Mass serves to heal victims as they remember those lost

Sep 19, 2023
Staff from the office of Laity, Family and Life at the Diocese of Orlando -Javier Maldonado (left), Luis Nieves and Isabel Fernandez light candles in remembrance of lost loved ones. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

ORLANDO  |  Gathering at St. James Cathedral, survivors affected by suicide prayed for their loved ones and sought from their losses.

Bishop John Noonan presided over the celebration of Mass noting, “When death is sudden, we often have questions and reflect on a variety of things. We come before the Lord tonight to pray and ask for His peace, His hope, and increasing love.”

In his homily, Missionary of Mercy Father Anthony Aarons’ message assured the faithful that “even in your darkest moments there is always a sliver of hope, even if you can’t see it, it is there. God is there.” He said it is this loss of hope that leads so many to take their lives leaving behind a void, pain, and often a lack of understanding and a questioning of God’s will.

Hosted by the Laity, Family and Life Secretariat, director Isabel Fernandez said this gathering is important because, “For a long time there’s been stigma and a lot of shame around this issue. We wanted to offer a Mass of Remembrance and Healing because we need to remember God’s love for us. We need to hold our loved ones in our hearts so they can be close to Christ. If we remember them, they’ll be close to Christ because Christ is in us.”

Participants lit candles for those lost and compassionate mental health counselors from co-sponsor, Catholic Charities of Central Florida were available for those needing to talk about their suffering.

After Mass, Bishop Noonan and Father Aarons, along with Father Miguel González, cathedral rector, Father Nathanael Soliven, Deacon Gary Tester, president of Catholic Charities of Central Florida, and Deacon Luis Alvira handed a candle to each person as a token of remembrance.

“We are not alone on this journey,” said Luis Nieves, director of pastoral ministry at the Diocese of Orlando. “God walks beside us, and we walk together through this part of life’s path. As you reflect on the loss of your loved one, be kind to yourself. We are here to accompany you with hope, peace and the light of Christ.”

Suicide can be preventable. The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. For help, call Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s Behavioral Health, 407-658-1818, Ext.1069.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, September 14, 2023