Guide for Forming a Parish Bereavement Ministry
By Robert Valle
“Each death is sacred because each life is sacred.” This is the truth at the heart of Guide for Forming a Parish Bereavement Ministry.
Who should read this?
Everyone who is responsible for parish liturgical celebrations that minister to the bereaved: pastor/clergy, liturgist/musician, lay bereavement ministry volunteers.
For those in leadership positions, the word “forming” is central. The book doesn’t merely tell how to recruit and organize (though these important aspects of the ministry are covered). Instead, the approach comes from an awareness that true ministers must care for the bereaved. It also emphasizes that the entire parish is responsible in the ministry of prayer for the bereaved.
Why is this book useful / practical?
This book is filled with numerous concrete ways to go about the responsibilities and specific tasks that will assist others as they walk the way of grief and sorrow. A deep experience and understanding of the realities of parish life are evident throughout its pages, with everything flowing from the formation process in a parish context.
The process is guided by the Order of Christian Funerals, with formation sessions and facilitator’s guides to help along the way. These will assist bereavement ministers through prayer, reflection, and sharing.
Why is this book significant / important?
The Church’s liturgy is presented as the primary catechetical and formative source for ministers. To reinforce/reiterate: as with all liturgy, the whole parish is primary in this ministry, with particular ministers drawn from it. This focus is particularly helpful in situations that find parish ministers working with unchurched children/families of the deceased, who might think of the parish merely as the location at which the funeral rites are staged.
Why should I use this guide?
The funeral rites are one of the moments richest with promise—and fraught with peril—in the life of a parish. Rich in the promise as a means to evangelize and share the Gospel; fraught with the peril of traversing an emotion-laden time in the lives of the bereaved. In the end, this Guide is a wonderful resource to lead all to the fullness of hope in Christ, the Resurrection and Life.
A side benefit
This resource is a concrete example of how to do liturgical/sacramental theology with the Church’s rites as a starting point, and how to incarnate that theology in the spiritual life of the parish and its members. A fine model for anyone interested in catechizing from the liturgy is presented here.
Valle, Robert. Guide for Forming a Parish Bereavement Ministry. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2023. 144 pages. $54.95. ISBN: 9781616717223.
REVIEWER: Alan Hommerding