This week has been a very busy week for me. I had my first two funerals here in the parish. I realized that here Funerals are very special occasions. I have to go to the family twice to arrange the Funeral liturgy. Here in the Funeral liturgy, the family has a say on how the funeral mass would be conducted. We have to show them the options that they have and that includes the readings for the mass and also whatever they wanted to include in the mass like Eulogies, Special Music, etc.
In the liturgy, we have a adapted a policy of trying to accomodate any request of the family. Since it is a very special occasion, we would like to be open to all possibilities and to be as welcoming as possible, since here in New Zealand, Catholics are in the minority, we would want to present that we Catholics are very welcoming and accomodating.
But sometimes, I find it quite strange about some things that have happened in the two funerals that I have presided. Last Monday, we celebrated a funeral of a sister of a parishoner that have died in Germany but the family wanted her to be buried here in NZ so before burying we had a Funeral Mass for her done. Everything seemed to worked out fine until the Eulogy part after Communion. Her brother who led the Eulogies requested that since her sister loved Kenya so much because she was there for a long time, asked us that we stand as the NATIONAL ANTHEM OF KENYA IS BEING PLAYED! Well, I was quite startled and very much surprised from my chair, however, I tried not to show it. They also played some folk songs from Kenya and other things that are Kenyan. Anyway, I was relieved that those attended the funeral really appreciated the service. I think they really do it this way here.
Another incident happened when I presided another funeral mass yesterday (Thursday), I was informed that the family wanted to play three songs during the mass because according to them they were the favorite songs of the one who passed away. At first, the mass went on well. Then as we have agreed, after my homily the family would like to play a song in order to help us reflect. So at the end of my homily, I told the congregation to remain seated and be silent for a time of reflection. Then the song that they played turned out to be: “COME FLY WITH ME” by FRANK SINATRA. I was trying my best to hide my laughter beause of the solemnity of the occassion.
Well anyway, funerals definitely vary from culture to culture. There are some aspects that I would find very strange at least in my point of view. But I think this is just another challenge of being a missionary here in New Zealand.
Fr. Elmer Ibarra, SVD is a Filipino Missionary assigned to New Zealand. He was ordained on February 2007. He is part of the Yobel Class. He was a delegate to the recent World Youth Day in Australia. Fr. Elmer and I were together in San Vicente Ferrer Parish, Sabang, Surigao City when I had my summer camp. He was still the Regent of the parish that time.