Parishes throughout the Diocese of Cork and Ross are being asked to implement new guidance which will see the ministry for bereaved families at the time of a funeral provided by members of a parish team rather than just the clergy alone.
The change forms part of a new policy for funerals which has been published by the Diocese.
The Bishop of Cork and Ross, Fintan Gavin has asked parishes across the diocese to establish a Parish Funeral Ministry Team composed of the local clergy, including priests and deacons.
Each team will have at least one priest and four other members — women and men.
Speaking to the Echo, Fr Tom Hayes, parish priest in Enniskeane and spokesperson for the Diocese said that it is intended that the change will help to “recover the sense of the ministry to the bereaved as belonging to all of us.”
He explained: “When I was younger, a lot of the prayers at funerals were led by the neighbours and by extended family members and so on. It's true that in recent decades, we got into the pattern of the priest doing most of it.
“Now, there are certain elements of it that can only be done by the priest, obviously, the priests can only say the mass, but all the other parts can actually have lay people involved.”
Fr Hayes said that funeral teams were trained and introduced in many parishes a number of years ago and noted that hundreds of people across the Diocese have already undertaken training in this area and are involved in providing ministry to families who are bereaved.
“For the people that have been involved in addition to parishes. They're all finding a very rewarding and very fulfilling thing to do.”
Around half of the parishes in the Diocese already have teams in place and it is anticipated that the remainder will have teams in place within the coming months.
The guidance follows a review of how funerals are conducted in the diocese by a group of lay people and priests.
A new policy document on funerals entitled “Ministry to the Bereaved: A Mission for us all” has also been published and Bishop Fintan Gavin says that each parish is asked to have the same approach to funerals.
Amongst the other guidance in the document is that funeral masses in the Diocese are not to be celebrated on a Sunday, that use of recordings of songs should not be part of a funeral liturgy as it is a breach of copyright, and that the church should not be used as an alternative to a funeral home.