Corpus Christi-Epiphany honors the departed
Corpus Christi-Epiphany Church In New Orleans averages about 70 funerals a year, and each of those has a personal story to tell.
The bereavement ministry of Corpus Christi-Epiphany came up with the idea several years ago to set up several tables in the church vestibule during the month of November on which it could display pictures and funeral programs of parishioners who had died during the previous 12 months.
The idea of erecting an All Souls exhibit belonged to Maxine Moran Leon, Joycelyn Clementin and Pam Perry, members of the bereavement ministry. The memorial went beyond parishioners to include members of the community who had died through violence, as well as priests, women religious and American celebrities who had passed away, Moran Leon said.
Funeral programs filed away
During the course of the year, the bereavement ministry files extra copies of the funeral programs so that they are available for the All Souls display. Family members have told Moran Leon that they appreciate the remembrance.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” Moran Leon said. “Sometimes our parishioners are not aware that someone has passed away, and they’re just amazed that we have remembered them. We also have visitors come in and said they remembered a particular person and didn’t know that person had gone on. It’s a lift up, a spiritual lifting.”
The bereavement ministry decided to expand its memorial in 2011 to include victims of violence because of several high-profile deaths, including a toddler who was killed by a hit-and-run motorcyclist and another child who died after being left inside a hot car.
Moran Leon said the feedback from parishioners has been universally positive.
“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “Everybody wants to know what we’re going to do next year. One woman who is a lady knight of Peter Claver even offered to come help to set it up.”
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Josephite Father Roderick Coates, who was named pastor of Corpus Christi-Epiphany a few months ago. “It’s done in many of the churches where the Josephites serve. It’s a reminder of our connection with the people who have gone before us to keep them in mind constantly.”
The memorial has grown in size over the last three years, Moran Leon said. In the first year, pictures were pasted on trifold poster board. Last year, they were glued to small sticks and arranged so that could be more visible.
Even with the parish celebrating so many funerals, it’s not too difficult to keep track of the deceased, Moran Leon said. The bereavement ministry asks the family for extra funeral programs and prayer cards, and those are placed in a box that is kept in the rectory.
Obituary fallout from T-P
The only thing that has changed this year that will make things slightly more difficult in the future, Moran Leon said, is the decision by The Times-Picayune to print a newspaper only three times a week – on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. She is concerned she may miss some the obituaries she used to cut out.
“Now I’m going to have to go online to find them,” she said.
By keeping all the funeral programs in one place, the parish can send letters to families in advance welcoming them to a special Mass in November during which prayers will be offered for those who died within the last year. Parishioners who have lost loved ones are given candles at the Mass.
In addition to setting up the All Souls exhibit, the bereavement ministry assists the priests when there are funerals at the church by setting up the altar and working with the family to plan who will read and bring up the offertory gifts. The ministry also helps those who will offer words of remembrance for the loved one.
The memorial Mass at Corpus Christi-Epiphany Church will be celebrated Nov. 11 at 10 a.m. All are invited.