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Praying for the Dead, Virtually

 Sister Frances Pytlik, ASC

By Sister Frances Pytlik, ASC

The tradition of our faith that encourages us to visit a cemetery and pray for the dead on or around All Souls Day, posed the question: How do you do this if you are restricted by health, distance, or Covid, and are in a nursing home?  

This question plagued me as I looked ahead to the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. Somewhere in the process of prayer and wonder the thought developed. Why not bring the graves to the residents via a PowerPoint slide show? Covid had forced us to use technology in so many ways over the last months, maybe it would provide us with one more way to connect people with their past and allow us a way to pray for our relatives who had died.

Early in October, I began visiting with the residents of St. Joseph’s Villa in David City, Nebraska, about their family history. Slowly, I gathered bits and pieces of information about their spouses, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, and siblings who had died. Some names already had faded into the past but enough information was gathered to begin the search. The website, “Find a Grave” provided pictures of the cemetery and gravestones and other information about relatives buried in each cemetery. 

Slowly, the PowerPoint took shape, as each gravesite picture was paired with a bead of the rosary.

On All Souls Day, a large group of residents gathered for prayer in the dining room around a large computer screen. With each prayer of the rosary, a new slide appeared on the screen, asking all to pray for the loved one of one of the residents.  

Each slide included either a picture of the deceased or a photo of the tombstone of the person we were remembering. During our prayer time, one could hear tearful responses and moments of silent remembering from the residents. It truly was a moment of grace for all.

After prayer, we continued sharing special memories of loved ones. Some of the residents asked about the graves of other members of their family. 

We thank God for these memories and for the technology that can transport us over the miles virtually.  

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