Mass of remembrance and healing Jan. 16

massofhealingandremembrance-webPhotos, roses and candles crowd the memorial tables set up at St. Luke Church for last year’s Mass of remembrance and healing. This year’s Mass will be Thursday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Shrine, St. Luke Church. For more information or directions, call Mary Ann at 856-435-1468 or email machezik@gmail.com.

The sight of dozens of photos, roses and flickering candles crowding the memorial display tables leaves a deep impression on anyone attending the Masses of remembrance and healing for those who have lost a child.
These Masses are occasions for parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members, who come carrying with them precious photos of their children – some bringing the only image of their baby, gone far too soon.
Or they bring a first Communion photo or one of a smiling teen in a graduation photo. Some have photos of their adult children, victims of accidents, cancer, overdoses or crime.
Those who don’t bring a photo or whose loss came before birth are given a rose to place on the altar next to a candle, so no loss is left unrepresented. It doesn’t matter what took the child, or how old the child was at the time of death. The parents and family members come because, for a short time, they are spending time with their child, praying for them and with them, remembering.
Once they attend, many look forward to the next Mass, to experience the healing power of the Eucharist shared with others who also carry the same burden.
The Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe will host this Mass for the sixth time on Thursday, Jan. 16,, at 7 p.m. at St. Luke Church in Stratford.
The parish began hosting the Mass when Father Joseph P. Capella was pastor of St. Luke Church, and those coordinating the Mass were looking for a site with a generous space in front of the altar for the memorial display tables. At other small churches, as the number of attendees grew, the number of photos and candles that crowded the tables was becoming a fire danger. Father Capella readily agreed to host and has been the main celebrant several times over the last six years.
When St. Luke’s merged and became part of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Shrine, the parish ministries became even more involved in hosting this Mass, providing a warm and welcoming presence to those attending. Last year, the music ministry, bereavement ministry, hospitality ministry, altar servers and even the religious education program were involved. Because of the Sandy Hook tragedy just a month before the Mass – when a gunman shot 20 elementary school children and six adults – the religious education students made decorations that were blessed at the Mass and sent to Newtown, Conn., to decorate the new school that the returning students would attend. Their names were also placed in the memorial booklet of the Mass to be remembered in prayer.
It was a striking example of how those who volunteer at the Mass are affected by the experience.
Mary Ann Chezik has been coordinating the Mass for the last seven years, beginning when she was in the former Family Life Office of the Diocese of Camden. Since that time she has become a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Once I joined the parish, I was surprised to see so many familiar faces come to the Mass of remembrance: there were a dozen from the daily morning Mass alone. If the need for this type of healing service is so great in one parish, what is the need across the diocese? We have people from all around South Jersey come to this Mass. It is open to anyone who has experienced the loss of a child.”
For more information about the Mass, call Mary Ann at 856-435-1468.

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