The death of a member of the Church provides the entire Christian community the opportunity to express care and concern toward those who mourn. Outreach at the time of death brings comfort to those in mourning, evangelizes those who have been away from the Church, and renews and revitalizes parish life for those involved in the ministry.
In A Ministry of Consolation, the Christian community is called to a new understanding of its role when one of its own dies. It explains why and how members of a parish ministry of consolation program should be involved before, during, and after each of the key liturgical moments in the Funeral Rites: the Vigil Service, the Funeral Mass, and the Rite of Committal. It also shows how the ministry of consolation program provides personal contact, warmth, and support to people at a time when it is both important and necessary.
The expression "ministry of consolation" is taken from the Order of Christian Funerals, but the concept of ministry the authors offer is shaped by the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, which recognizes the entire parish's role in faith formation. Encouraging lay parishioners to minister to families experiencing the loss of a loved one offers the sense that the whole parish is supporting the deceased's family.
Clergy, staffs, teams, and any parish leadership wanting to reach out to others through enhanced celebration of the Funeral Rites will find comfort and direction in this book. It is also useful as a textbook in formal diocesan and parish training programs whose goal is to train lay leadership, or in other academic programs promoting a greater depth of understanding of the richness of the Funeral Rites.
Beginning from a general discussion of the mystery of Christian death and moving to a renewed understanding of the role of the entire community in the Funeral Rites, A Ministry of Consolation gives practical, step-by-step instructions for beginning a parish ministry of consolation program centered around the Order of Christian Funerals. It provides the opportunity for the celebration of the funeral rites in all their depth and beauty, allowing the consoling power of the risen Christ to come forth through communal prayer and participation.
Mary Alice Piil, CSJ, Joseph DeGrocco, and Rose Mary Cover work in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York. Together they have established the Ministry of Consolation in several parishes in that diocese, and have given workshops to assist others in starting the ministry.