October 1, 2011
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. - John 11:19
The Bereavement Ministry at Saint Alphonsus Liguori was started in 2009 and since that time, has been a source of healing and comfort for many of our parishioners. Made up of individuals who feel called to give comfort to those dealing with the death of a family member, this ministry provides essential resources and is oftentimes central to the healing process.
Mourning customs of the past, such as wearing black for a year, gave people time to grieve - and others knew how to respond. “Now, you have the funeral and you go back to work. Nobody will talk to you about it because they’re afraid you’re going to cry,” Veronica Gibbs says, “but in reality, people just want to talk about their loved one, hear their name.”
Gibbs, a licensed and certified Christian counselor, offers guidance and brings a valuable cache of knowledge and experience to the Bereavement Ministry. Having taught English for eight years in Lafayette, Indiana, she was subsequently inspired by a coworker to make a change in her career. So, she took courses toward a degree in counseling, and while at Purdue University, one of her professors invited Gibbs into a private practice. Since then, her life as a psychologist has evolved. Now, she councils from a Catholic perspective and requires that her clients must first and foremost have some sort of faith background, without which Gibbs believes, everything in life is more difficult.
In order to provide information for people who had suffered a loss and to let them know that what they were feeling was normal and valid, regardless of the amount of time that may have passed, Gibbs held a training session for prospective bereavement ministers. “I had a twofold plan,” she said, “I wanted to really educate people how to talk to anybody who’s going through death, and I wanted something that people could do on their own time, from their own homes.”
Ministers send monthly messages for a year, describing what a person may be experiencing at various stages throughout the grieving process. They take the initiative to introduce themselves and get to know the person, but beyond that, everyone's experience is unique - whatever makes the griever feel comfortable. Gibbs admits she has a lot of clients who won’t talk to their bereavement minister but they love the monthly messages, while others delight in a listening ear and the prospect of a new found friend.
Currently, the Bereavement Ministry has a good, solid core of members, but with a growing parish, they hope to add at least 10 - 12 more people to their roster. As it stands, each minister is tending to two or three individuals while the ideal ratio would be one to one. Also, Gibbs prefers to place men with men and women with women, and right now they have only one male participant.
Each day, Veronica Gibbs thanks God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “What He has accomplished through this ministry is not mine. It is truly a ministry,” she says, amazed at the miracles she has been blessed to witness. “Never could I have accomplished that on my own!”
If you feel called to be part of the Bereavement Ministry, please contact Sonya Derocher at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 317.873.2885 ext. 101