By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — A variety of life events can cause feelings of grief, including death, illness, miscarriage, broken relationships and infertility. To minister to people experiencing such hurts, St. Paul the Apostle Parish is starting a grief support group.
“Grief is so deep, far reaching and real,” said parishioner Judi Droll, coordinator of St. Paul’s grief support group, Come to the Water. “It’s for anyone who has a hurt.”
Come to the Water will be open to parishioners and non-parishioners. The group will begin meeting Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. in St. Paul the Apostle Parish’s McEleney Hall. The program will run for 10 weeks; the first four weeks are open to anyone interested in giving the group a try, after that it will become a closed group. At the completion of the 10-week program, a new 10-week program will form under the same format indefinitely.
Robert Wamer, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Davenport, developed the grief program as his master’s thesis at St. Ambrose University in 2009 after experiencing the accidental death of his brother-in-law. St. Paul is the first parish to use the program. It includes “a lot of listening,” along with catechism, Bible study and at-home journaling.
He said keeping the group closed during the final six weeks of each session will create a sense of family within the group, a comfort and confidentiality that allows participants to do the grief work they need to do.
For those who feel uncomfortable in a group setting, the grief ministry can help meet the needs of an individual on a more personal basis, Wamer said.
While the ministry isn’t intended to eliminate or solve the hurts people experience; the goal is to make sure people know that they are supported by their faith community, Wamer said. “The biggest component to grief work is the ability to listen to the story, where the person is at, and walk with them. … We can support them in their grief process. We can’t fix anything, but between them and God, things can be fixed.”
Mary Kay Kendall, president of St. Paul’s Altar and Rosary Society, said many of Altar and Rosary Society’s programs, including meal ministry, prayer shawl ministry and prayer vigils, will complement the grief program. Persons being helped by these ministries may be in need of a grief program, and those in the grief program may be in need of other ministries.
Additionally, the group is meant to help support people as long as they need it. Kendall said there usually comes a point after a loss in which support among family, friends and coworkers tends to stop, often before the person is done grieving. Even years later periods of grief can arise. That is where Come to the Water can help. “Their family at St. Paul is still there for them,” she said.
Droll said people are welcome to participate in as many of the 10-week programs as they need.
Father Tony Herold, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, has been very supportive of the grief ministry, said Droll. She hopes other parishes will consider establishing similar grief ministries. “It has the potential to be bigger than just St. Paul.”
For more information on the program, call Droll at (563) 322-3665 or (563) 340-6196.