Ministry Honors Deceased, Supports Grieving Families
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
November 24, 2022
LOVES PARK—When the mourners are gone and the funeral is but a memory, the grief remains. 
But the prayerful presence of one group at St. Bridget Church has made it possible to honor deceased parishioners and support their families. 
The Our Lady of Consolation Ministry (OLCM) began in 2015 after parishioner Pam Parnello completed ministry formation training and felt called to serve grieving members of her church family. 
“I was 44 years old when my father suddenly passed from a stroke,” Parnello says. “It was so difficult for my mother and me to attend Mass without my father being there that I knew our parish needed an outreach to those who had lost loved ones. It’s in recognizing and connecting with our grieving parishioners that we can be a source of loving support.”
Parnello co-coordinates the Our Lady of Consolation Ministry with Julie Rosenbaum, a retired hospice coordinator. The coordinators and a dedicated group of volunteers from the parish reach out to grieving families at St. Bridget’s in a variety of ways. 
Rosenbaum explains, “When a funeral is scheduled at the parish, I receive the name of the deceased, a family contact person, and information on when the funeral is. Then one of the ladies in our ministry will attend the funeral and introduce themselves to the family as a member of the OLCM. 
“After the funeral, members of our ministry will pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet in memory of the deceased.”
The outreach of the OLCM doesn’t end with the funeral. Other members of the ministry make and send cards to the families of the deceased at the one-month, three-month, six-month, nine-month, and one-year death anniversaries. The first-month’s card contains a hand-knitted “prayer square” representing a tangible way to pray for a deceased family member. 
Each November, the OLCM sponsors a Mass of Remembrance and invites the families of parishioners who have died that year. This year’s Mass of Remembrance was held Nov. 5.
Parnello said that a bit of Divine intervention was responsible for the ministry’s name. “I have a sister-in-law who is a Poor Clare nun, so I asked Mother Abbess at our Poor Clare Monastery in Rockford to have the sisters pray about what to call our outreach. When she suggested Our Lady of Consolation, I instantly felt peace and purpose for the ministry.” 
The Poor Clare nuns also pray a novena for the deceased and provide a special card that is sent out to families on the one-year anniversary of their loved one’s death. 
Though the main goal of the OLCM is to provide prayerful support to families after the death of a loved one, the ministry’s volunteers have seen their outreach make a difference in the parish. 
“I received a note from Ron Bergman, a St. Bridget parishioner who recently lost his son,” Rosenbaum says. “Ron’s note really captures the essence of what the OLCM is about. 
“He wrote, ‘I’m sure that many of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one know how hard it is around three weeks after the funeral when most everyone else has gone back to their own lives. We are left to continue handling the pain of the loss alone. Your ministry is certainly God’s gift to help fill that gap.’” 
St. Bridget parishioner Neil Maloney attended the OLCM Remembrance Mass in memory of his wife who died in 2020 and his son who passed away this year. 
“The support I’ve gotten from this ministry and having this Mass has really meant a lot to me. Receiving the cards and knowing that the Our Lady of Consolation Ministry members are praying for you throughout the year help you remember that you’re not alone,” Maloney says.
The prayerful support that the OLCM provides families after the death of a loved one and the concrete reminders commemorating that person’s life help build a parish from within. 
“Our ministry shows people that they have the support of their church family. Through their grief, our volunteers are praying for them, thinking of them, and we don’t forget about them,” Rosenbaum says. “Hopefully our ministry helps people feel connected to their parish because they know that we are here to walk with them through this difficult time of life.”
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