Funeral luncheon ministry helps the bereaved
Serving the bereaved through the simple gift of food, prepared and served with love, is a special ministry for Marilyn White and Donna Foxhoven, members of St. Michael Parish in South Sioux City – and hundreds of others in parishes across the archdiocese.
While the corporal work or mercy – burying the dead – is a sign of honor and respect for the dignity of the deceased, it also involves gestures of love and compassion to the ones who are mourning.
And all who take part in the funeral proceedings – those who plan or attend a visitation, rosary, the funeral and luncheon – are part of that merciful act.
White leads the parish’s efforts to plan and serve luncheons after funerals (which may happen about once a month).
"It’s about the last thing we can do for a person," she said, "and it helps the family out by taking that burden off of them."
A parishioner for nearly 24 years, White began helping with funeral luncheons about 15 years ago, and recently added the leadership role.
And Foxhoven, a parishioner for 42 years, began by helping prepare salads, and over time has become more involved.
"It’s something that’s close to my heart," Foxhoven said. "It’s such a sad time when someone passes, so if they have people there who care, it helps."
"Whenever there’s a gathering of family, there’s always food," she said. "So by reaching out to them in their grief and providing this, there’s one less thing for them to think about, and they have that time to be together and remember the person they’ve lost."
In addition to Foxhoven and White, the funeral luncheon ministry at St. Michael Parish includes nearly 50 people. It is organized into three teams of three or four people each who alternate organizing the meals, setting up tables and chairs, and serving the meals, White said.
Each team has its own group of about 12 people who prepare and donate salads and desserts – and additional parishioners often pitch in. The deceased’s family pays for the meats, buns, chips and other items, which the team orders.
"It relieves the family of having to arrange everything," White said. "All they have to do is tell us what they want and how many people they expect, and we take care of everything else."
Another parishioner, Joan Koch, a longtime leader of the luncheon ministry, recently stepped back from that role to care for her ailing husband. But Koch stays involved by making phone calls and helping with other tasks, White said.
"People are so grateful that we’ve done this for them," she said, "but we don’t expect anything in return. It’s just something we can do for people and for our parish."
"To me, it’s a sign that I care," Foxhoven said. "We’re all in this together, so by reaching out and caring in any way that you can to nurture their family, it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give."