Welcoming Those Who Grieve

When we think of “welcome” as a mission priority, what comes to mind? A user-friendly website? Parking attendants? A family-friendly Sunday experience?

Yes, yes, and YES!

But how do we welcome those among us who haven’t found our parish online or in person – those who may not ordinarily be inclined to do so? One way is to invite those in our “mission territory” who are grieving. At times of trial, they may be more receptive to this invitation and in need of an encounter with Christ.

Through Project Rachel (just one of many ministries that serve those who grieve), I have been blessed to encounter many women of all different faith backgrounds and some with no faith at all. Sometimes these women and men come to the ministry not because it is Catholic but in spite of its Catholicism. What they find is an encounter with a loving God, laborers in His vineyard with open arms and open hearts, and companions on their journey toward healing and, often, toward Christ. Over the years, we have heard from those with no religious affiliation at all (the so-called “nones”) that this was the only place they were able to find help; from those who have fallen away from the Church, that they felt welcomed again; and from those skeptical of Catholicism, that they felt great peace and joy in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

When we provide the pastoral care that few others in our community provide, we welcome those who aren’t otherwise inclined to search us out. We give our parishioners an opening to invite their recently widowed neighbor, their colleague who just lost a child through miscarriage, or their friend whose parents are dying. We welcome them into a community that celebrates the God-given dignity of each and every person (born, unborn, with special needs, old, young, and in between). We fill a great need – the need for a companion on the journey, a community that will share our grief, and an acknowledgement of the dignity of those who have gone before us.

How does your parish invite and welcome those who grieve?


Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve. Dr. Earl A. Grollman

*This post was co-authored by Edward Herrera, Director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life, and Johanna Coughlin, Respect Life Consultant and Projel Rachel Coordinator
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