Family Life Ministry supports those who lost loved ones

May 28, 2013

HOUSTON — The Family Life Ministry focuses on increasing awareness of the family as the basic unity of the Church and society. It has functions as an educational and enrichment resource for leadership and parish ministers around the Archdiocese, both clerical and lay, to serve families more effectively. 

Serving both individuals and families, Family Life Ministry has multiple resources and services, including marriage preparation, natural family planning, marriage enrichment and healing, parenting education, family enrichment and ministry for persons separated, divorced and widowed.
About a year and a half ago, the Grief Support Ministry was added to Family Life Ministry, according to Deacon Arturo Monterrubio, director of the Family Life Office for the Archdiocese. 

"Grief ministry is important to support family unity during difficult moments. One of the key elements to continue and recover once you have experienced a loss of a loved one depends on the family support you receive," Deacon Monterrubio said.

Randy Jaeger expressed the group’s gratitude to St. Laurence’s pastor, Father Drew Wood, who provides the space for this important ministry.

Barber emphasizes “We are not replacing the amazing ministries that currently exist.” The H.O.P.E. program is a seven-week grief “work” program to help the bereaved grieve in a healthy way. St. Laurence’s “Grieving Families” addresses the needs of families dealing with murder, suicide and sudden death, the “Funeral Ministry” provides food after the funerals and they have a large number of Spiritual Directors” 

St. Laurence’s Grief Ministry is open to everyone, including non-Catholics.

The ministry began when Lana Streich and Sandy Barber, both who had experienced losses of their own, both attended a seven-week program held by their parish, St. Laurence Catholic Church. While they found that the program helped, they needed more.

"We wanted a weekly program so that there would be a place to come as needed, a safe place where there would be no judgment about where people are on this journey," Barber said. "A place where people can talk, cry or express their anger and other emotions."

After extensive research, they determined they would host weekly meetings at their church using a program called "Walking Through Grief," produced by The Grief ToolBox. The program is a faith neutral DVD series in which people talk about the importance of faith in the grieving process. 

Several months later, Barber and Streich met with Deacon Monterrubio to explain their mission and goals in hopes of bringing the program to the entire Archdiocese. The Family Life Office adopted the program, working to expand the program to parishes to develop or strengthen their own grief ministries.

"Our goal in this ministry is to support parishes so they can form and train parish groups to provide the emotional and spiritual support and healing needed during those moments at their parish location," he said.

The meetings, held every Monday evening from 6:30 to 8:30, typically start with a video or a speaker, usually a priest, minister, spiritual director or chaplain, after which someone leads a discussion and prayer. "We simply allow it to revolve around what the participants want and need at the time," Barber said.

Their motto is: "No one should grieve alone!"

When discussing the importance of a faith-based grieving ministry, Streich said, "I feel that my Catholic faith has made me the person I have become, and I have tried to minister accordingly — whether it was ministering to my family as a wife and mother, loving relative or in any of my several capacities as a colleague, or simply as a friend or neighbor. In our Grief Support Ministry, however, I feel strongly compelled to be guided by my faith in supporting these beautiful, but devastatingly bereaved, souls that God has called me to," Streich said.

The Family Life Ministry is currently working to also bring National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved to parishes. The program trains lay people to become "Ministers of Consolation" and teaches the skills needed to walk with the bereaved and those who suffer from grief in other ways, such as taking care of a terminal ill family member. 

"One of our goals with the Grief Support Ministry is to maintain the ‘domestic Church' united and in the presence of God while they are struggling during family transitions like prolonged illness, at the time of death, loss of a loved one, etc.," Deacon Monterrubio said.

Randy Jaeger and his wife, Connie, lost their 25-year-old daughter, Jessica, a year ago. They attend the weekly meetings at St. Laurence Catholic Church. Jaeger said, "The meetings help everyone dealing with a gaping hole in their heart, and they treat it as such. Today I may feel great, the next I'm very emotional. This group helps me know that it's okay. It's so good to sit with a group of people and no one is telling me how I should be feeling and what I should be doing." 

To find out more about this important program, contact the Family Life Office at 713-741-8730.