Bereaved relatives usually visited by priests are going to be called on by lay people who are having to step in amid a shortage of priests.
The pressure caused by the shortfall of priests has prompted a west Belfast parish to commission six bereavement ministers who will undertake some of the funeral ministries and will even replace priests at the graveside.
Five women and one man from St Oliver Plunkett parish in Lenadoon have formed the first parish Bethany group, a concept that originated in Dublin and which is thought to be one of the first of its kind in Ireland.
Father Martin Magill told the Irish News that the new bereavement ministers will share his duties in caring for the bereaved and was a move destined to spread beyond his parish. “As they grow and develop their ministry they will be able to share in the prayers at the time of a funeral, to help a family prepare for a requiem Mass in the mchoice of readings and music.”