Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
With this bulletin letter I’d like to give a shout out to our funeral choir volunteers and funeral luncheon workers and ushers. I realize that people have only a couple days’ notice sometimes that there will be a funeral to serve. This can put a wrench into peoples plans for the day. But, on the other hand, having people of the parish serve the grieving family makes all the difference!
I was really struck by this at a funeral Mass in Payne last month. There were only about 10 people representing the family at the funeral Mass. Then, in the congregation there were only three other people. So, in the pews for her Mass there were about 13 people. As you can imagine, with a grieving family, there sometimes is not a lot of participation at the Mass. That’s understandable, for all kinds of reasons.
What a consolation it was for me after I reverenced the altar at the beginning of Mass, to look up in the choir loft and see some 15 people! The choir at that Mass made all the difference! Without them, there simply would not have been a good “feel” to the Mass. All of the parts for the congregation would have been very weak. With them present, everything felt beautiful as normal in our Masses. Seeing how tiny the congregation was, I was so grateful for the presence of the choir! My guess is that the family also felt very supported by the atmosphere created by the plentiful choir. At a funeral Mass especially, we want the ceremony to support people in their grief, to give them hope and comfort in the Lord.
I remember, as if it were yesterday, the very smallest funeral Mass I have ever celebrated. The deceased did not have any family at all, being an elderly person with a handicap and no living family members anymore to care for him. So, the state appointed a ward to take care of him. At the funeral Mass, present were only the state appointed ward and her husband. Then, of course, I was present, as well as the permanent deacon of the parish. Then there was an organist who also cantored. Those of us ministering at that funeral Mass made things as beautiful as possible, but it’s hard to make up for such a lack of congregation or choir. That is in fact the only funeral where I had to serve as both priest and pallbearer. So, still in my vestments I helped carry the casket from the church to the hearse. And when we got to the cemetery, with some 5 inches of snow on the ground, I did my part helping to carry the casket, as I also carried the funeral rites book and holy water, trying my best not to trip over my cassock all-the-while.
Thanks also to the workers for all funeral luncheons. What a significant ministry to offer families in the midst of their grief! Thanks also to the ushers who help at funerals. They also do a very valuable work, making sure doors get opened and closed, the elevator is handled, and funeral programs get to everybody.
An additional note to make on the Funeral choir: all the people who showed up for the funeral choir at that Payne Mass last month learned about the funeral by means of a mass email and text we sent out from the office. It seems we have a pretty efficient system set up right now. That funeral choir included people from all three campuses. That also is pretty exciting to me, because it showed the system is working well, and people are willing to serve wherever they are needed with this ministry. If you would like to receive an email or a text notifying you that there is a funeral Mass coming up that will need some choir voices, please call the office, and we will be happy to put you on the list, in case you are available!
With this need in mind, soon we will be implementing still another improvement in our electronic communications capacity. We learned this past fall at the pastoral conference of the Diocese on the topic of millennials about a communication system for parishes called Evangelus. Over the last number of months we’ve been working to set up our own parish communication systems to include Evangelus. Evangelus will allow us with one action to send messages by our website, by Facebook, by parish app, or by text. We will also be able to ask each parishioner for his or her preferred method of contact for any announcements whatsoever. So, one message hitting through all of these channels will still only reach each parishioner according to that parishioner’s preference. So, for example, regarding making known the need for a funeral Mass and luncheon workers, we will actually be able to send out one message, and it can hit both email and text, according to each parishioner’s preference.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,