National bereavement group seeks to widen umbrella of ministry
When members of the National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved convened here last week, they were brainstorming ways to expand the organization into an umbrella of services for those involved in bereavement ministry.
Based in St. Louis, NCMB was founded in 1990 to provide pastoral and spiritual guidance to the bereaved, caregivers, agencies, congregations, dioceses and others through educational efforts and resources. The organization uses as its foundation the Order of Christian Funerals, developed by the U.S. bishops and which provides guidelines for the rites of passage from death to eternal life. Archbishop Harry Flynn, retired bishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, is the group's episcopal moderator.
At their Oct. 12-15 meeting, held at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Motherhouse, board members invited Jim Lundholm-Eades, director of services and planning for the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, to help the group explore its future options in ministry. The Washington, D.C.,-based organization, according to its mission, seeks to serve the Church in helping the Church manage its temporal affairs.
One of the thoughts that came out of that meeting was the idea that NCMB expand beyond its current main component: offering training and certification opportunities for individuals involved in bereavement ministry. There also are in-person training workshops held across the country throughout the year.
"We want to become an umbrella for a ministry of consolation," said board member Brian Shaffer of Columbus, Ohio. "Jim was here to help us look outside the box -- not just at our training, but education and formation. That's what we've been framing out. Our goal is to be the premier, faith-based organization that provides for the ministry of consolation."
President Linda Cherek of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul said the weekend with Lundholm-Eades provided a framework for NCMB to "refound" itself.
"NCMB is the premier provider of training, education and formation in the field of bereavement, grief and loss for the laity and ordained in the Catholic Church in the United States," she said. "Our training, provided in both English and Spanish, has always provided the skills necessary for this ministry. Our education provides a deeper understanding of the principles behind best practices in this ministry. Our formation provides the means for integration of the development of the spiritual and personal development of ministers to the bereaved.
"We know that through our baptism and the Order of Christian Funerals, we are called to comfort the bereaved. Our faith is what guides us as we continue our commitment to the bereaved by preparing and supporting those who minister to the bereaved."
Perhaps the biggest reason NCMB is interested in offering a training and certification program for bereavement ministers is that the opportunity largely doesn't exist out there, as far as Catholic bereavement ministry goes.
Board member Mary Ann Vail of the Diocese of Omaha, Neb., explained that "the certification adds value to what (bereavement ministers) are doing." While the certification program isn't as extensive as attending a major academic degree program on palliative care for the dying or thanantology, the study of death, for example, it offers to those in bereavement ministry a sense of integrity and professionalism in the work that they are doing.
NCMB also fields questions from bereavement ministers on a variety of topics, including resources, information on support groups, how to perform memorial services and more, said board member Ingrid Seunarine, who also is director of bereavement services for the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y.
To keep the work going, NCMB recently received a $20,000 grant from the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities. The organization also relies on revenue from paid memberships.
Order of Christian Funerals
Developed by the U.S. bishops, the Order of Christian Funerals includes four parts:• Vigil for the deceased and related rites;
• Transfer of the body to church;
• The funeral Mass or liturgy outside of Mass;
• And the Rite of Committal.
For more information on the National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved, visit griefwork.org or call (314) 638-2639.
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