There is a common misconception that the role of a Civil Funeral Celebrant is similar to that of an MC. – that our role is simply to conduct the ceremony and ensure that everything goes according to schedule. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The main role of Civil Funeral Celebrant is to ensure that each ceremony is a true reflection and celebration of the life of the deceased, incorporating reminders, symbols, stories and sometimes prayers, to really convey the essence of the person.
In order to achieve this, it is important to really listen to the family and friends of the deceased. They are the people who know the points they want to get across to the other mourners in attendance; they are the people who are relying on you to help them at this time of deep sadness; and by really listening, the celebrant will gain true insights that will help to enhance the funeral service.
A recent letter from A.W. in Dublin 8 sums up why the art of listening is so important to those who are bereaved;
Dear Padraic, Many thanks for your lovely email and for your wonderful celebration of Dad’s life. Multiple people have expressed to the family both straight away after and since that it was an exceptional service. They all learnt more about Dad and felt they knew him better. I know that is what you wanted to achieve so well done! We did it!! And there were a lot of academics and poets there who would not be easily pleased! Many thanks for your professionalism throughout. Two things I appreciated in particular. Firstly you didn’t take any notes when we spoke to you on Monday night except for people’s names. Yet you captured the salient points of Dad’s life so you were listening intently without making us feel uncomfortable. Secondly you were extremely efficient in setting it all up without putting us under pressure and making us feel stressed. That takes a lot of sensitivity and skill.