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Workshop offers tools to navigate grief during Christmas season
November 15th, 2016
By Valerie Schmalz

Grief can seem even more intense during the holiday season, as the person who is gone is missed even more at Thanksgiving and continuing through Christmas. So each year St. Mary’s Cathedral offers the “Hope for the Holiday Grief Seminar” to help. This year it will be Nov. 19, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is open to the public, includes light refreshments, and is free of charge, with ample parking in the cathedral parking lot.

“This is a witness of being present,” said Deacon Christoph Sandoval of his ministry at the cathedral to those who are grieving, noting he brings Jesus with him to each encounter. “The questions are so huge” when someone dies, he said.

The two-hour presentation by Deacon Sandoval and Mercy Sister Elaine Stahl is a tool kit for various aspects of grief, death and dying. Deacon Sandoval also facilitates an ongoing drop-in grief session in the cathedral’s Msgr. Bowe Room on the third Wednesday of every month from 10:30 a.m. until noon or later. “All are welcome,” he said. Coffee, tea, little cookies and Kleenex are offered.

“God is the genesis, journey and destination for all of us,” Deacon Sandoval said. He and Sister Elaine “bring our own stories, our own brokenness. We are wounded healers on some level,” Deacon Sandoval said. “We are able to stand in solidarity with people.”

The Hope for the Holiday Grief Seminar includes a presentation on advance directives, a tool kit for navigating grief through the holidays, and the third part, “Welcoming heaven on the last day of our lives.”

While “suffering is the separation between you and the beloved,” Deacon Sandoval said, in the forum of the church, he can bring God into the discussion. “In our world, we can proclaim the Gospel. We have answers to all those universal questions.”

“Sometimes you don’t want to fix things, you just want to let people cry.”

Advent Liturgy Highlights
Nov 27: First Sunday of Advent.

Dec. 6: Simbang Gabi Commissioning Mass, 7:30 p.m., St. Mary’s Cathedral. Bishop William Justice celebrating. Traditional Filipino Christmas novena begins Dec. 15/16 in parishes. See ad, page 3.

Dec. 8:
Feast of the Immaculate Conception, holy day of obligation.

Dec. 10: Guadalupana Pilgrimage to St. Mary’s Cathedral from All Souls Church in South San Francisco. 6 a.m. at All Souls. Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 2 p.m. Transportation from St. Mary’s begins at 4 a.m., and returning to All Souls 2:30 – 5 p.m. Info at

Dec. 12: Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

From November 17, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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