BOSTON — St. Anthony Shrine’s Pieta Ministry here, for grieving parents who have lost a child, is being described as moving, transformational and life-changing.
The ministry held its first retreat from March 27 to 29 at the Boston friary, giving parents a safe place to find comfort, rest and peace though the help of other parents and the friars.
One participant said: “This weekend was one I will never forget. It will be a very special treasured memory that I will hold close to my heart.”
David Convertino, OFM, director of St. Anthony Shrine, assisted by John Maganzini, OFM, led the retreat, which was also planned by Diane Monaghan of the Development Office. Francis McHugh, OFM, led the communal prayer service, with Gene Pistacchio, OFM, John Hogan, OFM, Richard Flaherty, OFM, and Francis as confessors.
Registration was limited to 20 parents, who came from throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, according to Monaghan. The retreat began with Friday night dinner in the friary. Participants stayed at a nearby hotel.
Saturday started with a prayer service that gave parents candles to light for their children. Candles remained lit in the friary chapel throughout the weekend so parents could come for reflection, comfort and prayer.
The retreat continued Saturday with group sessions and prayer services. A highlight was the Emmaus walk, during which parents were able to talk to each other about their feelings while they walked. John asked parents to recognize the power of Jesus in the “telling of their stories.”
The day concluded Saturday night with a poignant evening prayer liturgy focused on “untying the bonds that prevent healing,” according to Monaghan.
David invited parents to write their individual struggles on note cards and place them in the tabernacle of the friary chapel. Parents then placed their hands on the altar while other parents and friars prayed that they would be released from the bonds of their struggles.
Gary Maciag, OFM, Gene on guitar, and Barry Langley, OFM, on cello, provided the music. The service ended with everyone facing the statue of the Blessed Mother holding the Christ child, with the friars singing the “Salve Regina.”
Focusing on What is Important
The retreat continued on Sunday with Mass, brunch with the friars, an open discussion/evaluation of the program, and a departure ceremony. Parents were given their candles and Pieta statues. David said that just as Michelangelo carved the marble to reveal the Pieta, parents, too, must carve away what holds them back from healing, and to focus on what is important in their lives. The retreat ended with the friars giving parents the Franciscan blessing.
“This was one of the most grace-filled weekends that I have had during my entire life as a friar,” said David. “This was the most moving ministry that I have ever been a part of,” said John.
Participants agreed, saying that they felt comforted. One participant said: “It was the grace of God and the Holy Spirit that the friars started this ministry. My prayers are with you. I feel as though all of those children honored today were totally at peace and with us in spirit.”
The friars are planning a summer barbeque and other activities for the parents, including a Memorial Day Mass and day of reflection.
Next year’s retreat is March 19 to 21, 2010.