Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Catholic funerals can be messy things especially if unfamiliar with the funeral rite


Norwood woman says family chastized by Catholic priest at her mother's funeral
Monday, August 9, 2021 - 1:24 pm

North Country This Week

NORWOOD — A Norwood woman says her family was belittled by a priest at her mother’s funeral, but the diocese says the incident is a misunderstanding of Catholic Funeral Rites.

The Ogdensburg Diocese has issued an apology following an incident in which a Catholic priest allegedly belittled a family during a funeral.

Patricia Penny-Tessier said her mother passed away on Aug. 1. She said the family went to speak with Father Andrew Amyot the next day to honor her wishes to have a Catholic Mass.

Tessier said her mother, Lucille Penny, was a native Hawaiian and practicing Catholic.

She said after some discussion with Amyot it was agreed that they could hold the Mass and include two Hawaiian songs as part of the services.

“At first he was against it, but then decided it was ok,” she said.

A wake was held on Wednesday, and Tessier said some concerns were raised then after Father Amyot scolded some of those in attendance for not repeating prayers.

“We had a bit of an issue that night, but we thought things were resolved,” she said.

Tessier said most of those in attendance were not practicing Catholics.

On Thursday at the funeral, Tessier said things went downhill.

"After one of our readings, Father Amyot stopped the service and spent 10 to 12 minutes scolding us," she said.

“He told us that nobody wants to hear what my mother’s hobbies were and that they should only be talking about her faith and faith only,” Tessier said. “We were all being yelled at at my mother’s funeral. It was like time stopped.”

She said that the family chose not to take part in the communion following Amyot’s remarks and at that point Father Amyot realized he had erred.

“He said that he realized he had done a disservice to our family and hoped that we could forgive him,” Tessier said.

But Tessier said they asked him not to join them for the burial.

She said she has heard complaints in the past, but never expected something like this to occur.

“We were perfectly fine doing this at a funeral home if he wasn’t okay with our plans, but he said he was fine and then this happened,” she said.

According to the diocese the incident was a result of a lack of understanding about Catholic funeral rites.

“The diocese was informed of the incident and apologized for anything that was upsetting to the involved family. The priest also apologized for expressing his frustrations,” a statement from the Diocese said. “The root of the problem is a lack of understanding about Catholic funeral rites. “A funeral Mass is intended to be: A time to pray for the salvation of the deceased and to commend them to the love and mercy of God; A time to reaffirm our own belief in Jesus’ resurrection. A time to thank God for His goodness to the deceased and all of us.”

The diocese said the church is not opposed to family members sharing fond memories and personal anecdotes, but the proper time for them is the vigil service (wake) or reception after the funeral Mass.

“The same is true of non-sacred music. At the funeral Mass, words of remembrance are meant to emphasize the activity of God in the life of the deceased,” the statement said.”The funeral Mass is the prayer of the Church. As such, musical selections should be sacred music. There should also be proper participation in and respect for the rites of the Church. This is not always understood because while the deceased may have been Catholic, the surviving family members may not be.”

Tessier said she did not receive an apology from the church but was told that perhaps Amyot was having a “bad day.”

The diocese said that Bishop LaValley, along with the priests and deacons of the diocese, seek to show compassion and comfort to families at the time of a loved one’s passing.

“They also have the responsibility to uphold the practices of the Church.”

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