Experts offer advice, support groups for the bereaved
By ROSE YBARRA The Valley Catholic
The holidays, particularly the first ones after the death of a loved one, are especially difficult for a person who is grieving. Facing that first Thanksgiving and Christmas with an empty place at the table evokes excruciating sadness and many other emotions, said Fina Suarez, whose son, Eddie, died in 2001 at the age of 20.
“I remember the first Thanksgiving without our son,” said Suarez, who serves as director of pastoral care at San Juan Nursing Home, which operates under the guidance of the diocese. “We were sad because we don’t have what we had before – our son is missing. That day, my husband said, ‘how can I tell God, thank you for taking my son? How can I say, thank you, Lord, when my son is not with us anymore?’”
Suarez continued, “But at the same time, we were truly grateful. That day, we also said thank you to the Lord for those wonderful 20 years that He gave us with our son. I’m still very grateful that He gave me this gift, a very precious gift that I enjoyed to the fullest for those 20 years. Instead of focusing on our son’s death, we’d rather focus on the memories, and the joy, and happiness that he brought into our lives.”
Talking about her son at Thanksgiving, as it turned out, was good for everyone, Suarez said, adding that it is vital to give people permission to talk about the deceased friend or family member.
“And that really helped, not just me, but my other family members, to open the conversation and talk about him,” she said. “Many times, when the grieving people are not talking about it, your friends and other family members don’t want to mention anything, because they think they are hurting you by saying something.”
Talking about your loved one is an important part of grieving, especially at holiday gatherings, said Joseph F. Perez, vice president of pastoral service with Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen.
Perez said some grieving families even choose to share stories about their loved one.
“Of course it’s going to be sad,” he said. “Some of the stories about that loved one will be sad and make people cry. Other stories will be happy and make people laugh, but at least everyone will be honest about it and that’s when healing can take place.”
And being honest about the situation is healthy for those who are grieving, Perez said.
“When you lose a loved one, nothing can ever be like it used to be, because that person is no longer in your life, physically,” he said. “The process of grief is to learn to carry their memory in your heart, but during the holidays, one has to prepare. This loss will affect your holidays and it is normal for it to affect your holidays. It’s ok.”
Suarez, who assists individuals and families with grief on a regular basis through her ministry at the nursing home, said that she and her family have Masses celebrated in her son’s memory. The family also honors him by collecting toys for needy children at Christmas, a cause that was dear to her son.
“Losing my son will always be sad,” said Suarez, who has served at San Juan Nursing Home for more than 20 years. “There is no way to not remember but you can arrive at a place of hope.”
The grieving process is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, Perez said. One moment, the grieving person may be at peace, the next moment, they may be distraught, especially during the first year.
“Grief comes and goes like waves,” he said. “I think of it like you’re on the beach and you have your back to the waves. You feel the constant push, but every once in a while, you get a real big one and it can knock you down. You just don’t know when those strong emotions might come. It could be at the grocery store when you see a certain food, it could be in the car when you hear a song on the radio, just something that hits and touches that tender spot in your heart.”
When it comes to grief, many people say, “this too shall pass,” or “it will heal with time,” but Perez said the notion that time heals all wounds is a myth.
“Time is not the healing agent,” he said. “The healing agent is attention to the wound, over time, heals. Attention to the wound, over time, brings about healing.”
The best way to tend to grief is to face it rather than ignore it, Perez said. Having support, from family, friends or a bereavement support group, is key.
Both San Juan Nursing Home and Valley Baptist Health Systems offer free support groups for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
For more information on support groups at San Juan Nursing Home, call (956) 787-1771. For support groups at Valley Baptist Health System, call (956) 389-1194.
Tips for coping during the holidays without your loved one1. Normalize your feelings. Know that the sadness, the anger, the helplessness, or whatever you are feeling is normal. Give yourself permission to grieve. When people ask you, “How are you doing?” you have the right to answer them honestly if you choose to do so.2. Ask yourself, “What do I want to do this year?” You may find it helpful to try to keep things as “normal” as possible for the sake of continuity. What are your traditions around the special seasons? Or, if it this is too great a burden this year, give yourself permission to do something different or start a new tradition.3. If at all possible, surround yourself with family and people who care. Probably, the hardest thing to do is to be alone.4. Get plenty of rest and eat appropriately. Grief can be tiring work, especially during the holidays. Exercising can also help.5. Seek out the professional support from a pastor / priest or other counselor if necessary.
Source: Valley Baptist Health System
On May 5, 2000, five days after the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Vatican decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Jesus appeared to St. Faustina (1905-1938), a humble Polish nun, in a vision, with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left touching his garment above his heart. Red and white rays emanated from his heart, symbolizing the blood and water that was poured out for our salvation and our sanctification. The Lord requested that “Jesus, I trust in You” be inscribed under his image. Jesus asked that his image be painted and venerated throughout the world. St. Faustina was also given the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which consists of the recitation of prayers to the Eternal Father with the use of the rosary for the sake of Christ’s sorrowful passion.
According to the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website listed below, Jesus told St. Faustina regarding Divine Mercy Sunday, "The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment." This makes Divine Mercy Sunday, the last day of the Octave of Easter, an opportunity for obtaining the extraordinary grace of being cleansed of sin and the punishment due to sin.
For more information on Divine Mercy, visit http://www.marian.org/whatwedo/divinemercy.php
The San Juan Diego Ministry Institute is offering a course for Spring Semester 2017, Ministry With Families 101, for participants of all ministry backgrounds.
Ministering with a family perspective is a central theme, and a main focus of the process is to increase the individual’s capacity to be a self-differentiated leader. It examines three distinct family systems: the person who is ministered to and his/her family, the parish or diocesan family, and the participant’s own family. Participants gain knowledge and insights regarding the domestic church and increase their capacity for ministry with and among families. The instructor is Lydia Pesina, Director Family Life Office for the Diocese of Brownsville.
• Christian Vision of Family Life
• A Family Perspective in Ministry
• The Change Process in Systems
• Family Spirituality
• Family Systems
• The Parish as a System
• Partnership with Families Across the Life Cycle
• Partnership between the Family and the Parish
• Questions: Partnership/Mentoring Process
Classes will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays from April 11-May 30 at the Ministry Institute, 700 N. Virgen de San Juan Blvd. in San Juan. The course fee of $20 includes registration fee and binder with materials for the 8 weeks. Pre-registration required before course begins; registration is open until April 18. Registration and book fee are due on the first day. A minimum of 15 participants is required.
To register, call Cindy Castillo at (956) 784-5059 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets Available for Catholic Charities Gala, Set for Friday in McAllen
Dora Brown, senior vice president of IBC Bank will be honored with the 2017 Hope Award by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley at the Seventh Annual Gala “Hope is in Bloom” on Friday, April 21.
The Hope Award recognizes those who serve the most vulnerable members of society. The gala begins at 6:30 p.m. at Valencia Events Center, 3012 S. Jackson Road in McAllen.
Chief Manuel Padilla of U.S. Customs & Border Protection will be honored with the Cariño Award, which is given to those who provide exemplary service to the humanitarian respite center in McAllen.
The event will feature live entertainment by the Valley Symphony Orchestra, live and silent auctions and a hat contest. Attendees are encouraged to wear a hat, bonnet or fascinator.
Proceeds from the gala will benefit Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which provides assistance to more than 100,000 Valley residents each year. Programs include emergency assistance for the unemployed and infirm, disaster relief and recovery, the Summer Food program and assistance for families facing a crisis pregnancy. Additionally, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley has served more than 71,000 immigrants at the humanitarian respite center since June 2014.
For more information on the gala, including tickets and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Clara Dina Hinojosa via email at email@example.com or by phone (956) 884-7801.
Juan Diego Academy Hosts Entrance Exam for Prospective Freshmen
Juan Diego Academy Catholic Regional High School (JDA) will hold an entrance exam for prospective freshmen on Saturday, April 29, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at its campus located in Mission. The timed examination takes about four hours. The entrance exam is the first step in the admissions process for freshmen wishing to enroll at JDA for the 2017-2018 school year. Cost for the exam is $25 and includes the application fee.
As the Upper Valley’s Catholic regional high school, JDA provides a Christ-centered, rigorous academic program with Pre-AP® and AP® courses, an award-winning athletics and robotics program, and opportunities for service and leadership in both school and community. This current school year, five JDA seniors have received AP Scholar recognition, one student has been named a National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Student, the robotics program has advanced to a national competition, and the volleyball, boys soccer, and girls basketball teams have advanced into the TAPPS state playoffs.
For more information on Juan Diego Academy’s upcoming entrance exam, please contact the school at (956) 583-2752.
Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and Sisters on Wheels, with the support of the Diocese of Brownsville, invite everyone to participate in a 20-mile bicycle ride to benefit the construction of the Humanitarian Respite Center in downtown McAllen.
The Ride for Hope, scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Sunday, April 30, starts at the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, located adjacent to the border wall, 902 S. 2nd. St., Hidalgo and will end at the future site of the new humanitarian respite center on the corner of Chicago Street and 16th Street in McAllen. A post-ride celebration will include music, drink and food plus other surprises for all participants
For more information, contact Clara Dina Hinojosa at (956) 884-7801 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also a Ride for Hope event page on Facebook, www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/rideforhope
Diocese Hosts ‘Made for Love’ Conference
Join us for an event highlighting the dangers of internet pornography, internet stalking, sexting, abuse — and what we can do about it.
The Diocese of Brownsville is sponsoring the “Made for Love” Conference from 3 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 6 at St. Pius X Parish in Weslaco. The event, which will include workshops for high school youth and adults, will feature talks from experts from across the country.
For more information on the high school youth workshop, contact the Youth Ministry Office at (956) 784-5007. For the workshop for adults, call the Family Life Office at (956) 784-5012.
The inaugural Nun-Stop Running for Jesus 5k Run/Walk in honor of Sister Helen Rottier, CSJ is set for May 6. The race starts and finishes at San Martin de Porres church and school grounds at 901 N. Texas Blvd. in Weslaco. Gates open at 7 a.m. May 6 and the race begins at 8 a.m.; the first 100 entrants get a free T-shirt, and medals go to the first 50 runners to cross the finish line. Pre-registration on or before April 24 is $20; April 25 through the day of the race is $25. Race fee for groups of 10 or more is $15 per runner. Children 12 years and under must be accompanied by an adult; children’s race fee is $5. Registration can be made online on the San Martin de Porres Facebook page, or at the school.
The Music Ministry at Queen of Peace Parish in Harlingen would like to invite you to enjoy a CD of original and traditional liturgical music, in English and Spanish, recorded and produced here in the Valley. Many of the selections were composed and written by our music coordinator, Nez Marcelo. Some of the songs can be previewed on YouTube by searching for “Come & Rejoice” and “A Pesar de Todo.” The CD is available by contacting Nez Marcelo at (956) 423-6341.
Protecting God’s Children Announcement
The diocesan plan is for all people who work with children to have viewed the safety awareness DVD: “Protecting God’s Children,” to submit to a DPS background check, and sign the code of ethics. This now needs to be refreshed/redone every five years. Second, religious education leaders are to plan and present a “Touching Safety” lesson during both the fall and spring to all children from kindergarten to 12th grade. Finally, parishes will present safety awareness material to all parents who have their children in either the First Communion or Confirmation classes. If you have questions or need material, please contact Walter Lukaszek at (956) 457-0010 or at email@example.com
Protecting God’s Children 3.0 is now available in both DVD and a flash drive. The price for either is $35. It has both the English and Spanish programs. If you need the teaching notes, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping the Promise Alive has an updated DVD that reinforces PGC 3.0. Using the original DVD still has the important information that we wish to share with parents and is used as an annual refresher for Religious Education teachers and volunteers. It has both the English and Spanish programs. The price is $15. If you need the teaching notes, email email@example.com.
Touching Safety is still in the original DVD format, five-minute “ice breakers” for lessons 1 to 8. It has both the English and Spanish programs. The price is $15. If you need complete copies of the lesson plans from K-12, email Walter (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Religious Education staff may now download the touching safety lessons from the CDOB web site: http://www.cdob.org/about-us/policies-procedures-and-guidelines-for-ethical-and-responsible-conduct-in-ministry.
Diocese Insight, a half-hour interview program hosted by Brenda Nettles Riojas, Diocesan Relations Director and editor of The Valley Catholic, airs at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays on Channel 38.1 or Cable Channel 10. For more information on Diocese Insight, call (956) 784-5008.
Join the Holy Land Pilgrimage, “Walk with Jesus,” May 29-June 7 (10 days). Price of $3,030 includes taxes and three meals daily, 4-star hotels, guides, A/C bus. Daily Eucharist and hosted by Spiritual Companions, Sisters Therese Ann Ridge (956-342-8881) and Emma Marie Stillman (956-342-1399). Call or email email@example.com.
Trip to Fatima and the Holy Land
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s appearance in Fatima, Portugal. Father Artemio Jacob of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in McAllen will be leading a tour group to Fatima and the Holy Land this June. The tour, which leaves from McAllen, runs from June 5-16 and will cost $4,095.
For more information, call Father Artemio at (956) 437-1703.
Road to Mercy Pilgrimage includes visits to Poland, Czech Republic & Germany
Father Gregory Labus, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Edinburg, is leading a 10-day Road to Mercy pilgrimage from July 10-20 that will include visits to Poland, Czech Republic and Germany. The trip price of $3,795 includes flights from McAllen, four-star hotels, breakfast and dinner included and deluxe motor coach transportation.
For more information, call (956) 383-3728 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
School Secretary Needed at Juan Diego Academy
Juan Diego Academy Catholic Regional High School in Mission has an opening for a school secretary beginning July 1 (full-time, FLSA Status: Non-Exempt). Requirements: speak, read, and write in both English and Spanish, have previous experience in a Catholic school or other Catholic pastoral setting, and be familiar with MS Office operations, especially Word and Excel.
The school secretary is likely to be the first person current and potential students and their families encounter, so good interpersonal communication skills by telephone and in person are a must.
Those interested should complete the Application for Paraprofessional Employment found on the website under employment opportunities and e-mail/fax with an updated resume to Bob Schmidt at email@example.com; (956-583-3782).
The McAllen Pregnancy Center, a Catholic pro-life facility that serves families experiencing a crisis pregnancy, is currently seeing a part-time bookkeeper. Interested qualified candidates may email résumés to firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit information to be included in the Weekly Update to Brenda Nettles Riojas, Director of Diocesan Relations, by e-mail at email@example.com or by fax to (956) 784-5082.
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Catholic Diocese of Brownsville1910 University Boulevard • Brownsville, Texas 78520 • (956) 542-2501 • (956) 542-6751 Fax 700 North Virgen de San Juan Blvd • San Juan, Texas 78589 • (956) 781-5323 • (956) 784-5081 Fax Contact Us Copyright © 2014 Diocese of Brownsville. All Rights Reserved.