On Sunday June 28, 2020 at 10 a.m., Bishop David A. Zubik will livestream a memorial Mass for all local Catholics who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom did not have a funeral Mass due to the lockdown.
“Some of the deepest spiritual pain during this pandemic has been suffered by those who could not have a funeral Mass for their loved one. They have been on my heart and in my prayers. Our priests are now working with those families to schedule individual memorial Masses, but that will unfold over time,” Bishop Zubik said.
“This memorial Mass allows everyone who has grieved without a funeral to pray together for the souls of their loved ones and to receive comfort in God’s promises of mercy and salvation.”
The service can be viewed at https://bit.ly/DoPUTube.
A funeral Mass is a Eucharistic liturgy at which the body or cremated remains are present. A memorial Mass is held in the absence of remains. The Catholic funeral liturgy gathers the faithful to pray for those who have died and to recall the Christian hope of bodily resurrection and eternal life.
The idea for the diocesan memorial Mass came from the staff at the Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which provides advance funeral planning, oversees diocesan cemeteries, consoles the grieving and arranges prayers for the dead.
At the height of the pandemic, families couldn’t even gather at the cemetery for a burial service. It was distressing to the cemeteries staff not to be able to be able to assist grieving people as the Church normally does, said Michael Sinnott, executive director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association.
“We haven’t really been able to give them what they need as far as emotional support. It’s been a very hard time,” Sinnott said.
Although people could not gather for services, they have been able to visit cemeteries individually. On Mothers’ Day and Memorial Day the Catholic Cemeteries Association surveyed visitors about how to serve best them during the pandemic.
The memorial Mass was the result.
“Once we explained to them this option to memorialize someone if we submitted their names, we got a huge response, almost 800 names,” Sinnott said.
“Praying for the deceased is part of our mission,” said Joe Huber, director of family service at the association and the person who first proposed the bishop’s Memorial Mass.
“The Mass is the keystone, the critical component when a Catholic dies,” he said. “People have missed it. They certainly understood under the circumstances, that it was necessary for the protection of them and for our people. But we’ve seen a lot of people wanting to have some kind of service.”
Limitations on size and gathering places remain for Catholic funerals and burials, as do social distancing requirements. Current directives for funerals are at https://diopitt.org/moeving-forward-together and for burials at https://ccapgh.org/.