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JoAnn Perkins, left, and Sherry Wachtler, members of the bereavement ministry team at St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, view memorial crosses on a “memory wall” at the back of the church in honor of parishioners who have died since last November. Photo by Mike May/Staff.

Parishes honor loved ones who have died

Remembering loved ones who have passed away is a special focus in November with All Saints and All Souls days – but many parishes go beyond those celebrations to honor the dead.

Holy Ghost and St. John Vianney in Omaha, St. Gerald in Ralston, St. Joseph in Pierce and St. Paul in Plainview are among parishes that pray in a special way for the deceased at Masses. Other traditions include lighting honorary candles, creating commemorative crosses and offering books for parishioners to record the names of deceased loved ones.

"It’s good for the parish as a whole to remember, and to let the families know that the parish is there for them and the community mourns their loss along with them," said Brian Corey, pastoral and music minister at St. John Vianney.

Parishioners who have died since last November will be remembered at a memorial Mass Nov. 8 at St. John Vianney, and their families are given a personal invitation to attend and possibly take part in the liturgy as gift bearers or lectors, he said.

Throughout November, candles, each with a deceased’s name attached, burn continuously in the sanctuary, and families are invited to take the candles home at the end of the month.

Also, a book of remembrance is placed in the church through November, he said, where people can write the names of deceased loved ones to be prayed for at Masses during the month.

Father Marc Lim, pastor of St. Joseph and St. Paul parishes, said the purpose of such remembrances is two-fold.

"We remember the deceased in prayer, bearing in mind the hope Christ gave us through his resurrection, and we pray for them, remembering how they supported their families while they were living."

He said both parishes include the names of those whose funerals were held at the parishes since last November in the prayers of the faithful. Parishioners also will light candles during Masses in their memory the Sunday before All Souls Day, this year Oct. 30.

St. Joseph and St. Paul parishes also provide books of remembrance, where the names of any deceased loved ones can be recorded to be prayed for at Masses during November, he said.

At St. Gerald Parish, remembering the deceased is a year-round focus, said Sherry Wachtler, a member of the parish’s bereavement ministry team.

Wooden crosses are placed on a memory wall at the back of the church, she said, each with the name, date of birth and date of death of a parishioner who has died.

The crosses are placed on the wall at the time of the funeral and remain there for a year, after which families may take the crosses home.

The parish also celebrates an evening Mass on All Souls Day, and families at the Mass are invited to light a candle in the loved one’s memory.

The candles, with the names of the deceased, are displayed near the altar and lit during Masses throughout November, Wachtler said, and families are invited to take the candles home at the end of the month.

At Holy Ghost Parish, people whose funerals were held at the parish in the past year will be remembered by name and prayed for at all weekend Masses Nov. 5-6, said Father William Sanderson, pastor.

The parish also lights candles, which are placed on the sills of all the windows around the church along with name cards of the deceased, he said. The candles are lit during each weekend Mass throughout November.

"Although the pain of loss lingers, it’s very comforting for the families to know that the parish is remembering them in this special way," Father Sanderson said.

All Saints Day and All Souls Day

The Catholic Church honors the faithful departed in prayer at every Mass – and in particular during two November celebrations.

All Saints Day, Nov. 1, is a holy day of obligation honoring all the saints in heaven, known and unknown. All Souls Day, Nov. 2, is a commemoration of all the faithful departed, including those in purgatory waiting to enter heaven.

Both celebrate the communion of saints, as the faithful pray for the intercession of saints and for the souls in purgatory.

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