Deacons, take note: an important ministry of healing for grieving parents

Deacons, take note: an important ministry of healing for grieving parents October 14, 2019

“This was one of the most grace-filled experiences that I have had.”

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Several days ago, I received an email from Deacon Tom Dubois, Executive Director of the National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD). He wanted to pass along some information that might be of particular interest to deacons.

Here’s what he wrote:

I received a phone call today from Mr. Charles Monaghan who, with his wife Diane, runs The Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents. Their ministry provides retreats nationwide for parents who lost children. Charles and Diane know this pain firsthand having lost their son, Paul, many years ago. Out of their grief grew this ministry that profoundly helps other grieving parents. Many deacons and wives who have lost children have attended these retreats.

The Monaghans are getting older and recognize that it is time to pass this established ministry along to others so that it can continue. Charles called NADD with the thought that it could be an ideal ministry for a deacon or group of deacons who have experienced the loss of a child. I agreed to share this information with NADD members and to ask them to share it with the deacons in their dioceses.

My reason for writing to you is to ask if The Deacons’ Bench could identify this need to your audience?

The group’s website describes the ministry this way:

Of all the pains that life can hand us, arguably the most searing is the loss of a child. A parent’s world irrevocably and horrifically changes forever, no matter what the circumstances or the age of the child.

In what seems to be a manner contrary to the natural order, parents not only have a physical and emotional part of themselves ripped away, but also have the loss of all of the hopes, dreams and aspirations they had so completely invested in their child.

With this loss, a parent’s world radically and dramatically changes forever. Friends, relatives, and acquaintances do not know how to approach or console for fear of offending or upsetting the parent. Many feel that they are treated as if they have a contagious disease. In an attempt to seem normal, or “over it,” emotions are suppressed and the parent begins to withdraw or become distant. This reaction, however, compounds the feeling of being totally alone in this experience.

The Emmaus Ministry permits parents to “undress their hearts” before God

Many well-intentioned attempts have been made to assist parents in recovering emotionally from their loss, including psychotherapy and support groups. However, in an attempt to be all inclusive and “politically correct”, the spiritual need or even existence of God is absent from many of these methods of treatment. We believe there is no healing without God. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

It was in recognition of this fact and to address these needs that in 2009 we began what has now become The Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents, originally starting as The Pieta Ministry at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, MA.

The Emmaus Ministry permits parents to, as Fr. Roch Niemier, OFM says, “undress their hearts” before God and others who know and feel the pain. Since its inception, this ministry has helped participants initiate, regain, and/or reinvigorate their relationship with God, and so begin the healing process.

As we struggle through the horrendous pain of this journey, we invite Jesus to join and comfort us, just as he comforted his grieving disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Since its beginning, the ministry has served over a thousand parents from twenty six states, Canada and Ireland.  Further evidence of the need for this ministry is the repeated requests we have had to bring this program to grieving parents in other areas.  To the best of our knowledge, there is no other similar type of ongoing ministry focused on the spirituality of the parent’s grieving process anywhere in the continental United States.

The Ministry has also had a profound effect upon members of the retreat teams. Fr. David Convertino, OFM, our original retreat leader, commented “This was one of the most grace-filled experiences that I have had during my entire life as a Friar.” Fr. Brian Smail, O.F.M. wrote after attending his first Emmaus Retreat “I have to say that Saturday was one of the most significant experiences I have had as a priest and friar. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of it; it was an incredible experience of ministry for me.”

Interested in helping carry on this ministry? Learn more by visiting the Emmaus Ministry website, where you can find more details and complete contact information, including a phone number for the Monaghans.


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