| By Carla Smith | Correspondent

Parish Ministry Offers Hope To Those Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted” is one of the beatitudes Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. This beloved passage speaks not only to those who mourn but also to those who surround them as they grieve.

St. Paul Chong Hasang Parish in Harker Heights had heeded the call to comfort those who mourn with its “We Grieve Because We Loved” ministry. It was formed just last year and is already proving a needed and popular outreach program. 

Deacon Alfred Ponce facilitates the group. He said the ministry is for those who are suffering the loss of a loved one because as St. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.”

Deacon Ponce said when a member of the Body of Christ dies, the faithful are called to a ministry of consolation to those who have suffered the loss of one whom they love. 

“We are called to this caring and those who are baptized are responsible for one another and to remember that the grieving yearn for consolation,” he said.

Members have become trusted friends and Deacon Ponce said it is powerful to see the joy that comes from the hearts of parishioners as they help one another. He is proud to witness firsthand the faith of the community as they bring support and strength to those who suffer the loss of a loved one. 

The ministry began last year as the world and the parish continued to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple of widows and widowers from St. Paul Chong Hasang mentioned to Deacon Ponce that they would like to have a ministry for them. As he reflected and prayed for all those who minister to others in the parish, a special grief ministry came to his mind, centering on widows and widowers.  

“I felt a call to serve them along with helping them serve each other,” he said. “I spent time in spiritual direction with our dear pastor, Father Richard O’Rourke, and through this ministry I get to share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way that helps me gaze at the suffering Christ and be transformed in his love.”

Today’s group is active, meeting on the second Thursday of the month in the parish hall. Gatherings start with an opening prayer, blessing of the food and a potluck lunch. From there, they welcome new members and offer programs that include everything from grief sharing to art sessions. Originally created solely for widows and widowers, the group’s next phase includes opening up to anyone who has lost someone.

Along with their monthly meetings and prayer time, other activities include special Masses, gravesite visits, anniversary commemorations, banquets, picnics and support for each other through meals, Eucharist and visitations when one is ill. The group has also collected points of contact for lawn services, taxes, legal assistance and advice, plumbing, automobile services and much more. 

“Our name really says it all,” Deacon Ponce said. “The love for their loved ones continues with them as they grieve. As we journey and grieve together, we recognize how difficult and emotional it can be for all of us, but Christ meets us where we are, and he reaches out to us to console one another.”

St. Paul Chong Hasang was one a Korean martyr and son and nephew of writers of the first Catechism for the Catholic Church in Korea. The parish community lives on corporal works of mercy and stands ready to help each other spiritually and physically to meet the needs of others and keep faith alive with their good works. Much like their patron, who is considered a leading figure in the revitalization and growth of the Korean Catholic Church, parishioners are steadfast in their faith often despite hardship and pain, Deacon Ponce said.

“This ministry magnifies how we support each other in our journey together in Christ and experiencing the saving love of God in perfect times and in hard times,” he said. “It is so powerful to see the joy that comes from the hearts of our parishioners as they help each other. The faith of our Christian community brings support and strength to those who suffer the loss of their loved one. This, my brothers and sisters, is the Holy Spirit in action.”

For more information on the “We Grieve Because We Loved,” go to stpaulchonghasang.org or call (254) 698-4338.

Carla Smith has been a writer for Catholic Spirit since 2016. A long-time Austinite, she and her husband are members of Santa Rosa Parish in Andice. They enjoy spending time with their daughter and their three dogs, as well as fellowship, golf and football.