For those facing loss of loved ones during COVID-19, the grieving process has been made even more difficult. To aid clergy, parish staff, bereavement ministers and others who help those grieving, the Diocese of Trenton and RENEW International have created a series of webinars. CNS photo
For those facing loss of loved ones during COVID-19, the grieving process has been made even more difficult. To aid clergy, parish staff, bereavement ministers and others who help those grieving, the Diocese of Trenton and RENEW International have created a series of webinars. CNS photo
Diocesan staff have partnered with RENEW International to develop a webinar series geared specifically for those who work in bereavement ministries in the Diocese of Trenton.

“It is so important to support our pastoral care ministers right now,” said Terry Ginther, diocesan chancellor and executive director of Pastoral Life and Mission, explaining that grief during COVID-19 is the main focus of the programs.

The workshops – which are geared for clergy, parish staff and bereavement ministers – were created in conjunction with RENEW International, a Catholic organization that has as its mission to energize one’s personal faith and parish life. They are among a number of support offerings in November and December – including two stress and grief retreats by Francis House of Prayer in Allentown and the annual diocesan Our Lady of Guadalupe torches celebration, which this year is also recognizing “A Season of Remembrance” for those who have lost loved ones.

Ginther said the webinar presenters all have first-hand experience with grieving or accompanying those who are grieving during the pandemic, including a physician, pastor, spiritual director, pastoral minister and bereavement group facilitator. The workshops will be online and interactive, allowing time for group discussions.

On Nov. 4, “Grief in the Time of COVID-19: A Parish Response” will run from 2 to 3 p.m. Offered for priests, deacons and parish staff, the workshop and will address the complexities of grief amid COVID-19 including distance grieving, loss of rituals, loss of touch, inability to be physically present with a dying loved one, families unable to say goodbye, limits on numbers permitted at funeral services, minimum support available after a funeral because of fear of spreading the virus, and the long-term consequences of unattended grief.

“You may be experiencing the symptoms of grief yourself,” Ginther said in a letter informing priests, deacons, pastoral associates/assistants and bereavement/pastoral care ministers about the webinar.

“As a pastoral care provider, undoubtedly you have been ministering in the best way you can among the members of your parish who are experiencing loss,” she said. “It is a challenge to do this at a distance, but there are practices we can share.”

The webinar will feature John Poitevent, program director for the nonprofit Parish Catalyst, who will serve as moderator, as well as panelists Dr. Alice Beal, palliative-care physician, COVID-19 ICU unit at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y; Dominican Sister Terry Rickard, president of RENEW International, and Msgr. George Hundt, a priest of the Diocese of Paterson who currently serves as pastor of St. Vincent Martyr Parish, Madison, and is a member of the board of trustees for the St. Joseph Healthcare System.

To register for the webinar, visit https://pages.renewintl.org/trenton-grief-in-the-time-of-covid.

In addition, “Grief in the Time of COVID-19: A Pastoral Care Minister’s Response” will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 5, 12 and 19. This three-part interactive web series is being offered for pastoral care and bereavement ministers. It will be moderated by Paul Krenzelok, associate director for pastoral services at RENEW International.

The Nov. 5 session, “Exploring the Experience of Loss During COVID-19,” will address the complexities of grief amid the pandemic. This meeting will include personal experiences from a caregiver and someone who is recently bereaved. Breakout groups will allow participants to share their personal responses to grief and to that of those to whom they are ministering. Speakers include Beal and Jennifer Bober, manager of marketing for RENEW International. Bober will share about losing her father during the pandemic.

The Nov. 12 session, “Accompanying the Grieving in a Time of Social Distance,” will concentrate on the lack of support during and after the loss of a loved one and seeking alternative ways to accompany the grieving. Ginther will be among the speakers as well as Dr. Kathleen Detlet, co-director of the Lumen Center, Caldwell.

The Nov. 19 session, “Conducting Virtual Bereavement Groups,” will focus on best practices for conducting virtual grief groups or one with social distancing. Resources such as RENEW’s small group resource “Grieving the Death of a Loved One,” a six-session faith-sharing book that has been updated in the context of COVID-19, will be introduced. The book will be sent to web participants for their review at no cost. An e-book will also be available. The presenter is Kathleen Donnelly, pastoral assistant in St. Pius X Parish, Fairfield, Conn., who is an experienced parish bereavement minister.

To register, visit https://pages.renewintl.org/trentonpastoralcare.

“We have seen the incredible devastation that COVID has wrought in our country and are gratified to be able to support pastoral care ministers who are working in such difficult circumstances, and equip pastors and parish staff with the tools to effectively accompany the bereaved in these extraordinary times,” added Sister Terry, noting that RENEW International has helped to revitalize parish life in more than 150 dioceses in the United States and also reaches many thousands of people in 25 countries, across six continents and in 44 languages.