Frequently Asked Questions

People of any and all faith traditions, and even those who profess no faith, are welcome to attend our retreats. We believe that the Holy Spirit shares his gifts generously with all who ask. Please know, however, that we are faithful to Catholic teaching and incorporate Catholic liturgy in our programs, and ask all participants to be mindful and respectful of our Catholic faith tradition.

Yes! While the ministry incorporates various teachings and liturgies of the Catholic Church, no practice or observance of “religion” is absolutely necessary—other than openness to hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as we make our way through this long and difficult journey.

No, it doesn’t matter how or when your child died. We have parents whose children have died as the result of illness, accident, suicide, overdose, and violence. Children’s ages at death range from conception to older adult. All are welcome.

There is no perfect time when it is good to participate or not participate. We firmly believe that the Holy Spirit guides your interest in the ministry and leads you to us when you are ready. We have welcomed parents whose children had died only one to two months prior to a retreat, as well as those who children have been gone for more than 40 years. If this is something you feel you would like to try, then the time is right for you.

No. It doesn’t matter how long ago your child died. Some parents feel called to come after only a few weeks. Other parents come after as many as 20-30 years. The hole in our heart never goes away. We will always need spiritual nourishment to walk this journey as grieving parents.

The mission of the Emmaus Ministry is to provide a variety of programs focused on spiritual assistance for bereaved parents and the spirituality of the grieving process.

In many ways, this ministry is a support group. However, we call it a “ministry” because we are focused primarily on providing spiritual help. Other reasons we call it a ministry…

It focuses on your spiritual needs, as opposed to the needs of a group. It requires no sharing of information or your story, unless you feel totally comfortable doing so with other parents. It is always acceptable to “pass,” and some parents participate by listening only.

In focusing on the spiritual perspective in dealing with the death of your child, it seeks to help you answer such questions as, “Where is God in all of this… Where is God in my life right now… How could God let this happen… Where do I turn now that God has abandoned me… Will I ever see my child again… Where is my child right now… How can I ensure that any good comes from this adversity?

It is supported by a dedicated group of other grieving parents, all of whom have shared the pain and difficulty of this journey.

Because many of us have found that the spiritual perspective is the only way to find peace, comfort, and hope. Many of us have found much healing in focusing on our relationship with God and with our children in the eternal afterlife… the fact that life for our children has changed, not ended, and someday we will be together again. It’s what sets this group apart from many other groups serving bereaved parents.

Our programs are presented by Emmaus Parent Companions, all who have lost a child, and so know something of the pain you feel. They are knowledgeable bereavement companions who use their personal experiences to accompany you in your spiritual journey of processing and dealing with the many feelings that accompany the death of your child.

In addition, Catholic priests, deacons, religious, and spiritual directors serve on our retreat teams, both directly and indirectly. All retreat team members hold us and our children in prayer. In addition, they serve on individual retreat teams in various capacities throughout the year.

Also serving on our retreat teams very often are diocesan and parish personnel who work hard to facilitate retreats.

Many of the Spiritual Leaders and diocesan and parish personnel who work with us freely admit that they cannot know or experience a grieving parent’s pain. They can, however, tremendously assist in our search for some understanding of God’s presence in our experience; they can help us to find ways to draw us closer to our absent children; and they can companion us on our journey.

See this section of our website: to get a sense of what happens at the various programs we present.

Typically, our registration fee covers a light breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as all retreat materials. You don’t need to bring anything, other than an open mind. The registration fee usually covers only 30% of our expenses, which is why we accept donations of any kind and are active in asking for grant money.

When you come to a retreat, you are giving yourself the gift of getting away from everyday life to focus on where God is—and where your child is—right now. It is an opportunity to spend time concentrating on your spiritual journey. Many grieving parents believe that focusing on the promise of eternal life and the fact that you will see your child again is one of the few things in life that gives any peace, comfort, or hope.

Yes! Just as Mass is needed to constantly nourish the soul, many of our parents come to multiple retreats. We have no restrictions on who can come to what; we encourage your constant participation.

Several of our sites offer ongoing monthly One-Hour Retreats of a spiritual or social nature. We offer one-on-one parent companioning, anniversary remembrances of the death of your child, monthly emails and updates, and segmented programs for specific types of losses, e.g., suicide, early loss, etc.

Yes! We are currently offering retreats in Spanish in the Archdiocese of New York, NY and the Diocese of Amarillo, TX. Other areas are considering this much-needed ministry. See for our latest schedule.

If you are a bereaved parent or work for a parish or diocese and are interested in bringing this ministry to your area, we can help you get started. Read this Guidebook, then email us at info or call Diane at 800-919-9332 or 617-542-8057.

Yes! We are currently offering retreats in Spanish in Boston, MA and Haverstraw, NY. Other areas are considering this much-needed ministry. See for our latest schedule.