GRIEF MINISTRY — From left: Diana Knaus, Claire Hawkins and Elan Ehresman recently spoke at a diocesan Administration Day, describing a grief ministry program for widows and widowers that is being offered in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon through the Office of Marriage and Family Life. (Yaworski photo)

Presentations made at Administration Day

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

SASKATOON — Presentations about several of the ministries supported by the Bishop’s Annual Appeal (BAA) were part of an Administration Day for parish representatives from across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon held Sept. 10 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family.

After the 2014 Appeal was introduced to parishes, several information sessions throughout the day highlighted programs and initiatives that receive support from the BAA.

Fred Farthing spoke about the work of Catholic Family Services, whose mission is to build strong and healthy families, individuals and communities.

“We have five arms of service,” Farthing. These arms are counselling — including a no-fee counselling service offered at Saskatoon Food Bank; family wellness and education programs; teen parenting and early childhood services, and professional training programs; as well as community capacity building and community development, which involves working face-to-face with clients to connect people in schools and communities and to “re-weave the social fabric,” he described.

Michelle Sieben and Elan Ehresman of the diocesan Christian Initiation and Catechetics Office gave a presentation on a model of lifelong faith formation in parishes, grounded in the principles of the catechumenate (RCIA or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).

It is not merely a matter of getting the sacraments “done,” or having as many children as possible enrolled in catechetics class, she said, noting that a new model is needed for this new era, when culture does not support and reinforce faith formation as it might have done in years past.

Becoming and forming lifelong disciples is about “opening our entire lives to God . . . to be changed and transformed by a personal encounter with Jesus,” stressed Ehresman. The creation of disciples happens within a Christian community where Christian life is modelled by those living their faith on a path of conversion, service and ongoing formation — as a lived reality or “apprenticeship.”

This kind of formation is gradual, community-based, steeped in the Paschal Mystery, conversion-oriented, age appropriate and lifelong, and accommodated to the individual, Sieben described.

“It was the way Jesus taught,” Sieben said, pointing to the Emmaus story in the Gospel of Luke, in which the risen Lord meets the disciples where they are, engages them in conversation, answers the longing of their hearts, and reveals himself to them in the breaking of the bread.

Grief ministry was also highlighted at Administration Day, with Ehresman describing the establishment of a support group for widows and widowers as part of her work with the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, which is also funded by the BAA.

Volunteers Dianna Knaus and Claire Hawkins spoke about the grief support program that they lead with an understanding born of their own experiences of grief and loss.

“Losing someone you care about can be one of the most difficult experiences of life. There are no words that can take away the pain of your loss,” states a video introduction from materials used as part of the Mourning to Dawn program offered to those mourning the death of a spouse.

The eight-week program of video presentations, personal sharing and faith-based support strives to move participants through a grief journey — to do the kind of “grief work” that brings healing. “It isn’t time that heals, it is what we do in that time,” said Knaus.

“Through our grief group, we meet people where they are at, and walk through just a short part of their journey with them,” she explained, stressing the safe, non-threatening setting, where participants can move forward through instruction, sharing and prayer.

The meetings are also full of laughter and joy, Knaus added. “It’s a good, safe place where we can walk and share the journey, the highs and the lows, together.”

Both Knaus and Hawkins described the joy of seeing participants progress on their journey and find hope and healing.

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