What is Bethany Bereavement Support?

It is a community/parish based group ministry which aims to help those bereaved and grieving.  Support is offered on a one-to-one basis in the home, to groups in drop-in centres, by phone calls, by helping at funeral liturgies and remembrance services. The distinctive features of Bethany are:

(i)      The group does not wait to be asked, but initiates contact with the grieving family.

(ii)     Every family is visited irrespective of religion, nationality or cause of death.  Usually one/two months have elapsed before visiting begins, and in the case of death by suicide it is up to six months.

(iii)    The spiritual dimension of grief is recognised.


Where did Bethany Originate?

It was Dr Elizabeth Kubler Ross who first documented the stages in the emotional responses to grief and loss. Her research for her book “On Death and Dying” was done, mainly, in Columbian Presbyterian Medical Centre, New York.  It was in that Centre that Fr Myles O’Reilly began working as a chaplain in 1975.  He was greatly impressed by the care given to the dying there.  On his return to Ireland in 1982, he initiated retreats in Milltown Park entitled “Death – A Christian Response”.  It was from these retreats that Bethany Support Groups were born. 

The name Bethany was chosen because it was here that Jesus offered consolation to the grieving sisters (Jn.11), and here he was given a listening ear (Lk.10).  Today over 90 parishes in the Dublin diocese have a Bethany Bereavement group, which provides the bereaved with an opportunity to talk in confidence to a trained listener.

Bethany Comes North

It was not until 2007 that this ministry spread to the West of Ireland and in 2011 to the Diocese of Down and Connor.  On Saturday 11th June 2011 twenty-four volunteers were commissioned as Bethany Bereavement Support Group Members by Bishop Anthony Farquhar and Winnie Keogh from Bethany General Executive Council.