What is your relationship with Jesus?
My relationship with Jesus is personal, loving, growing, comfortable and very essential. I know Jesus is with me always. He is the strength allowing me to serve others in the capacity of the various things I do at church. It is he who gives me what I need to be involved in parish ministries. I start and end each day with him. And he is always available in between. He is my all.
When did you help found the bereavement ministry at St. Joseph?
We started under the guidance of the late Janine Kirner, who was our parish nurse, in 2001. Because I had taken the parish nurse course at Marquette University before I retired, I was able to work closely with Janine. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee also held several instructional classes on bereavement.
What do members of the ministry do?
We attend the funeral planning meeting with the pastor and family members. We provide a folder with the readings, Gospel and the Prayers of the Faithful for use at the funeral Mass. We instruct those reading at the Mass. We make sure things go well for the grieving family during the visitation at the church. We work with the funeral directors at the church at the time of the funeral with placement of memorial flowers, picture boards, videos and personal items being displayed. We serve as acolytes at the Mass, and lectors if needed. We also do a home visit about three weeks after the funeral to affirm that the bereaved survivor is doing okay. We follow up for one year through written material about grieving that is sent to the family contact person. The Bereavement Ministry also sends out a Christmas card and letter in December to the families of all those who died the past year.
What else do they do?
The bereavement ministers — we currently have four — also plan a special Mass of Remembrance that is celebrated on All Souls Day each Nov. 2, remembering in a special way all those who died in the past year. An invitation is sent to the contact persons of those who died in the past year, inviting them to this Mass along with their family and friends. Special candles are presented to the bereaved families.
What have you learned through your experience in this ministry?
I have learned no two people grieve the same way nor are they on the same time frame. Men and women grieve differently. Those people who are rooted in their faith are usually in a more peace-filled place and are more accepting of the death of their loved one. Most people like to share stories about their loved one who died. The most important thing I have learned is to listen attentively and without judgment.
Why have you remained involved in this ministry for more than 20 years?
I love helping people in general and especially those who have lost a loved one. I feel this is an important ministry in our church. It gives me an opportunity to care for people, to pray with people and to listen to them when they are in need. Once I started in this ministry, I knew how important it was to have someone to turn to regarding the planning of the Mass and to have someone people could turn to in getting information about grieving after the funeral.
What would be your advice to someone interested in establishing this ministry at their parish?
I would advise them to speak to their pastor about it. I would also advise them to speak to someone who is a bereavement minister.
What is something that inspires you?
I am inspired by the attitude, faith and drive of the people who survive the natural disasters in the world, especially after losing loved ones.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I played piano accordion when I was growing up. Many also don’t know that I was an avid water skier (mostly slalom skiing). I last skied at age 75. I also own and ride a Honda motorcycle.