied with promoting Bethany, and its members were overstretched in the work of training ever increasing numbers of aspirant ministers. The minutes for 6 April, 1991 give a graphic insight into the pressures on the Steering Committee. At a previous meeting it was foreseen that a backlog in training was creating a twelve month delay for some Parish groups. A course planned for October having been fully booked up, a decision was taken in the absence of Sr Breeda to run an earlier unscheduled course after Easter. Though Sr Breeda thought it unwise to stretch their meagre resource, Fr Donal went ahead and organised substitute speakers. At the opening of the course, it was discovered that Sr Breeda and Doris Burt were both unavailable; the Secretary was put in the position of having to supervise the course, which was very difficult for her and was unsatisfactory for others. At the GEC meeting as course Director, Sr Breeda put the reasonable case that they should not undermine the authority of the Training Sub

Committee. More weight should be given to the role of the Course Director. They should in future have a panel of speakers to call upon in emergencies. Doris Burt expressed an anxiety that the standards of training built up over the years might be diluted. At the same meeting, the treasurer Sean Moore called for a review of their financial arrangements. The charges levied on parishes for training ministers had not altered since the inception of Bethany, while the fees paid to external speakers had been increased, making inroads on their small reserves. Meanwhile they had overheads to cover, including stationery and postage. They were a voluntary organisation, but they had to pay their way. It was hoped that increased subscriptions would help them balance their accounts. While acting as chairman in 1991, Fr Donal Sullivan challenged the Steering Committee to consider if Bethany, as conceived by Fr John Murphy, was still justified. He implied that Bethany was in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. Its role as a catalyst had perhaps been fulfilled in the awareness of bereavement it had generated at parish level. The churches were packed for the November Service of Light, which is a powerful healing experience for the bereaved. The role of the new Parish Sisters was full of promise in pastoral ministry. Perhaps Fr Donal also had in mind that in a tiny voluntary organisation responsibility fell on too few shoulders, which had resulted in overwork and the loss of committed people. Their activities were focussed on grieving after death, but other groups also reached out to people who knew the grief of loss from upsets in ordinary life. Might Bethany consider amalgamating with one of these organisations, benefiting from shared accommodation and funds? The committee responded to the challenge with a defence of its policy of support for the family in bereavement. As a parish-based ministry, Bethany provided a visible and accessible local community service that a big, centrally organised committee could not hope to match. They had never contemplated dissipating their strength by diverting members from vital work to raise funds, despite the need for an office

and a meeting place of their own. As a viable parish ministry they should be supported by the Catholic Social Service Conference. The training of ministers should be realistically costed and fully funded by the parish, with parish groups to pay an annual fee to fund the Steering Committee. Fr Donal expressed a reservation also about the inter-faith appeal Bethany wished to make and which tended to be obscured, if not prejudiced, by its structure in the parishes and by the use of parish rooms for meetings. This issue would have to wait almost ten years to be resolved. Because of all these difficulties the Constitution issue was shelved, though it came up for discussion in 1992 and again in 1993. It was only formally adopted in 1994. A change then in its title to Bethany Bereavement Support Group more clearly stated its mission. The work of the movement was defined as ‘a Ministry in the context of Pastoral Care Programmes’… to ‘support the bereaved and those grieving for any loss; provide training courses to enable Parish Groups to function effectively and to establish such other support services as are needed and feasible from time to time.’ The rule on membership made by Fr John Murphy was confirmed: ‘Members shall be selected and trained in accordance with procedures and standards set by the General Executive Council: and furthermore: it shall be mandatory for each potential Parish group to undergo the Bethany Training Programme in Bereavement Ministry.’ A lighted candle was adopted as a logo, symbolising the healing and consolation celebrated in the liturgy of the November Service of Light, inspired by Cardinal Newman’s famous lines: Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home, Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet! I do not ask to see The distant scene; one step enough for me.

A GUIDE BOOK Post Constitution The first Annual General Meeting under the constitution was held in January 1994, at the Franciscan Centre on Merchants Quay. An executive Council was elected with David Walsh, Chairman; Mairead Allen, Secretary; Moira Staines, Treasurer; and Winnie Keogh, a committed member. Bethany had come of age. A Newsletter, which was an innovation of a Promotions Sub-Committee headed by David Walsh, published details of proposed training programmes. By the end of 1994 Bethany counted 50 affiliated parishes, or over 300 trained ministers, a prodigious achievement for a voluntary body. Fr Donal Sullivan resigned after his five years as Spiritual Director and, in April the following year, Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ renewed his ties with Bethany as Spiritual Director. He had been in Belfast from 1988 to 1994 where he ran Death: a Christian Exploration weekends. Many of the bereavements there were the result of violence during The Troubles. In those years during Fr Myles’s absence Tabor House ceased to run weekends for the bereaved. The return of Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ heralded changes in administration. David Walsh stepped down as Chairman and was replaced by Mairead Allen, one of the Bethany idealists on the committee with Fr John Murphy. She was very keen to resume the Death: a Christian Exploration weekends again, having benefited from her own experience of it. In 1997 a new committee was elected with Alice O’Grady-Walsh, Chairperson, Rosaleen Fitzgerald, Secretary, Brendan Ryan, Treasurer, Sr Sheila McAuliffe continuing in charge of Training, and Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ, Spiritual Director.


At one point a priest was heard to comment that he was ‘terrified’ at the prospect of Bethany giving a pastoral role to well-intentioned but insufficiently trained volunteers in the parishes. But he was unaware of the Bethany emphasis on listening to the bereaved. Equally, an organisation person might argue that the standards built up over the years would be difficult to monitor in scattered parish groups. But the executive were alive to every need and became even more selective. To guard against fragmentation and possible misrepresentation of their essential mission, aspirant ministers are now interviewed before they are selected for training. In a redesigned course, trainee ministers are again interviewed and if found to be unsuitable for any reason they are not recommended to their parish priest. This ensures that only the best qualified people are commissioned for work in the parishes. In their training, members revisit their own grief. In doing so, many discover unresolved grief. In group sessions with a facilitator, they are comfortable in sharing their feelings; the love and support they experience allow the release of long buried emotions. Incredible healing takes place. Each member feels safe and accepted throughout the twelve weeks of training. At the same time there is considerable growth and personal development. Members testify to a deepening of self-confidence as pain is faced and given attention. They speak of the training as a gift, the lifting of a burden, a healing process and a new beginning. One described a journey through a dark tunnel to emerge in brilliant sunshine; others rejoiced in being part of so much healing, beautifully expressed by a trainee: ‘My wounds have become my glory’. Those who are privileged to witness such blessing see the image of a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. It is a graced experience to accompany those who are training to be Bethany ministers. To see sixty ministers grow into the realisation of their own gifts and resources, which will be used in supporting others in their grief, is a testimony to the vision of Fr Murphy and the founders of Bethany.

SUPPORT ON THE JOURNE Y The Christian Death Weekend The important debate prompted by Fr Donal Sullivan left the question of Bethany’s relevance apparently resolved; and there the matter rested until, in November,1996, it surfaced again. The Executive Committee were faced with a slow response from the parishes to a planned Christian Death Weekend at the Emmaus Retreat House. The point was made that since some religious communities and lay organisations were now running similar retreats, Bethany might discontinue its involvement. But the slow response was due in part to the fact that these weekends had not been held in Dublin for five years, and Tabor House, where they had been originally held, was now closed. The Chairperson Mairead Allen, out of conviction, but also out of loyalty to the memory of Fr John Murphy, strongly defended the value of the Christian Death Weekend as a well-established core activity. It was essential that new parish ministers finishing their training should attend the retreat. Her views were opposed by Alice O’Grady-Walshe, who took the view that instead of expending their energies striving to enrol members for a retreat they might be better employed in re-training established ministers. Bethany needed to be promoted in parishes where there was little activity. Studying the growth of Bethany as a vibrant lay apostolate in the archdiocese, Alice, now the new Chairperson, participated in the Christian Death Weekend in Orlagh, the Augustinian retreat centre at Ballycullen Co. Dublin, in 1997 and again in 1998. Personal experience convinced Alice of the value of the November retreat for the bereaved, and she subsequently endorsed the Christian Death Weekend as an important activity for Bethany. In 1998 Mairead Allen died. For almost two decades, from the foundation of Bethany to her death, she was closely associated with the organisation. Alice O’Grady-Walshe, speaking at her funeral, said, ‘The work, the dedication, and the endless energy which Mairead put into the

organisation is beyond telling. Today Mairead would rejoice at seeing the growth and expansion of Bethany across seventy-five parishes into Athy in County Kildare and Killucan in County Westmeath.’ ‘Bethany began at one venue where the bereaved might come for support; now, they often come to the local parish centres. Others are sometimes so grief-stricken that they are unable, or are not ready, to make the first move. Bethany members visit these people in their homes or look out for them at Mass or other places where people congregate.’

The Retreat in Orlagh Gregory Allen, husband of Mairead, with a flair for writing, wrote the following account of a weekend retreat in Orlagh Retreat Centre. On the eve of All Souls day 1999, Orlagh was again the setting for the annual retreat, Exploring Death and the loss of our Loved Ones. As Director, Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ outlined the method of the weekend in lines written by Edwina Gately, who was the founder of the Volunteer Missionary movement of Genesis House, Chicago, created for the shelter of ‘the homeless, the dispossessed and women in prostitution’. We told our stories, that’s all We sat and listened to and heard The journeys of each soul. We sat in silence entering each one’s pain And sharing each one’s joy We heard love’s longing And the lonely reachings out For love and affirmation. We heard of dreams shattered And vision fled, of hopes and laughter Turned stale and dark. We felt the pain of isolation And the bitterness of death. But in each brave and lonely story

God’s gentle life broke through. And we heard music in the darkness And smelled flowers in the void. We felt the building of creation In the searching of each soul. Considering bereavement in all its varieties, Fr Myles invited the group of over thirty participants to share in confidence, in small groups, their experiences of personal loss. We listened to each other, entering each others pain and holding it lovingly in our hearts. We were encouraged to own and remain with our emotions, letting time and compassionate listening heal the broken heart. There were echoes of Patrick Kavanagh’s lovely poem Having Confessed: Lie at the heart of the emotion, time Has its own work to do. We must not anticipate Or awaken for a moment. God cannot catch us Unless we stay in the unconscious room Of our hearts. We must be nothing, Nothing that God may make us something. We wrote personal letters expressing for ourselves what our loss had meant to us. Reliving the painful experience of grief, we sifted unexplored emotions that might still be poisoning our hearts: resentment towards God or neighbour, doctor or priest, or any sense of guilt or regret holding back the healing process. Needing to unburden these negative emotions, we brought our wounds to the foot of the Cross. Lord, I have offended You By hurting others and myself. Lord, heal and forgive me. In a highly symbolic gesture we burned our letters, letting go of

negativity. We lit a candle, our light pointing us to Jesus the Light of the World. In a new mood of optimism, we praised and thanked God and we trusted with the priest that in time, as the psalmist says, ‘I will show you the path of life, the fullness of joy in my presence’ (Psalm 15) In closing the Weekend, Fr Myles spoke of ‘the corporate grace of Bethany’ that depended on the loyalty of the Executive Committee, a small group of voluntary, dedicated people who sacrificed time and effort in the service of Bethany. Much work was put into the organisation of the intensive weekend at Orlagh, which resulted in a powerful witness to understanding and compassion in the often heedless modern world. Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ, as Spiritual Director, was assisted on the weekend by Bernie Little, Florence Quinn, Rosemary McDevitt, Patricia O’Sullivan, Bernie Mason (Belfast) and Winnie Keogh.

The Weekend Retreats at Orlagh The Weekend Retreat is now established as a bi-annual event for Bethany, and has proved a very valuable experience for those who take part. It is offered to anyone who has been bereaved for more than one year; and to members of Bethany who may wish to experience it. It is a very healing time. In the words of one person who attended in October 1999, ‘I met the most extraordinarily kind people. We discussed our bereavements openly and candidly. Here I felt at peace and I thanked The Lord many times for bringing me to this wonderful place.’ Those who give the Retreat and those who help the bereaved are also helped, ‘People who are experiencing soul pain’ as Michael Kearney describes it in Mortally Wounded, ‘bring us face-to-face not only with their need but with our own.’ The Weekend Retreat has been held in many different venues in the past, but has now been established for many years in Orlagh, the Augustinian Retreat House in Ballycullen. Orlagh is situated in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains overlooking the city spread out below. It is set in lovely grounds with wooded walks and is a beautiful and healing place. The restoration of the Retreat to being an important part of Bethany’s

gift to the bereaved is due to the persistent dedication of Winnie Keogh, Frank O’Hara, Moira Staines, Bernie Mason (Belfast), Anne Butler and Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ. They have given their time and expertise freely to organise and run the Weekend twice a year. They are assisted by volunteers from the parishes who listen and support those suffering bereavement. The needs of each participant are taken care of with sensitivity.

HELP ON THE WAY The Grant from the Family Support Agency In 1999/2000 The Family Support Agency gave Bethany GEC a Grant of €10,000 which enabled the Group to expand and consolidate its work. It made printing a Newsletter possible, together with a website, a mobile phone helpline, and an email address. More importantly it helped to cover the cost of qualified personnel to train those coming forward in the parishes to be effective Bethany members. There were funds to arrange refresher courses for established members; for days of renewal; help with the cost of the Annual General Meeting; and help also with funding the Orlagh Weekend for those who find the cost beyond their means. The local groups could also apply for funding which would enable them to pay their way; they could now print notices, flyers and the cards needed to inform bereaved families of the help available in their parish; buy candles, stationery and stamps Around the same time Bethany – having been recommended by Sr Sheila McAuliffe – was chosen as ‘the most deserving Voluntary Group’ by South Dublin County Council and won an award of €3,000. Some of this was used to rent a room in a hotel in Tallaght, advertise a talk and pay for a speaker on bereavement, David Nixon, a Sacred Heart Priest. It was well received with over one hundred people attending. One of the first projects the funding enabled was a history of the Bethany Movement. In 2000, Members of the Committee, under the

chairmanship of Richard Cummins and Fr Myles O’Reilly, realised that in their preoccupation with day-to-day affairs, they might overlook how the movement started in 1982. The late Gregory Allen was asked to undertake research for the task. The insights passed on by his late wife Mairead, who was a founding member and Secretary for many years, were invaluable in writing the first story of Bethany. It was published in 2000 by Messenger Publications and called The Bereavement Journey. That edition was used to help compile this present edition, which, while including changes, brings the original edition up to the present.

FINDING OUR VOICE Making the Bethany CD The Bethany CD was the brainchild of the late John Megannety, Chairman, who sadly died in 2005 before his idea could be realised. Frank O’Hara stepped into the breach and as the new chairman set up a sub-committee to carry on the work. Paul Daly, the director of EIST, was waiting to help with the recording; Fr Myles O’Reilly and Margaret Chambers were on hand with their experience and expertise. There was much to draw on. The Bereavement Weekend in Orlagh was consistently inspiring since its beginning in 1983. Its strength was in people telling their own stories of loss. On a CD people could also tell their stories. These could be interlaced with meditations, poems, reflections on the bereavement process, myths about bereavement and even its effects on our bodies. All that was needed was an introduction, and to end it Sr Sheila McAuliffe’s beautiful comforting Prayer for Bereaved People. Four people agreed to tell their stories: Roisin McHugh, Mary Brady, Brian Cavanagh and Frank O’Hara. Sr Sheila, Margaret Chambers and Winnie Keogh wrote the interlacing pieces. Fr Myles chose the music, the poems and the meditations. It took a lot of editing and reediting, changing and rearranging these elements before the CD was ready to be recorded. Paul Daly and his team were very patient with the changes. Several recordings were made in Fr Myles’ apartment and eventually

one thousand CDs were ready for the AGM, 2006. It was dedicated to John Megannety. The CD was launched in the Croke Park Hotel, October 2006. It was a proud day for Bethany with more than 130 people attending. Christy Kennealy, TV Producer and writer, who in 1982 was part of the team giving the first Bereavement Weekend in Tabor House, was now aptly chosen as the guest speaker; and with his usual sensitivity to bereavement and his wit, the CD, The Grieving Journey, was successfully launched. It is a valuable resource for personal and group reflections. It reaches out to those who are gripped by fear, helplessness and hopelessness and to those who are helping others through dark days. In an interview Frank O’Hara says, ‘This CD is to be a support and be a companion to those who are making the lonely journey from grief to healing, to encourage those who need to tell their stories of loss.’ ‘What makes the desert so beautiful is that it hides a well.’ Antoine de Saint Exupery. The CD has proved a well of support and hope for many people who have no access to a group and who have little help in their lives. It was enthusiastically received all over Ireland and letters of appreciation have come from places as far away as Australia and the US. As well as appreciation for the CD there was also constructive criticism and, as a result, two new stories were added, one on the death of an infant, by Veronica Smith Murphy, and the other on the death of a parent, by Betty Foley. This, together with the first four stories which were the death of a wife, of a husband, of a child and the suicide of a husband and father, completed the CD. A new version of the CD was made. This time instead of a plastic container as a cover there is a cheaper card cover, which reduces the price.

A Review The Word magazine printed an enthusiastic review of the CD by Susan Rea in March 2007. She was deeply moved by the stories on the CD, she said. She interviewed Frank O’Hara on what Bethany was all

about. He underlined the fact that there is a very important distinction between bereavement support and counselling. He says: ‘Most Bethany volunteers have been bereaved themselves and their age profile is 40 plus. The compassionate listening they offer is a place where people can tell their stories over and over again. It is non-judgemental. It works because people can say things to a stranger they won’t say within the family in case they hurt someone. It’s a healing process. Every session is totally confidential.’ Bethany supports the bereaved in different ways: 1. One-to-one support at Parish Centres. 2. Group sessions at Parish Centres. 3. Home visits. 4. Ceremony of Light in November. 5. The Weekend Retreat at Orlagh. 6. Guest Speakers on topics of interest to bereaved people. 7. A telephone Helpline (details on last page) 8. A website which offers information and support in many ways, e.g. contact lists for different areas, stages of grieving, and details of coming events. (details on last page) The CD is now in its third edition. Two thousand CDs were printed and they are available at parish centres or can be ordered from Bethany directly.

KEEPING A RECORD OF THE JOURNE Y The Newsletter From the beginning the Bethany Newsletter has woven its way through the year, tying together beginnings, developments, and completed

events as it covers news from the AGM and the parishes twice a year. The AGM is held each year at Milltown Jesuit House, with Mass to begin the day, and lunch to end it. Elections take place of new members to the GEC, problems are raised and solved, and there is a Speaker to talk about a subject of interest to members. There is a time for questions and answers and for discussion between members. Books and CDs are on sale. The Newsletter covers this and keeps members informed of everything of interest that takes place within the organisation, such as decisions made by the GEC on relevant issues like in-service training for members, the Orlagh Retreat, training courses or changes to the Constitution. The earliest Newsletters were simply a couple of typed pages stapled together. The Newsletter for April 2006 was produced by Roisin McHugh and was well designed. Then in 2008 Sr Marion Reynolds SSL took over the production of the Newsletter and with the help of Frank McCarthy, a web manager, the layout was upgraded; and it was printed on a better quality of paper and with colour photographs. At a meeting of the GEC it was reported that ‘Sr Marion had a draft and asked for comments’. An editorial sub-committee was formed: Sr Marion Reynolds, Eilish Goulding and Frank O’Hara, with an option of co-opting others. It was agreed to order 2000 copies to be sent to all Bethany groups and to each parish in the diocese with a covering note to show appreciation for support given to the Bethany Group. Each Newsletter, as well as the notices and dates for our diaries, covers serious issues of interest to the Members. The Newsletter at present is being ably compiled by Deirdre O’Muiri. In 2008 the cover article was by Mary Brady, writing about the use of creativity as an aid to grieving. At the AGM in 2007 Mary had displayed some paintings she had done, together with poems she had written on the death of her husband and she spoke about ways we can help our grieving by giving it shape through art. Many people were interested and expressed a desire to have copies of the poems. Mary was encouraged to make some of what she had done available to others by writing a book that included poems and paintings, and an account of her experience of bereavement. Frank O’Hara, the Chairman, and Winnie Keogh and

other members of the GEC were enthusiastic. Mary developed the idea further and included diary extracts. Messenger Publications agreed to publish it, part funded by Bethany, and after much discussion and visits with the publishers Time Without You was published. In January 2009 it was launched by Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ at the Jesuit House, Manresa. Time Without You has helped many people in many places. One letter writer says ‘It’s so real, so true, it’s exactly the way I feel. I’m encouraged too that there may be hope after all.’ Myles O’Reilly called it ‘a gem of a book’. In 2009 the front page article of the newsletter was called Ecumenical Bethany. The article was by Susan Gamble, the wife of a Church of Ireland vicar. She was one of two women from other denominations who had done the Bethany training. She says, ‘I was welcomed with open arms and felt comfortable, at ease and accepted in every possible way’. Bethany today is beginning to realise its goal of being ecumenical. As far back as 1997 the Chairperson, Alice O’Grady-Walsh, looked to a future that included such a role for Bethany in the wider community, crossing denominational lines to attract membership from other traditions, and providing support and comfort at critical times to all the bereaved in our midst. As Susan says ‘We all grieve and need to be comforted when those we hold most dear are taken from us, and being a Bethany member gives us the privilege of being that support and comfort to others’. In spring 2010 Dr Helen Greally from Cancer Care West gave the keynote address at the AGM. She offered many insights into the way that death challenges our assumptions about life. Death takes away some of our assumptions such as: that life is predictable that we are in control that our life is permanent. Breaking into groups we looked at the assumptions each of us bring to our ministry that can affect our work with the bereaved. Dr Greally advocated a return to the traditional wake as a positive way to lessen the intensity of grief. Being more personal and familiar it is more comforting

for the bereaved and is a less painful experience than the funeral home. In the 2010 autumn issue the article, ‘Suicide and the needs of the Suicide bereaved,’ was by Carmel Roberts. She says, ‘In understanding suicide we are challenged in several areas: the value of life, our individual lives and life in general. As suicide defies our cherished notion that all life is sacred, it creates unease and challenges our most deeply felt beliefs…’. ‘In Bethany there are no stigmas, no social disgrace, and no judgement. The suicide bereaved is under no pressure to get over their grief. We know mourning of the heart cannot be hurried or rushed… Those left can sometimes find it difficult to forgive, which increases the pain of loss.’ In 2011 Suicide was again highlighted. A very moving talk was given at the AGM by Nuala Casey, whose son died by suicide. She received a standing ovation. Joan Freeman, a psychologist who opened Pieta House in Lucan in 2006, also spoke to us about her work. Pieta House helps those bereaved by suicide and also those contemplating it. It offers a free service, and as a charity receives some funding from the HSE There are now five centres countrywide with 50 psychotherapists working in them. In 2010 one thousand and ten people were helped. There is a growing need in this area and Bethany also offers support to those bereaved by suicide.

ENCOUNTERS ON THE ROAD Funeral Ministry In autumn 2007 the Dublin Diocesan Liturgy Resource Centre published an article called ‘Funeral Teams’. As a result of a Diocesan meeting, people interested in a team approach to celebrating the liturgy and supporting the bereaved were offered a two day training course in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe. As a result Funeral Ministers could visit the bereaved, sympathise with them in their loss; help them choose readings and prayers and answer their queries. The Bethany Newsletter Autumn 2009 says, ‘We are aware that

many parishes are currently considering the introduction of Funeral Ministry and are in dialogue with Bethany members about ways to best incorporate Bethany and Funeral work. In recent months we have been hearing of dialogue between the two aspects of ministry.’ Not all Bethany groups wish to work in Funeral Ministry but both groups, while being separate, are closely intertwined; and Bethany is happy to support the relationship in any way that is helpful. One Group that works with Funeral Ministry says that because they often served the bereaved families at the time of the funeral, ‘people were more inclined to ask for their visits and to come to the support group meetings.’ Another group says that it gives them ‘a natural introduction and can be vital to Bethany’s work in reaching bereaved people.’

NE W BRANCH ROADS Expansion In 2006 Bethany had trained support groups in 80 Parishes in the Greater Dublin Area. There were groups of Bethany supporters in Counties Meath, Westmeath, Louth, Wicklow and Kildare. The demand for the service was growing to such an extent that the training courses were increased from two to three a year, and were training a hundred people annually. Sr Sheila McAuliffe, who has been part of Bethany from the beginning, was unable to continue training people due to illness in 2008, and Noreen Doherty took over from her at the Monkstown Centre. Sr Sheila continues to conduct the last day of the training programme; it is a full day devoted to the personal needs and growth of the trainees and is a rewarding and healing experience for them. Frank O’Hara, as Chairman, compiled a trainers’ manual to be given to each person involved in training new recruits. In 2007 Bethany crossed the Shannon into Connacht. Sr Mary Glennon from Craughwell, County Galway, was nominated by Fr King

PP and John Doherty CSSR to train as a Bethany Supporter. Then, accompanied by a core group of psychologists and counsellors which she gathered around her, she led a training programme. It was held in The Retreat Centre in Esker. Frank O’Hara and Winnie Keogh visited the group during the training and Noreen Doherty, Sr Marion Reynolds and Winnie Keogh conducted the final day. Now up to nine parishes in the West have Bethany Supporters. Two people from Derry also did the initial training and a further seven from Derry took the second training course in Esker. In 2010 Claire Dowds and two other volunteers from the Diocese of Down and Connor undertook the training course at Esker and were anxious to take the training to the North. Three parishes in the Diocese were prepared to support the training and at least six people were interested. Claire, armed with the training manual, said ‘With a lot of help and support from Winnie Keogh, we delivered the Bethany Bereavement Support programme.’ In 2011 Bethany has become established in the North. On the 11 June, twenty-four volunteers were commissioned by Bishop Anthony Farquhar and Winnie Keogh, the current Chairperson of the GEC, to work in the diocese of Down and Connor. In 2012 Bethany has now moved to Cork. A group is established in Charleville and have plans to train members, and further members have been trained at Esker, Co. Galway. Each person who is trained by Bethany receives a copy of The Guidelines when they complete the training. A code of ethics is now in process of implementation to conform to pending legislation with regard to protection of children and vulnerable adults. All new Bethany members must be Garda Vetted through their local parish.

BRINGING THE CONSTITUTION UP TO DATE Constitutional Changes The Constitution was updated in 2004 and it was brought up again at the GEC meeting in June 2007. It was thought it might need updating and perhaps printing in book form, now that the Bank requests it for the opening of new accounts. It is also needed for the Training Course. In 2010’s AGM, the Chairpersons Report says changes are being made to the constitution to ‘bring it up-to-date and make the wording more accessible.’ This will include a mission statement. The old and new forms of the Constitution were displayed on overheads at the meeting. In 2011 three amendments were presented to the members of the AGM. Two were passed, the third, which is ‘to provide a voluntary parish-based ministry which aims to support all the bereaved through the grieving process (within a faith based perspective where it is shared)’, was amended after a lively discussion, and unanimously accepted subject to the phrase ‘within a faith-based perspective where it is shared’ being omitted. Bethany’s Mission Statement is now, ‘To provide a voluntary parishbased ministry which aims to support all the bereaved through the grieving process.’

THE JOURNE Y AT PRESENT Entering 2012, and looking back to the early days, Bethany has achieved more than it could ever have imagined. The journey was not always smooth but Bethany has lasted the test of time, and thirty years later we are still faithful to those early beginnings that gave us the foundations

for what we are today. It is now a countrywide organisation with groups working in parishes all over the island. Those volunteers who have been trained, and who have experienced personal growth through the training, can be numbered in hundreds. All of them touch the lives of others with understanding and bring healing, support and hope to those going through pain-filled times. Without the generous, caring people that go through the training and work voluntarily in their parishes helping those suffering the loss of their loved ones, Bethany would not be possible; and many of those who availed of the loving kindness of Bethany feel they would not have survived without the support it offered. Without the dedication of the people on the GEC and their guidance, Bethany would not have developed into the vibrant organisation that it is. They voluntarily give their time and energy and organisational skills to insure that the needs of Bethany are served. These include organising The Orlagh Retreat Weekend, overseeing the training courses, planning the AGM, looking after the finances, and manning the phone line, producing the Newsletter and many other areas. Though the members of the GEC change over time, there are some members who have served from the beginning, and who need special mention: Fr Myles O’Reilly SJ as Spiritual Director and initiator of Bethany has always been a strong, nurturing presence; Sr Sheila McAuliffe, one of the early founding members, brings her sensitive, insightful and caring presence to all those in need; and Winnie Keogh, the former Chairperson who has served Bethany for a long time, working tirelessly with a steady hand and with openness to change and development. There are others who work behind the scenes, like Noreen Doherty who ran the training courses for many years; Moira Staines now the current Chairperson who served as Secretary and Treasurer at different times; Bernie Little who was involved with Winnie Keogh in running the Orlagh weekend for years, and Anne Butler, who has now taken over this task with the same dedication. Their reassuring presence has been a vital part of both the training courses and the healing weekend. Bethany depends on the generosity of people like them and those who

assist them for its success as an organisation.

RESOURCES FOR THE JOURNE Y Support for the Bereaved On the death of a loved one, initial shock is often followed by denial and the numbness of disbelief. Depending on one’s personality and the circumstances of death, sadness and the outpourings of grief in tears may be accompanied by anger or guilt. In such a time of vulnerability, and insupportable loss, loneliness may give rise to fear or anxiety. Intense grief may also cause listlessness and the frustration of indecision. Sleep disturbance and distressing dreams increase the confusion and absentmindedness that are part of grieving. There may also be overactivity and a tendency to return again and again to significant places; and undue reverence for objects associated with the deceased. If you are experiencing these symptoms of grieving, especially if you are alone, you should seek assistance. Contact your parish Bethany group or phone the helpline for details. It is always helpful to talk to someone who understands. These symptoms can persist for years, and can leave us unable to live normal lives. Talking in confidence to a Bethany Supporter can be healing.


A resource for the bereaved and for Bethany Members:


The Grieving Journey, in which people share their own stories of loss, it includes elements of the grieving process, meditation and reflections.


Time Without You, which is one woman’s experience of bereavement and contains the paintings and poems she created to help her grieve.


Cards with Sr Sheila McAuliffe’s Prayers are available from Bethany. See Appendix for details.


1. An annual list of all the Bethany Centres countrywide. 2. The Bethany Journey with information about Bethany and the help it offers. These resources will help those who are dealing with loss or who have unresolved grief and wish to begin the process of healing. They can be obtained by getting in touch with Bethany. See details below.

Bethany Bereavement Support Group General Executive Council c/o Rathfarnham Parish Centre, Willbrook Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 Phone Helpline: 087 990 5299 Email: Website:

APPENDIX Prayers Sr Sheila McAuliffe composed several prayers for Bethany. The following prayer is said by Bethany team members at their meetings before people arrive.

Bethany Members’ Prayer

Lord, our God We thank You that You are ever present in time of trouble. Be our companion and guide as we minister to the bereaved. Help us to be sensitive to the spoken and unspoken grief in people’s lives. May we be caring, compassionate and completely present as we listen to those who are grieving. Comfort them as they mourn. Give them peace as they experience the pain of their loss. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen The following prayer is distributed to the bereaved.

Prayer in time of Bereavement Lord, You are close to the broken hearted. Be with me now in my grief and loneliness Give me the courage to face my loss and not to grieve in silence. Be with me as I struggle with many different and painful feelings. Ease the hurt in my heart. Encircle me in your love. Help me to believe that one day I will no longer have this deep sorrow. May I find comfort in sharing my grief with those who understand the strong bonds of love. Stay with me Lord, support me.

Help me to know that your power is at work within me as I deal with my grief. Amen

Sr Sheila Mc Auliffe RSC has also composed the following prayers appropriate for different circumstances.

Death of a sibling

Lord God, you gifted our family with the life of ………........... (name your brother or sister). Our lives were changed by his/her death. Your heart goes out to each of us in our grief. You are near, you are here. You see sadness as we mourn, as we consider the empty place. Please fill the emptiness in our hearts with your presence and your touch. We shall remember our deceased loved one. Amen.

For one whose spouse has died

Lord, you promise us that if we come to you when we are burdened you will refresh us; I come to you with my burden of grief, loneliness and emptiness since the death of my husband/ wife……................. May the memory of our life together bring solace, healing and peace in my day-to-day living. Comfort me and may I be blessed as I share memories with those who love and understand me. Amen.

For a parent whose older child has died

Lord, you compare yourself to a mother who can never forget the child of her womb. I can never forget my child who has graced and blessed my life and who has left me with many memories of joy and struggle. Lord, I am bereft, I ask you now to soften the ache in my heart. Ease the pain of many unfulfilled hopes and dreams. I treasure memories of love and hope. May I know that one day the pain in my heart will be turned to peace, as I know your comfort and that your power is at work in me, as I work through my grief. Amen.

For a baby who died a long time ago

Lord, thank you for the life of my baby who died a long time ago. Help me to recognise that you were present in my silent tears and unacknowledged feelings. You saw how my dreams and hopes for this baby were shattered. You brought me through this difficult time. Now I wish to honour my baby (name your baby or you may wish to give your baby a name here). I believe that we shall be reunited to praise you forever in heaven. Amen.

For those bereaved by suicide

O God, my spirit, my world, my being has been shattered by the tragic death of our family member. I seem to have no peace, no consolation. There are no words to bring me solace. Yet, even for a short time when I can focus not on the manner of the death but on his/her love, on who he/ she was, I am given a shred of comfort. Come to me now, Lord, in my distress. May some good memories help to dispel a little of the darkness of my life. May I know the comfort of your healing love and acceptance.

Sudden death

Lord, this sudden death has left me confused, scared, bereft. Like you on the Cross I cry out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Yet, deep down, I know you are close. You are ever present in time of trouble; you are now with me in my grief and heartbreak. Give me courage and self compassion in this unexpected sorrow. Let me receive healing of mind and body. Amen.

When a relationship has ended

Lord, a precious relationship has ended for me. I am feeling the loss of companionship and of much that we shared together. The emptiness in my life is difficult to bear. Many memories return to comfort me, but also to wound me in areas where I felt loved and cherished. I too gave of my heart and of myself. Be close to me in my pain and grief. Comfort me. Instil hope and comfort where I feel weak and vulnerable. Let me experience the strength and tenderness of your love for me, as others

TO ACCESS Prayer when a pet has died FULL CONTENT VISIT OUR WEBSITE: befriend, inspire and shelter me. Amen.

Lord, you love nature, inviting us to gaze at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. You have enriched our lives with pets, giving us joy and contentment. God, you see the sadness in my heart since my pet has died. You know the hollow in my heart. I miss the companionship and playfulness of my pet. Come into my life, heal me and bless me. Amen.

All Prayers have been printed and are available from Bethany Bereavement Support Groups.


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