Support During Loss

Lazarus ministries, funeral homes collaborate for bereaved
March 9, 2023 at 4:16 p.m.
Support During Loss
Support During Loss

By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

When grieving families are faced with the details of funeral arrangements, they might not know where to begin – and that’s where the cooperation between funeral homes and the Catholic parishes they serve can be a great source of comfort and reassurance.

Lazarus Ministries – or Bereavement Ministries – work in concert with funeral homes to assure the wishes of the deceased and the bereaved are honored, families and loved ones are spiritually supported, and that the Catholic Rite of Christian Burial is carried out respectfully.

A Delicate Process

The procedure is similar no matter the location. Families contact funeral homes, which orchestrate logistics and make phone calls to the parishes, requesting funeral Mass times and dates. If the parish has a Lazarus Ministry, its volunteers take the information and approach the family to discuss the Mass details: musical selections, readings and reflections.

James Moriarty, Jr., manager of Ely Funeral Home, Neptune, said that if families don’t know which church they would like to use, “we suggest a local church with which we have a relationship and trust – for example, Holy Innocents Church in Neptune… Once the family has talked with the parish about the details of the service, the funeral home staff works with the ministry to coordinate details upon arrival.”

In addition to Holy Innocents Parish, Ely Funeral Home has a good working relationship with the parishes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Asbury Park; St. Anselm, Tinton Falls; Ascension, Bradley Beach; St. Catherine of Siena, Farmingdale, and St. Catharine-St. Margaret, Spring Lake.

“The importance is to provide a comforting farewell to the deceased, in order to allow our families to properly grieve,” Moriarty emphasized.

“We have a good rapport with all the churches; if they need something, they know they can call us,” said Albert D. Correnti, Jr., manager of the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, Princeton. “People don’t know how lucky they are if their parish has a Lazarus Ministry.”

Correnti, a member of St. Paul Parish, Princeton, works closely with his parish’s bereavement team and volunteers in surrounding parishes, including St. David the King, Princeton Junction, and nearby parishes in the Metuchen Diocese. 

He believes that “people feel more comfortable with the ministry and funeral homes guiding the process,” particularly when it comes to planning a funeral Mass. “The Mass of Christian Burial helps them through the grieving process.” When family members engage in the Mass as Readers, bringing up the gifts of bread and wine or sprinkling the casket with holy water, “it helps them bring the focus back.”

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Ministry of Compassion

Lazarus and Bereavement Ministry volunteers help the bereaved plan the funeral Mass, as well as assuring that ordained ministers are covering the wake and burial.

“We serve as the parish interface for the family to assist them in dealing with their loss,” explained Anthony Montrone, coordinator of the five-member Bereavement Ministry team in St. Paul’s. “We work to ensure that the family is receiving all the support required from the parish.”

Terry Walsh, a four-year member of the Lazarus Ministry team in St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor, said a good point to remember is that “when truth/faith is shared, it is deepened. Don’t share pious platitudes with [the bereaved; talk about love of the family member [and how] we worship a God of love.”

In Holy Innocents Parish, Neptune, the Consolation Ministry has made the process of selecting readings and music for funerals even easier by featuring options on the parish website.

“I like it there because people can look at it quietly at home and consult with family members,” said ministry leader Kristine Klincewicz. “Then we arrange to talk a following day either in person or on the phone.” If a family is unsure whether they wish to assist with the Readings or Presentation of the Gifts, she offers to do it in their place. “It’s a blessing to work with families on this; I want to minimize their stress,” she said.

Linda Brennan, a member of the St. Paul’s Bereavement Ministry with her husband Lee, calls the experience “a very beautiful and fulfilling ministry to me… It is a total immersion [from] the time of planning until the funeral Mass takes place. I have found that family members are most grateful for our help.”

The relationship between the family and ministry team, she said, “is critical in making sure that the funeral mass is done with love and care. We try to be available to the family and form a personal relationship with them, sending a card to let the family know we are praying for their loved ones and family members. Since St. Paul’s is part of a cohort, we suggest parishes that are scheduling grief counseling sessions.”

Stephanie Zepka, also on the St. Paul Bereavement team, pointed out the personal touch the parish ministry is able to provide.

“What we’re doing is not only sitting and talking with them – I try to ask them about their loved one,” she explained. “I think it’s important to them that we are interested in the person who has died … and at the funeral, we’re at the altar assisting the priest … it shows there’s an involvement, honoring that person.”

Both the St. Paul’s and St. Theresa Lazarus teams extend an invitation to the bereaved, as do many parishes of the Diocese, to return for their All Souls Day liturgy on Nov. 2 for those who have lost loved ones during the past year.

“The names of the loved ones are read at the prayers of the faithful and a candle is lit on a table in front of the altar,” Walsh explained. “People are allowed to take home a candle at the end of Mass… I have talked to many people who have attended, and they all appreciate that the parish honors their loved one in a personal way, one more time.”

Challenges and Opportunities

Volunteers acknowledge that there are many factors that come into play when working with families, including the personal connection with the bereaved.

“Conversations with the deceased’s family can be difficult. Sometimes it is with people I know, and other times the deceased is the last one at the parish and the rest of the family has moved away,” said Walsh. “Sometimes I get a feel for where they are in their faith. Sometimes I tell them we can take care of the choices and make a beautiful liturgy.”

“Although difficult at times, it has become a very rewarding part of our involvement,” said Lee Brennan. “Hearing the stories of the deceased and seeing how families and friends supply support is very moving. We also hear some beautiful stories of faith and family.”

In other cases, ministry members must navigate the lack of familiarity with Catholic liturgy and even disputes among family members about the Church and the Mass.

“I think the Rites for Funerals in the Roman Catholic Church are the most beautiful of any Christian faith,” said St. Paul’s music ministry leader Ernie Andreoli. “But sometimes we walk a fine line between carrying out the Rites of the Church and the requests of the family. I think we do our best to accommodate both.”

“We are often called upon to be a mediator between family members … who are no longer active in the Church …. have deep disagreements with some of the Church’s positions or actions,” said Montrone, “We try to get everyone to a common point to honor the life of their loved one.”

If those disagreements can be resolved, another opportunity presents itself: providing an anchor to a loving faith community.


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When grieving families are faced with the details of funeral arrangements, they might not know where to begin – and that’s where the cooperation between funeral homes and the Catholic parishes they serve can be a great source of comfort and reassurance.

Lazarus Ministries – or Bereavement Ministries – work in concert with funeral homes to assure the wishes of the deceased and the bereaved are honored, families and loved ones are spiritually supported, and that the Catholic Rite of Christian Burial is carried out respectfully.

A Delicate Process

The procedure is similar no matter the location. Families contact funeral homes, which orchestrate logistics and make phone calls to the parishes, requesting funeral Mass times and dates. If the parish has a Lazarus Ministry, its volunteers take the information and approach the family to discuss the Mass details: musical selections, readings and reflections.

James Moriarty, Jr., manager of Ely Funeral Home, Neptune, said that if families don’t know which church they would like to use, “we suggest a local church with which we have a relationship and trust – for example, Holy Innocents Church in Neptune… Once the family has talked with the parish about the details of the service, the funeral home staff works with the ministry to coordinate details upon arrival.”

In addition to Holy Innocents Parish, Ely Funeral Home has a good working relationship with the parishes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Asbury Park; St. Anselm, Tinton Falls; Ascension, Bradley Beach; St. Catherine of Siena, Farmingdale, and St. Catharine-St. Margaret, Spring Lake.

“The importance is to provide a comforting farewell to the deceased, in order to allow our families to properly grieve,” Moriarty emphasized.

“We have a good rapport with all the churches; if they need something, they know they can call us,” said Albert D. Correnti, Jr., manager of the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, Princeton. “People don’t know how lucky they are if their parish has a Lazarus Ministry.”

Correnti, a member of St. Paul Parish, Princeton, works closely with his parish’s bereavement team and volunteers in surrounding parishes, including St. David the King, Princeton Junction, and nearby parishes in the Metuchen Diocese. 

He believes that “people feel more comfortable with the ministry and funeral homes guiding the process,” particularly when it comes to planning a funeral Mass. “The Mass of Christian Burial helps them through the grieving process.” When family members engage in the Mass as Readers, bringing up the gifts of bread and wine or sprinkling the casket with holy water, “it helps them bring the focus back.”

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Ministry of Compassion

Lazarus and Bereavement Ministry volunteers help the bereaved plan the funeral Mass, as well as assuring that ordained ministers are covering the wake and burial.

“We serve as the parish interface for the family to assist them in dealing with their loss,” explained Anthony Montrone, coordinator of the five-member Bereavement Ministry team in St. Paul’s. “We work to ensure that the family is receiving all the support required from the parish.”

Terry Walsh, a four-year member of the Lazarus Ministry team in St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor, said a good point to remember is that “when truth/faith is shared, it is deepened. Don’t share pious platitudes with [the bereaved; talk about love of the family member [and how] we worship a God of love.”

In Holy Innocents Parish, Neptune, the Consolation Ministry has made the process of selecting readings and music for funerals even easier by featuring options on the parish website.

“I like it there because people can look at it quietly at home and consult with family members,” said ministry leader Kristine Klincewicz. “Then we arrange to talk a following day either in person or on the phone.” If a family is unsure whether they wish to assist with the Readings or Presentation of the Gifts, she offers to do it in their place. “It’s a blessing to work with families on this; I want to minimize their stress,” she said.

Linda Brennan, a member of the St. Paul’s Bereavement Ministry with her husband Lee, calls the experience “a very beautiful and fulfilling ministry to me… It is a total immersion [from] the time of planning until the funeral Mass takes place. I have found that family members are most grateful for our help.”

The relationship between the family and ministry team, she said, “is critical in making sure that the funeral mass is done with love and care. We try to be available to the family and form a personal relationship with them, sending a card to let the family know we are praying for their loved ones and family members. Since St. Paul’s is part of a cohort, we suggest parishes that are scheduling grief counseling sessions.”

Stephanie Zepka, also on the St. Paul Bereavement team, pointed out the personal touch the parish ministry is able to provide.

“What we’re doing is not only sitting and talking with them – I try to ask them about their loved one,” she explained. “I think it’s important to them that we are interested in the person who has died … and at the funeral, we’re at the altar assisting the priest … it shows there’s an involvement, honoring that person.”

Both the St. Paul’s and St. Theresa Lazarus teams extend an invitation to the bereaved, as do many parishes of the Diocese, to return for their All Souls Day liturgy on Nov. 2 for those who have lost loved ones during the past year.

“The names of the loved ones are read at the prayers of the faithful and a candle is lit on a table in front of the altar,” Walsh explained. “People are allowed to take home a candle at the end of Mass… I have talked to many people who have attended, and they all appreciate that the parish honors their loved one in a personal way, one more time.”

Challenges and Opportunities

Volunteers acknowledge that there are many factors that come into play when working with families, including the personal connection with the bereaved.

“Conversations with the deceased’s family can be difficult. Sometimes it is with people I know, and other times the deceased is the last one at the parish and the rest of the family has moved away,” said Walsh. “Sometimes I get a feel for where they are in their faith. Sometimes I tell them we can take care of the choices and make a beautiful liturgy.”

“Although difficult at times, it has become a very rewarding part of our involvement,” said Lee Brennan. “Hearing the stories of the deceased and seeing how families and friends supply support is very moving. We also hear some beautiful stories of faith and family.”

In other cases, ministry members must navigate the lack of familiarity with Catholic liturgy and even disputes among family members about the Church and the Mass.

“I think the Rites for Funerals in the Roman Catholic Church are the most beautiful of any Christian faith,” said St. Paul’s music ministry leader Ernie Andreoli. “But sometimes we walk a fine line between carrying out the Rites of the Church and the requests of the family. I think we do our best to accommodate both.”

“We are often called upon to be a mediator between family members … who are no longer active in the Church …. have deep disagreements with some of the Church’s positions or actions,” said Montrone, “We try to get everyone to a common point to honor the life of their loved one.”

If those disagreements can be resolved, another opportunity presents itself: providing an anchor to a loving faith community.

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