Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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I picked up my younger children after school, then proceeded to the middle school to retrieve my oldest. Together, we drove to a nondescript building in a neighboring town. Once inside, we were directed to a room where the din of voices overflowed into the hallway. When we entered the room, however, the voices abruptly silenced. Every head turned to gawk at us.

What had I done to shock these people?

I had brought children to a wake.

Fortunately, the deceased’s family was delighted that their loved one was being visited by children. My friends, however, were appalled. They were convinced that the sight of an open casket would give my children nightmares. It might scar them for life.

I reminded these friends that wakes were once routinely held in homes. Our parents and grandparents grew up understanding that death is part of life, that dying is part of living. Surely this is a healthier approach than sequestering death in the shadows, as if we can keep it at bay.

I attended my first wake when I was 7 or 8 years old. The deceased was an elderly friend of my mother’s. Since I had never met the woman, I was able to process the sights and sounds and smells of the funeral home without being assaulted by grief.

When a high school classmate of mine died a few years later, I was glad his was not my first wake. Unfortunately, the same was not true for my friends. One by one, teens arrived at the funeral home, and one by one they gasped when they saw our friend’s body laid out in an open casket. No one had told them what a wake entails. My mother quickly realized how unprepared these kids were, so she stationed herself at the entrance of the funeral home in order to intercept arriving teens. Walking alongside each one toward the parlor, my mother explained what they would be seeing inside. She was a godsend.

My husband Peter did not grow up attending wakes or funerals. He went to his first memorial service as an adult when the death of a business colleague made it impossible to avoid. This gradually eased him into funerals and even burials. But he could not bring himself to attend a wake. He thought they were ghoulish.

We’d been married about 10 years when Peter’s grandmother died, and, in keeping with his family’s wishes, we were asked to not bring our young children to the services. We respected the family’s request, but it meant Peter was alone in his grief. It also isolated the extended family from the sweet consolation of small children.

A few years later when my grandmother died, my entire extended family attended Nanny’s wake, funeral and burial. This included 10 great-grandchildren ranging in age from 9 months to 9 years. There were plenty of adults in attendance to help if a child became noisy, and the children’s presence helped soften our grief. I’ll never forget seeing my mother holding our chubby 9-month-old baby throughout my grandmother’s funeral. That baby gave such solace to my mother during a time of loss.

Needless to say, the children asked a lot of questions, which we answered as best we could. They listened to our words, but more so, they absorbed our attitude: death is a natural part of life and should not be feared. In fact, it should be celebrated.

Death is, after all, a personal invitation to spend eternity in paradise with God.

Regina Cram is a writer, speaker and author. She and her husband live in Glastonbury and have four children and seven grandchildren.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.