Diocesan News

Church Agencies to Host Bereavement Conference


To observe November as the month dedicated to remembering the deceased, the Diocese of Brooklyn is offering a conference to foster communal grieving.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St. John’s University in collaboration with the Bereavement Ministry Office of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) and the Catholic Cemeteries Office will host a bereavement conference from 12-5 p.m. in the D’Angelo Center on the Jamaica campus.

Due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, last year’s event was cancelled. This will be the second bereavement conference at St. John’s to inform people that CCBQ has over 40 support groups that serve the community and that Catholic Cemeteries offers aid in the mourning process at the time of death.

Over 150 people attended the conference held two years ago, so the organizers recognized the need to host an event once again.

“We had such an overwhelming request for it (the conference) again through the evaluations that we decided to go with it again this year,” said Ingrid Seunarine, director of the bereavement services program at CCBQ.

“[The conference] was a way we felt to reach out to more people in Brooklyn and Queens,” Seunarine said.

It serves a two-fold purpose. Not only can bereaved individuals receive how-to information regarding the grieving process, but caregivers who work with the bereaved can also strengthen their resources in assisting the bereaved.

Universal Language of Grief

“They (the bereaved) and all have the universal language of grief,” Seunarine said. “Everyone there is grieving. Some are in different stages of their loss, but they all will go through pretty much the same process in sharing their stories. That’s how the healing begins.”

The conference also is open to those grieving the destruction of their home or the end of a way of life due to Hurricane Sandy, or mourning the loss of a loved one.

The day will offer special presentations from two guest speakers. Dr. Sidney Callahan, a licensed psychologist and distinguished scholar and author, will talk about the theme of the day, “Journey to Healing: We Remember; We Celebrate; We Believe.”

Paul Alexander, a psychotherapist and performing artist, will give an energetic presentation called “‘Maintaining the Connection’ A Tribute to Life and the Legacy.”

In addition, participants will have the opportunity to attend two of 10 different workshops including: Caring for the Helper; Inspiration for Hope; Strategies from a Male Perspective about Grief and Loss; Grief Loss and Spirituality; Loss of New Life; Loss of Parent; Grieving Process of Children, Teens and Siblings; and an interactive workshop titled “A Creative Way to Understand Reactions to Loss: Palliative Grief;” The Bereavement Facilitator and Burying the Dead, Consoling the Living, Resurrecting Both: Funeral Rites and Why We Need Them.

Auxiliary Bishop Paul R. Sanchez will close the day with Mass.

The origins of the conference developed from a planning committee of six people: Seunarine; Nina Valmonte, director of parish and community outreach services at CCBQ; Stephen Comando, executive director at Catholic Cemeteries; Mary Ann Dantuono, conference coordinator and associate director of the Vincentian Center; Carlos A. Balcarcel, sales/marketing manager at Catholic Cemeteries; and Josefa Castro, community project director at the CCBQ.

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