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Let’s talk ‘Virtual Wakes’

COVID-19 threw a curve ball into the efforts of the Ministry of Consolation (MOC) to assist families who had lost loved ones in 2020.

However, members of the Ministry at the St Charles RC Church, Tunapuna took the chance to seek nontraditional ways of reaching out to parishioners who request their service.

Cognisant that no known situation desperately requires human contact and presence as the loss of a loved one, the MOC’s Coordinator Barbara Wafe told Catholic News that the group gradually embraced and explored the concept that through technology, their fingers would do the “walking so we could keep on talking, keep on listening, keep on praying, keep on comforting.”
In short, technology allowed the Tunapuna MOC to be “present” via WhatsApp phone conferences and Zoom.

Using PowerPoint, the group designed programmes for a ‘Forty-Night Service’; and tweaked the Wake Service written in the St Charles Borromeo RC Ministry of Consolation Booklet 2017.
The Forty-night Service was deeply appreciated, Wafe said. “We had time to include pictures and allocate roles to family members prior to the date of the Zoom meeting. By then we had also learnt more of the logistics of hosting, muting and unmuting mics etc.  We recognised however, via collective efforts that ‘Zoom Wakes’ have their own dynamic and so require more flexibility.”

How to host a virtual wake

According to Wafe, best practice suggests that a three-night online wake be planned. Consideration, she observed, must be given to family dynamics, available technology, and help from friends and relatives. Hymns, gospel reading and sharing, intercessions, sharing of memories should be programmed.

Wafe shared that this should further include a ‘Welcome’ by a representative of the family followed by an introduction of the Team.

“The team leader would bring greetings from the parish community and invite participants to praise and worship… a play list can be used or a couple live voices. Others join in but mics are muted. A selected gospel passage is proclaimed.  Invite a couple persons to share on words from the gospel which resonated with them and why. The leader wraps up always pointing to God’s love, His salvific plan, His mercy and promise of Heaven.”

On night one, the rosary for the dead could be added.  On night two, the litany, and on the third night, the eve of the funeral, more time could be allocated for sharing of memories of the deceased so neither the Litany nor the Rosary is said.  If possible, a collage of pictures can be displayed to facilitate the sharers.

Wafe stressed that post funeral contact is important. “Just phone, listen and pray. Use social media to send comforting messages, quotes, prayer nuggets and pictures,” she said.

She also recommended sharing information on available online services from the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, government and non-governmental institutions.

“Seize the opportunity to lead others into deeper personal relationships especially with Jesus,” she asserted.

The St Charles RC Church will be hosting its annual Candlelight Consolation Mass on November 24 at the Church, Eastern Main Road, Tunapuna at 6 p.m. Families of those who have lost loved ones during this year are invited. All COVID-19 protocols would be observed.