During the month of November, we pray for all the souls of the faithful departed. The bereavement ministry is a ministry of care. Parish bereavement ministers reach out to parishioners who have had a loved one die in the past year with comfort and support. Saulina (Sally) Amaral is the Diocesan Coordinator, Ministries of Care and Ministry with Maturing Adults of the Office of Formation for Discipleship at the Archdiocese of Toronto. Below, she shares her thoughts on parish ministries of care.
1. What are ministries of care?
Ministries of care include the ministry to the sick and homebound and the bereavement ministry. The ministry to the sick and homebound provides pastoral visits and brings Holy Communion to parishioners who are confined to their home, hospital or nursing homes due to illness or old age.
The bereavement ministry provides bereaved parishioners and their families with hope and consolation during the period of mourning following the loss of a loved one.
2. Why are ministries of care important in today's world?
The ministry to the sick and homebound is important today given that our society is aging and many parishioners have experienced significant isolation and separation from family and community throughout the pandemic. The presence of the ministers of care could prevent the sick and suffering from contemplating legalized euthanasia.
The parish bereavement ministry is also important today because the Covid-19 pandemic has complicated the grief experience for many people as they were not able to be with loved ones at the time of death and many were not able to have a funeral to mourn the loss of their loved ones.
As members of Christ's body, we are called to care for the sick and the dying and to comfort all who mourn.
3. What are some benefits of having a parish-based ministry of care?
Ministries of care reassure the sick, elderly, dying and the bereaved that the faith community cares about them and keeps them in their prayers – giving them a sense of belonging and connection with their faith community.
Through these ministries, the ministers of care live out their baptismal call and continue the mission of Christ by sharing the love and compassion of Christ with the sick and suffering. The ministers of care will also grow spiritually as they serve those in need.
4. What advice do you have for parishes that are considering starting this ministry?
A parish might consider assessing needs before starting a formal ministry of care. The commitment and support of the pastor is essential. It is effective when a pastor personally invites parishioners who have a calling for this ministry. As well, selecting a good coordinator to organize the ministry in the parish is important. New ministry of care teams or individuals are invited to attend the training and formation programs offered by the Office of Formation for Discipleship: Lay Pastoral Visitors Training and/or Bereavement Ministry Training.
5. How can parishes grow their ministries of care?
Recently some of the ministers of care participated in the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto pilot of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Horizons of Hope (HOH) program. Some of these participants are now looking at growing their ministries of care to include a palliative care approach in their parishes.
For further information, please visit:
Archdiocese of Toronto - Ministry to the Sick and Homebound (archtoronto.org)
Archdiocese of Toronto - Bereavement Ministry (archtoronto.org)
Archdiocese of Toronto - Horizons of Hope: A Toolkit for Parishes on Palliative Care (archtoronto.org)