SPENCERPORT — Betty Gurak felt a sense of gratitude immediately following the Mass of Healing for Miscarriage and Infant Loss May 7 at her parish, St. John the Evangelist.
“It was a very touching service, and it reached me,” said Gurak, of Brockport, noting that she experienced a miscarriage four decades ago. “In the 1970s, miscarriage was hush-hush. It is nice to see people being more open now and that support exists.”
Leading this support in the Diocese of Rochester is the local chapter of the Elizabeth Ministry, an international Catholic support network for miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. The lay-led group sponsored Sunday’s Mass, which was celebrated by Father Justin Miller, St. John the Evangelist’s pastor.
Jesus can transform sorrow of infant loss into compassion
After Deacon Alex DeLucenay proclaimed John’s Gospel about the many dwelling places in the Father’s house, Father Miller spoke about the transformational power of the Lord when it comes to all things, be it changing water into wine or sorrow into compassion.
“There’s a lot of sadness in our human experience,” Father Miller said, including miscarriage and infant loss, but “Jesus can change things.”
At the close of his homily, Father Miller asked the Elizabeth Ministry volunteers present to stand to be acknowledged: “These are people who have been through this (loss), and the Lord is transforming them,” he said.
During the Prayers of the Faithful, the souls of those lost during infancy, miscarriage and stillbirth were remembered, as well as their families who love them.
St. John the Evangelist’s children’s choir provided music for the Mass, including the Communion hymn — “The Church’s One Foundation” — which contains the words, “O blessed heavenly chorus!” Father Miller said he hoped the choir brought peace to the families present whose “children’s voices have gone to God.”
Elizabeth Ministry founders appreciate priests willing to talk about miscarriage, infant loss
Following Mass, the Elizabeth Ministry had resources and volunteers available in the parish hall, including Molly Hickey and Janene Loughran, who cofounded Rochester’s chapter of the Elizabeth Ministry in 2016 following their own losses.
“We really appreciate that priests are willing to talk about miscarriage and infant loss, because it is often a topic not talked about,” said Hickey, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Penfield, who in 2016 gave birth to twins who were stillborn. “I thought that what Father Miller said about Christ being able to transform grief into something positive was beautiful.”
The Mass at St. John the Evangelist was particularly meaningful to Loughran — a parishioner at St. Jerome Church in East Rochester — because it was the location of the Elizabeth Ministry’s first training seven years ago.
Elizabeth Ministry supports both women and men who have lost children
Hickey noted that the Elizabeth Ministry has had women reach out for support anywhere from a week after a miscarriage to 60 years later. The ministry also provide support to men.
In addition to providing ministry year-round, the group sponsors two Masses of Healing for Miscarriage and Infant Loss annually – one in October for Respect Life Month and one in May for International Bereaved Mother’s Day.
“We aim to have a Mass in May because Mother’s Day can be very difficult for women who have experienced loss,” said Loughran, who has experienced miscarriages and the loss of a son an hour after his birth.
Loughran said her involvement in the Elizabeth Ministry is her way of honoring her and her husband Deacon Dermot Loughran’s late son and helping support other families whose heavenly children are “always with them.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about the Elizabeth Ministry in Rochester, email ElizabethMinistryROC@gmail.com.Tags: Life Issues, Monroe County West