Expect support and understanding from the Church, Bishop Paul tells bereaved parents

At a Mass for bereaved parents, Bishop Paul McAleenan acknowledged the pain these parents experienced at the loss of a child and said they had a ‘right to expect support and understanding’ from the Church.

Placing their suffering in the context of Jesus’ death on the cross and Mary’s anguish, he said, ‘to be a bereaved parent is to experience a particular kind of pain’.

Speaking of the gift of life which ‘parents bestow with God’s help’, Bishop Paul said: ‘There are times when we need the capacity to release that gift from our hands and allow it to pass safely into the hands of God.’ He acknowledged that ‘this movement is never easy, nor does it come naturally; it is a cross for us’.

He encouraged these parents to seek the ‘grace that God gives, that we may not lose hope, but may support each other in the faith and in the journey which ends when we see again those whom we love and have lost, though we keep in mind that they are not lost at all, but are safe’.

Part of the season of prayer of ‘Called to Serve the Sick’, the Mass for bereaved parents took place at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, 11th March. The Mass was inspired by the experiences of hospital chaplains, both clergy and lay, who accompany parents during their children’s illness and in times of loss and bereavement.

Several hundred people from around the Diocese of Westminster and beyond attended the Mass. Requests for prayers for deceased children from bereaved parents came from as far away as California.

During Mass, parents were invited to write the names of their deceased children on cards which were collected into two lanterns (right) and placed in the sanctuary. At the end of Mass, the lanterns were processed to the Holy Souls Chapel.

As they were leaving, many parents expressed their gratitude for this occasion to remember and their hope that the Mass will be repeated again next year.

The full text of Bishop Paul's homily is available here.

Main photo: Bishop Paul with hospital chaplains in the Holy Souls Chapel.

For additional help and support about dealing with death and dying, please visit artofdyingwell.org. There is also an Instagram account (@artofdyingwell) where requests for prayers for deceased loved ones can be made.