A Parish Guide for Planning a Funeral
Planning a funeral is always a difficult task. This outline is meant to address the key components of a funeral and guide parishioners through the process of burying a loved one. As you anticipate the passing of a family member your primary responsibility is to notify your immediate and extended family, and your parish priest.
The sacrament of the sick (an anointing with holy oil) is recommended for any baptized person who is seriously ill. This ritual invites God to bless the individual and return them to good health, should this be God’s will. You should not hesitate to call a priest at any hour. The hospital chaplain will make arrangements for another priest (Melkite or Roman Catholic) should you not be able to contact your own pastor. The sacrament may still be administered for a short time after someone has passed away.
As you experience the grief associated with death you may be overwhelmed by a variety of emotions, thoughts and questions. In these difficult moments of life, Christians are encouraged to embrace the principles of faith, which most of us have acquired since childhood, namely:
that God who called us to life, will also call us home to live eternally;our human body is the vessel given to us for life in this world;our real identity is tied up with our soul—that invisible yet essential part of us, which continues to exist long after we have shed our bodies;whoever believes in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour will not die but live with God forever (John 3:16); eternal life with God, although difficult to define with human language, will be complete and utter perfection, joy, love and holiness;the love we shared with others in life, may continue to extend into the realm of eternity in the form of prayer.
You may decide to make all the visitations and funeral arrangements with any local funeral establishment:
The funeral home will arrange all details pertaining to the funeral, including cemetery arrangements, newspaper announcements, icon cards, etc.
If the family chooses to have a viewing for the deceased at the church rather than at a funeral home, viewing will be available two hours prior to the funeral service. This includes a private living room area for the family to rest or receive private condolences. Complimentary coffee and tea will be offered by Saint Simeon Stylites in the main hall to all family and friends who attend the viewing. The charge for this service is $150.
The byzantine-rite funeral typically consists of four elements:
- A Prayer Service (“panachyda”) is conducted on the eve of the funeral, usually at the funeral home. This event provides a suitable opportunity for relatives and friends to visit the family and express their condolences.
- Funeral (“pochoron”) is conducted at church (funeral services for non-parishioners may be held at the funeral home.)
- Burial (or interment) takes place at the cemetery within the context of a “panachyda” service.
- Memorial Luncheon (“tryzna”) is a solemn and appropriate conclusion to a funeral. It provides one final opportunity for the community to gather and share grief, encouragement and nourishment held at the church hall. The Middle Eastern Banquet Hall offers a variety of Mercy Meals. If interested, please ask for our menu options by contacting us at (226) 526-3998 EXT 3.
There are basically 2 options depending on time and family preferences:
- Funeral Service with the Divine Liturgy (1.5 hrs)
- Funeral Service (30 m. to 1 hr.)
- The services may be held in Arabic or English, or a combination of both languages.
- Father will arrange cantors to lead the singing.
- Let father know should you wish to invite another priest to participate in the service.
- A Christian Burial Shroud will cover the body of the deceased. This shroud symbolizes both the Grace of God and prayers of the church covering the departed loved one. It also becomes a sign of a promise which the deceased has given at baptism to lead a life of purity and holiness. You may bring your own shroud or contact the Church office to purchase a shroud. You may have a choice of three different prices of shrouds based on design and quality – $50.00, $100.00, $200.00.
- The family can choose to have an open or closed casket during the funeral service. If the family chooses a closed casket, then the Pall of Mercy will be placed on top of the casket. (The Pall of Mercy is a cloth that covers the full casket during a funeral service and represents the prayers of all the faithful and the angels.) The family and the priest will place the Pall of Mercy on the casket together at the beginning of the service.
Following the burial the family usually invites all those who have participated in the funeral services to stay for a memorial luncheon. The family may ask a friend or family member to act as emcee. The program may include an opening prayer, word of welcome, lunch, introduction of the immediate family and out of town guests, a slideshow, condolences from community organizations and individuals, and a closing prayer.
The following is a list of ideas to make the funeral experience a meaningful and memorable celebration of one’s life:
- prepare a collage of photographs to display at the funeral home
- things in the coffin that could be symbolic of different parts of their life (e.g. letters or drawings from their children or grandchildren, medals or association pins, samples of hobbies or interests, religious symbols)
- someone from the family can read the epistle for the church service
- Give the priest some details (written notes) of the deceased family members’ life to incorporate into the homily
- a family member may prepare a brief tribute at the memorial luncheon
- The priest is to ensure that no one is prevented from participation in sacramental preparation due to financial hardships
- A fee of $200 is to be assessed for the celebration of a funeral, whether simply a wake service in a funeral home or the full Service of Christian Burial in the parochial church. This fee is for the benefit of the parish, which fact is to be communicated to the family of the deceased.
- The celebrant of a funeral is not to seek or require any additional fee for his service. If the family of the deceased chooses to offer a gift to the celebrant personally, it may be accepted; but a family is not compelled to pay a fee for service to the officiant of the funeral rite.
Your family and friends will wish to express their love in a variety of ways: some will send flowers, others will travel from afar, still others will arrange for prayers to be said in their own parishes. Some will also wish to make a donation to celebrate mass for the repose of the soul of the departed. In our tradition all the donations from people during the funeral whether at the funeral home or the church service will go towards our church Building Fund in memory of the deceased. (If the family is in need and they have financial hardship, the church (as a Mother) will give the family (her children) the donated funds).
People often feel uneasy when confronted with death. Some may feel inept to say anything. Please be understanding of these awkward moments and know that a handshake (or embrace) and a “Thank you for coming” may be the most appropriate response that requires special attention when dealing with death. Some parents choose to protect their children from funerals and funeral homes but drawing upon our faith (going to heaven, being with God, joining other relatives) is a good way to help children understand that death is a passing from life in the world to life with God.
Dealing with death has always been one of life’s most difficult and painful realities. The process of coping with grief is complex and long-term. It is very important that individuals, both children and adults, who have been directly affected by the loss of a loved family member, seek out opportunities and people to help them journey through grief and that is why we are here together as a community.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
May the Good Lord, who has called us to life and who will one day call us home, bring you peace and consolation in your time of sadness. If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to call (at any time).