MILWAUKEE — Festivals. Workshops. Series. Speakers. Programs. Missions. Classes. These offerings fill many parishes’ calendars. Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Milwaukee, is adding another: an “expo” devoted to preparing for the end of life.
Peg Kasun, the parish’s music minister, raised the idea for the event, titled “Fare Thee Well,” at a staff meeting a year ago.
“It came to me after a conversation with our pastor (Fr. Bill Burkert),” she said. “We have wonderful programs in our parish but what do we have at the end of life?”
In presenting the idea to the staff, she recalled asking, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had one-stop shopping that would answer people’s questions (about end of life concerns)?”
The people to whom she was referring were not only those nearing the end of life, but also their children and other loved ones who might be assisting them with that preparation.
Nancie Chmielewski, pastoral associate at Our Lady of Lourdes who, along with Kasun and parish liturgical minister Chris Deily, organized “Fare Thee Well,” sees the event as an expo at which participants will be able to have their questions answered, particularly when it comes to planning their funeral.
“What are my options for music and Scripture readings? Do I want to be cremated? Do I want to have a visitation with an open casket and then cremation? Do I want to have this take place in a funeral home or in church? Do I want the whole nine yards in the church? Those are the types of things (we’ll address),” she said, adding, “‘Fare Thee Well’ is a wonderful opportunity to learn what the Catholic funeral liturgy is all about.”[su_pullquote align=”right”]If you go
“Fare Thee Well” will be held 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 29, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 3722 S. 58th St. (South 58th Street and West Forest Home Avenue), Milwaukee. No cost to attend; no registration required. For information call (414) 545-4316 or visit www.ololmke.org. [/su_pullquote]
What organizers believe is a first-of-its-kind event in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, it will also provide participants with the environment of a Catholic funeral, as there will be a casket in the church, a picture DVD being projected and music playing.
“People can get a sense of what the church is like for a visitation,” Chmielewski said.
Organizers have purposely designed the event so people can come and go as they wish, and while there can sit and talk about their concerns and ask their questions in a comfortable setting.
Among those to whom they will have the opportunity to talk are clergy, funeral directors, representatives from the archdiocese’s Catholic Cemeteries, liturgical musicians, pastoral staff members, caterers, hospice consultants and financial advisers. There will also be information on community resources, including bereavement groups, as well material explaining the church’s teaching on cremation and a guide regarding eulogies.
“We want this to be an opportunity for people to embrace the end of life issues as opposed to be afraid of them or to be fearful of them,” she said. “This is an opportunity to enjoy some hospitality of the parish and a chance to talk about things before you get too emotionally wrapped up in the death of yourself or someone else.”
Chmielewski, who has been in parish ministry for more than 16 years, said it is important for people to write their plans in order to ensure they receive the funeral they want.
“We try to make our older people aware that since they are really invested in this parish to please take the time to plan your funeral because if your children aren’t churched, they’re not going to have a clue what you want,” she said. “And if you have this written down, they have to honor it. We try to encourage people that if you planned what you want that will be respected.”
Organizers are hoping to attract a diverse group of participants.
“You have that person who is getting older and wanting to get things in place. Or you have someone in their late 50s who says, ‘You know, I’m worried about my mom and I want to make sure I understand some pieces of information here. I have some questions,’ or maybe somebody who is ill and needing to confront the death issue,” Chmielewski said. “I’m hoping it will attract people who are wondering about their own place, as well as the children looking at their parents and ultimately at themselves.”