Gianna Trulli, left, husband John, daughter Daniella, son Marco and Connie Sirica, sister of Gianna, attend the Mass in houour of the deceased in Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Gianna Trulli, left, husband John, daughter Daniella, son Marco and Connie Sirica, sister of Gianna, attend the Mass in houour of the deceased in Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries.

December 29, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

As they have done every month since the death of their beloved mother Veneranda Sirica last June, Gianna Trulli and her family were at the Holy Cross Mausoleum for Mass Dec. 20.

This Mass, though, was a bit different. It was a Christmas Mass for the dead presided by Archbishop Richard Smith.

The Mass, which the archbishop has celebrated for the last three years, is intended for people like the Trullis who have lost loved ones recently.

"Celebrating this Mass is very important to the archbishop because the first Christmas is very difficult for people that have lost someone; they feel like they can't celebrate Christmas," explained Deacon Paul Croteau, director of Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries.

"So the Mass gives them a chance to come and celebrate with the Eucharist; and we have Christmas trees here and we have the manger scene and we give them a safe place where they can come and grieve and still have their (Christmas) traditions."

HONOUR THE DEAD

Over 300 people attended the Mass, mingled over snacks and drinks and visited the mausoleum's large Christmas tree, which is filled with ornaments honouring the dead.

Accompanying Gianna Trulli this time were husband John Trulli and children Marco, 23, and Daniella, 17. Gianna's sister Connie Sirica also attended the Mass.

This Christmas is especially difficult for the family "because it's the first year without our mother," explained Gianna in an interview. "She loved to have all the family around for Christmas."

The Mass, she added, helped her reflect on the time she had with her mother and father.

FAMILY WAS EVERYTHING

Husband John said his mother-in-law was "a very nice lady" for whom family was everything. "She had a very nice personality and was always laughing and making jokes, so it was fun to get together."

Connie Sirica had to dry her tears a few times. "I think this Mass helps me grieve in my own way knowing that they are in a better place," she said. "But it's still hard because I lived with my mom (until her death)."

The Trullis and their extended family will still get together this year for Christmas at their mom's place – just like she would have wanted.

In his homily, the archbishop said the most wonderful time of the year can also be a difficult and challenging time for those who have lost loved ones.

In a moment like this, he said, we turn to the Lord because the Lord is the only one who can give us the words to heal as well as consolation and hope.

Even though a loss of a loved one is painful, at the same time Christmas is the reason for hope, Smith observed.

"Christmas prevents our sadness from becoming despair because it is in the birth of Christ the child to Mary in Bethlehem that salvation, the hope of eternal life, comes to us."

Leo Connelly and his son Paul, who is deaf, have been attending the monthly Saturday morning Mass ever since their wife and mother died in September 2012.

"Christmas is a very difficult time for us; I have not gotten used to it at all," Connelly said. "As a matter of fact as you get older, it becomes harder, I think."

ARCHBISHOP'S PRESENCE

Connelly comes to Mass to pray for his wife and to ask her to pray for him and his children. This Mass was special for him and his son. "It is great to see the archbishop here. Fortunately for us, the archbishop visited my wife when she was at the hospital and ministered Joan the last sacraments."

Joan Connelly loved Christmas, and so Leo and Paul have set up the Christmas tree the last two years without her. "We put a couple of ornaments this year that she used to like." They also placed ornaments in her honour at the mausoleum tree.