By Ottrisha Carter
The Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) hosted a virtual training workshop on Wednesday, May 25 from 7–9 p.m., in which the formation of Ministries of Consolation (MoC) as part of the parish Family Life Unit (FLU) was discussed. Barbara Wafe, team leader of the MoC at the St Charles Borromeo Parish, Tunapuna, along with other team members facilitated the session.
A total of 120 participants consisted of representatives from 30 parishes, in addition to participants from Dominica and Belize. Tunapuna parish priest Msgr Esau Joseph did the Opening Prayer. Luscia Kanneh facilitated the session on behalf of the AFLC.
AFLC Episcopal Delegate Tricia Syms highlighted, in her opening remarks, that there was a continuous call to journeying and listening together with all of us on the synodal journey, it being the Year of the Amoris Laetitia Family and Laudato Si’ Week (May 22–29) with the theme Journey and Listening Together.
As highlighted in Amoris Laetitia 202, “The main contribution to the pastoral care of families is offered by the parish, which is the family of families…” The parish extends beyond those who come to church to all those in the community.
The role of the parish FLU is one of coordinating initiatives that strengthen, develop and support marriage and family life. Caring for those who have experienced loss takes time, as Pope Francis reminds us in AL 224, “Love needs time and space…”
Participants shared that the MoC is a “A welcome and long overdue ministry…the importance of having a ministry like this… That we can be truly helpful to each other as a church community, to be there for each other in a true and deep way with love and care.”
As Wafe painted a picture of what the MoC entails, she took the opportunity to share some of the objectives that guided the late Fr Reginald Hezekiah, the ministry’s founder and her team as they formed this beautiful ministry in their parish, ten years ago.
According to Wafe, “Our objectives were to give those experiencing significant loss, the opportunity to express their feelings. To be available for prayer, listening, friendship and support during the healing process.… To share information that encourages growth and offers practical support.”
As participants reflected on Wafe’s sharing, Celia asked: “In addition to helping those who need the support, how do helpers help themselves?”
In response, Wafe explained, “We do have contact with some professionals and if people need to see some professional people, we do have a list. Some people belong to our own parish and there are also free services given by the Catholic Church and the Government as well.”
Wafe offered some suggestions which can be used as part of the action plan in the formation of a parish MoC. She recommended “Consult with your parish priest. Compile a directory of support personnel/agencies for professional assistance. Train members/supporters in the ‘Gift of Affective Listening & Empathetic Listening’ skills.”
Wafe emphasised the important role that empathetic and affective listening play. “In empathetic listening, your mission is to give support and encouragement instead of advice and criticism. Empathetic listening allows the person to be heard.” She reminded participants of James 1:19: “Be quick to listen but slow to speak.”
Moving on to affective listening, Wafe expressed, “You and I would like to be listened to attentively, with confidentiality, with no interruptions. Being listened to makes us feel respected, valued, we empower each other and remind the person that God is love. That we are the beloved of God.”
Wafe clarified the misconception that death isn’t the only form of loss that they deal with in the MoC. Sharing on the other dimensions of loss, she mentioned, “In personal relationships of course you have death, voluntary and involuntary separation, incest, divorce… For environmental reasons: floods, fire, earthquake. Loss due to [the] natural and social journey of life: illness, injury, disability…”
Wafe encouraged the participants to purchase a copy of the St Charles Borromeo RC Ministry of Consolation Booklet 2017 which is available at their parish’s office for a contribution of $40.
Tricia Syms expressed gratitude to Wafe and her team members, and all the participants for their presence. She advised the participants to “remember as we minister in the parish, we’re not only ministering to those who come, we’re also ministering to those outside of the Church as well.”
Contact the AFLC at 299-1047, email: email@example.com for more information on strengthening and forming a parish Family Life Unit.