Bereavement Ministry Training Draws Faithful to Share Hope

Grief pulls at all of our heartstrings. We are all moved by the image of Jesus weeping for his friend Lazarus, who died. One does not always understand God’s reason for allowing someone to pass. Still, we know it is in His permissive will to invite individuals of any age and background into eternal life. Through the interaction of Jesus with Lazarus, we know God understands the depth of sorrow one experiences when losing someone they love.

Christ promises the gift of heaven and reunification of our loved ones in body and soul at the Resurrection, and calls His followers to spread this hope to the world.

Twenty-two parishioners from across several counties in the Diocese of Allentown attended a two-part Diocesan Bereavement Ministry Training on Tuesdays, June 4 and 11 at Our Lady of Mercy, Easton.

Similar training has been offered at St. Ambrose, Schuylkill Haven and St. Benedict, Mohnton, through the support of Maggie Riggins, Executive Director of Evangelization and Faith Formation, and Madeline Gardener, a former hospice nurse and longtime bereavement coordinator in parishes in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Some individuals attended to find ways to enrich or formalize ministries they had already started in their parishes. Others were there to find assistance as they got started answering a recognizable call to care in the spiritual work of mercy to “comfort the sorrowful” within their community.

Ruth Joyce of St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield already meets with families of loved ones who have passed to offer support and make funeral arrangements through her church bereavement committee. She hoped to find strategies “to be more effective at working with the bereaved” and discover practices aimed at “enhancing the bereavement ministry” within the Diocese.

After losing her husband last year, Paulette Vuchko of Sacred Heart, Bethlehem received a recommendation from a friend to attend the bereavement ministry at St. Therese, Hellertown by Miriam Martin.

She thought she knew how she would respond to the support she expected at the meeting, but her experience turned out to be quite different. She explained that the ministry helped her “look at life through a different lens.”

“I thought I was going to die of a broken heart. But [Martin] turned that right around. She made me focus on God.”

After attending several meetings, Vuchko determined, “I wanted to give back to others what [Martin] gave me. You know, if I could give a teeny bit of comfort and healing to others, it would touch my heart.”

With the support of Martin, Vuchko and a friend, Jane Magdsy, started a ministry at Sacred Heart in Bethlehem, and the group has already held two sessions.

Both Vuchko and Magdsy attended meetings on June 4 and 11 to gain insights and tools for supporting individuals in mourning.

Each of the twenty-two participant received a certificate of completion at the end of the training to present to their pastors as evidence of formal diocesan training.

Previous trainings have successfully contributed to the following bereavement ministry events:

We The Living; Fall Grief Support Group, St Theresa Convent, 255 Wilson Ave., Hellertown; Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, and Nov. 12; 6:30-8 p.m.; register, Miriam Martin, 610-442-0947 or; please RSVP anytime prior to Oct. 1.

Better Together – Widow and Widower Social Group, support of a social network needed when you lose a spouse; Assumption BVM, Bethlehem; second Wednesday, 1 p.m.; all are welcome; questions 610-867-7424 ext. 16 or

Bereavement Support Group Program, St. Thomas More, Allentown, Tuesdays 7-8:30 p.m.; Oct. 15, 22, 29, Nov. 5, 12, 19, 26, and Dec. 3; Feb. 18, 25, March 4, 11, 18, 25, April 1, 8; contact Jerome Herauf, register; 484-894-4148; registration deadline Oct. 1, 2024 and Feb. 4, 2025.

Finding Your New Journey: Bereavement Series, for those who have lost loved ones; Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28 and Nov. 4,11; 2-3:30 p.m., Sacred Heart, Bethlehem, Father Gilly Meeting Room. Sacred Heart Bldg., Second Street-Freemansburg Ave. (rear door); contact Paulette Vuchko; register; registration deadline Sept. 16.

Bereavement Support Group, St. Benedict, Mohnton, Route 10 going south from Reading; Mondays, Sept. 23, 30; Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28; All Soul's Day Mass Nov. 2; time to be determined; contact Mary Ann Razzano; register, Mary Ann, 610-858-0946 or parish office, 610-286-1006; registration deadline Sept. 20.

The Diocese intends to continue to provide support for those in these ministries.

For information on additional meetings where you can find support and tools to support you through your grief, please consult the AD Times and your local parish bulletins.

If you or anyone you know is interested in leading a ministry, contact Maggie Riggins at


Mass Livestream