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St. Stephen Bereavement Program


September 03, 2013
The St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church will be hosting a formal English tea party on Sept. 26 to raise money for their bereavement counseling journal. In true Victorian fashion, guests are encouraged to wear their finest hats and gloves for this exquisite luncheon of mimosas, teas, and deserts.

"Ladies like to get together and have tea parties, let's be honest," said Penny Blazej, organizer of the fundraiser and head of the bereavement program at the church. "This is really a time that ladies can take out to just have fun with each other."

The fundraiser will be held at Mary Elaine Gustafson's home at 12 p.m. and the cost is $20 per person. There will be eight tables with eight people at each table, but seats are filling up fast.

"So far we have filled five of those tables," said Blazej. This is the first year of the tea party, but Blazej intends to make it an annual event. There will be a secret door prize that comes in a basket and even a dashing server.

"We will have a handsome gentleman serving the mimosas in his tuxedo," said Blazej.

All of the proceeds from the event will go toward printing the journal, Grief's Companion, a 12-issue series that helps community members cope with the loss of loved ones. As part of their larger outreach program, the St. Stephen Bereavement Ministry is launching this publication to guide people (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) through the grieving process.

The first two issues have been printed already, but Blazej needs to raise money for the remaining 10 issues. The journal is designed so that the first issue will be sent out to grieving families and individuals a month after the funeral, and continue every month after that for an entire year.

Blazej created with journal with the help of Holly Flow and Kay Cogswell, who have a combined experience of over 60 years working in grief counseling. Cogswell has had experience publishing similar journals while working at a hospice, but Grief's Companion was specially tailored to fit our community. Parish priest, Father Elmer Mandac, also oversees the journal and gives his final approval on all the content.

In addition to the journal, the Bereavement Ministry sends out cards, provides additional grief education, and has extra outreach around the holidays. There are also the "bereavement angels," a group of empathetic volunteers who are paired with grieving families to check-in periodically.

"A lot of it is just phone calling and saying 'Hi, know that we're thinking of you," said Blazej. Right now there are 12 angels ranging in age from 19 to 87. The program has been running for about a year and half, and so far 32 families have been served. Blazej hopes to continue expanding the grief counseling services at the church and she welcomes anyone willing to volunteer their time.

"If they can't attend the tea, we always do take donations," said Blazej. To RSVP for the tea party or to get involved in the St. Stephen Bereavement Ministry, please call 760-685-3403.

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