“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” -Matthew 5:4
In the summer of 2021, I met with my team of Christian Service Commission members to discuss ideas for Mercy in Action Day that upcoming October. Having only been in the position of Director of Christian Service at Our Lady of Good Counsel for just under a year at that point, I was praying about what exactly our parishioners were called to do to help our community members.
In light of the recent pandemic and considering the number of parishioners who had passed away that year, we all thought doing something to bring a smile to those who were grieving would be a great way to show mercy and put our faith into action. Hence, the idea to “Comfort the Sorrowful” for our Mercy in Action Day.
The great news is that, when discerning how to do this, we just had to turn to a recent experience that showed how meaningful it is to people when you surprise them with a little thoughtfulness and a smile.
Blessing the Elderly
Just a month into 2021, when it appeared Covid was ramping up yet again and there were still a number of parishioners unable to risk coming to Mass, we discerned a way to bring a smile to the faces of those members who were most at-risk, isolated and lonely. We went through our parish directory and decided we would make and hand deliver blessing bags to parishioners age 75 and up. This turned out to be over 350 households! Considering we had over 90 confirmation families, we had no problem looking for volunteers. We wanted to keep it a surprise, so we didn't advertise this in the bulletin. I made a video plea that was sent via email to all of the confirmation families as well as all of our ministry leads. I asked each family to expect to deliver to at least ten households.
A little over a month after starting the project, we reserved our large social hall for the day of assembly and delivery. Once all of their bags were completed, we provided volunteers with delivery instructions and sent them on their way. In each bag, we had a variety of spiritual comforts—many of them handmade by our OLGC elementary school kids—bookmarks made by our Yarn Ministry, prayer cards, a Magnificat Holy Week guide, an Easter and Holy Week Mass schedule, face masks, hand sanitizer and other practical items.
Not only was the feedback tremendous from the seniors who received these blessing bags, but the families that participated were so grateful to do this as well, especially families with very young children. The seniors, many of them in tears, called the office in the days that followed and expressed their complete surprise and joy at receiving these bags. They needed to know how much we had missed them since the pandemic started and how much we appreciated them.
Comforting the Sorrowful
The blessing bag endeavor of Lent was so successful that in light of the tremendous loss that so many families experienced due to the pandemic, we thought it only fitting to bless those who are mourning. For Mercy in Action Day, we again reached out to parishioners and asked them to come to the Social Hall to comfort the sorrowful. I took the spreadsheet of all the funerals we had from October 1, 2020, until September 30, 2021, and printed out each of the obituaries. As long as they were local, they would receive a bag. This turned out to be about 50 families.
Once again we gathered in the social hall to assemble the bags, but not before listening to one of our clergy express what it means to perform this act of mercy. The volunteers also received a copy of the Divine Mercy Chaplet so they could pray for the deceased. A member of our bereavement team also spoke about the importance of this ministry and how they accompany grieving families for a year after the funeral. The families assembling bags and making cards received the obituary in a folder in order to write the card in a more personalized fashion. This way, the recipient would know that the volunteer truly took the time to read about their deceased loved one and could even write about things they had in common. The bags also contained a Magnificat guide for October, a book on grief, flyers for Good Mourning Ministry’s upcoming workshops, rosaries and prayer cards. Similar to the Blessing Bags at Lent, several families sent cards and left messages expressing their gratitude for the thoughtfulness of our parishioners.
What a grace to be able to put a smile on the faces of those who are mourning. We look forward to putting our faith into action on October 1st as we once again comfort the sorrowful.
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