Acknowledging, grieving and praying for those who died by suicide
Suicide has long been a subject that society as a whole has struggled to discuss.
It’s a subject that religions and people of faith have also grappled with.
But it’s also subject that has, in more recent years, been brought into the light. With a greater awareness of mental health has come an appreciation of the importance of talking about depression and suicide.
A special Memorial Mass will be held at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, O’Connor tonight for those who have died by suicide and Fr Paul Nulley believes it will be part of a process of healing and mercy.
“The Memorial Mass is an opportunity for those who have lost a loved one by suicide to come together, remember their loved ones, pray for their souls and renew hope once more in the mercy of God,” he said.
Fr Paul said that, so far 41, people will be remembered at the Mass. Each will have their name read during the Eucharistic Prayer and will have a candle lit for them from the Paschal Candle.
“The Paschal Candle, which is blessed during the Easter Vigil, is lit at every baptism and funeral. The Paschal Candle symbolises the light of Christ, which scatters all darkness – even the darkness of death itself – as it proclaims the new life of the Resurrection.”
“Those who wish to have a loved one remembered are still welcome to attend. Every story is different but there is still stigma and shame associated with suicide.
“I am also aware that some people have had bad experiences with the Church upon the death of their loved one. Only last month when I celebrated a funeral, at the burial, one of the mourners went over to his dad’s grave and said, “In the eyes of the Church, he committed the unforgivable sin”.
“However, as our understanding of the causes and reasons for suicide increase, so too does the Church’s pastoral response, and I was able to inform this man of the Memorial Mass being celebrated tomorrow.”
Fr Paul said that a number of people had expressed interest in attending and taking part after hearing about the service, including several people of other faiths.
In his time as a priest, Fr Paul said he had encountered a number of people dealing with the loss of loved ones to suicide.
“During my five years of ministry, I have had the privilege of journeying with two mothers after the death of their children; and I am humbled by their faith, their courage, their love and all that they have shared with me,” he said.
“This Mass is being celebrated in response to a suggestion from one of these mothers.”
Fr Paul admitted that there is no template for such a service and that he was “feeling his way” to an extent in terms of the form of the Mass.
“But I think it is important that this Mass is being celebrated and that those who have been affected by the death of a loved one hears the Church clearly say that She still cares for you and your loved one and wants to be here for you.
“I think it’s important that the reality and impact of suicide is acknowledged and that those affected have the opportunity to come together, in a setting of faith, and exchange their stories with the hope of finding solace and support.”
If this article has raised issues for you, Lifeline can be contacted on 13 11 14.