By Connie Berry
The Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) met for its final meeting until the fall on May 19 at Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School. The council is made up of representatives of pastoral councils from across the diocese.
Father Joseph Scardella, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Baldwinsville and director of the diocesan Office of Liturgy, explained the newly prepared guidelines for the Order of Christian Funerals. A subcommittee of the Office of Liturgy developed the guidelines and Bishop Robert Cunningham approved them for use in the diocese.
Father Scardella explained that the full funeral rite consists of three parts — the wake service, the funeral Mass and the Rite of Committal. The church, he explained, “would ask us to offer the full rite.” Another issue that has arisen, Father Scardella explained, is the meaning of funeral eulogies.
“The eulogy has lost its original meaning and purpose,” Father Scardella said. “The words of remembrance are supposed to highlight the person’s life of faith and how they lived out their discipleship.”
The purpose of the eulogy is to “raise the person to heaven,” he said. What should be going on during the eulogy is prayer for that person’s eternal life. Eulogies should be concise and consist of reflections on examples of the faith of the deceased person, he explained.
Another area that needs explanation, Father Scardella said, is the Catholic Church’s position on cremation. The church does allow cremation but the remains are to be buried. Splitting up the remains between loved ones or even wearing ashes in a pendant are practices growing in popularity but do not reflect the sacredness of the human body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, he said.
Father Scardella expressed the importance of parishes having a funeral ministry or bereavement team to help families navigate the proper options for the funeral liturgy. The whole experience of burial is one that is fraught with emotion and so needs even more discretion, he noted.
Thomas W. Flynn, who represented the DPC on the subcommittee, said that he remembers growing up when Catholics did not enter churches of other denominations. Today, Catholics are exposed to all religions regularly and may feel comfortable “borrowing” something they have experienced in a Protestant or other type of funeral service.
Father Scardella said that the new funeral guidelines will soon be available on the diocesan website.
Seminarian and transitional deacon Christopher Seibt spoke to the DPC. His home parish is St. Daniel in Lyncourt and he will be ordained a priest for the diocese in June 2013. Seibt spent his pastoral year at St. James Church on Syracuse’s south side. He said his talk was placed between “funeral rites and the fraud policy” so he hoped his talk would be “on the lighter side.”
Seibt told his personal vocation story, which began at the Gingerbread Preschool at the Sisters of St. Francis campus. Seibt explained that he was enrolled at the preschool and then wanted to continue school where his friends were going, St. Daniel School in Lyncourt. He was baptized by the pastor, Msgr. Eugene Yennock, when he was eight years old, Seibt said. His mother converted to Catholicism to maintain a connection with his and his sister’s education as well.
“Vocation teams would come and visit schools and they came to my third grade classroom,” Seibt said. “Someone asked who would want to be a priest and I shot my hand up. In fourth grade I came home and told my mother I wanted to be a priest and she said, ‘Absolutely not.’ She saw so many possibilities for me so I put the thought aside but it remained in my heart.”
Seibt said he worked in landscaping and enjoyed working as an organist at church and he studied at Le Moyne College, all the while feeling empty. He was asked by the diocesan vocation promotion director at the time, Father John Donovan, if he would consider a philosophy program in Washington, D.C. Seibt said he turned away from the idea more than once. In the end, he did fill out the application and went to study and found it to be a “perfect plan” for him. For his mother, though, it was not so perfect. She still resisted the idea. In the meantime, Seibt made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, and while there prayed that his mother might accept his decision. When he came home, she said, “Let me help you pack so you can go.” Today, he said, she is very enthusiastic about his vocation to the priesthood. His father has begun instruction with Msgr. Yennock to embrace the Catholic faith. “Wonderful things happen when you say yes,” Seibt said.
DPC members were able to ask Seibt questions about his vocation after his presentation and before Vicar General Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel’s presentation on the diocese’s fraud policy, reporting and response plan. The plan was adopted May 1, to address “the responsibilities of the Bishop to ensure that no abuses exist in the administration of church temporal goods within the Diocese.” Msgr. Yeazel encouraged parishes to ensure that all clergy, religious, lay leaders, employees, parishioners and volunteers come forward in a timely manner to fairly and accurately report instances of fraud and/or embezzlement. Any suspected or documented activity should be reported to the diocese, he said. All information should remain confidential to prevent jeopardizing the gathering of evidence, result in a needless lawsuit or cause harm to the person involved, Msgr. Yeazel explained.
The entire plan can be found on the diocesan website,
www.syracusediocese.org by clicking on parishes, then policies and procedures, and then on the link to “fraud policy document.”