Retreat Brings Comfort to Parents Suffering Death of a Child

By Colleen Rowan

CHARLESTON—To help comfort parents who have suffered the death of a child, the diocese hosted its first retreat for them presented by the Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents.

The retreat was held in October at Blessed John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston. The Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents is led by Diane Monaghan and her husband, Charles, who started the retreat after the loss of their only son Paul, 26, to suicide. The Monaghans were co-directors of the retreat weekend. The retreat also included others, such as parents who have lost children, who also provided guidance. Father Dennis R. Schuelkens, Jr., pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Wheeling, was also present to participants.

“The retreat was a wonderful experience,” said Renee Wheeler, who lost her infant son Andrew four years ago. “It was comforting to be around others who have been through the same loss as me. For once, I was not uncomfortable talking about my son and people didn’t try to get away from me because I made them uncomfortable. After I lost Andrew, I completely lost my faith and wanted nothing to do with the church. Since going I have completely changed my views. It was not God’s fault. I was able to release some of the pain that has been bottled up in me for such a long time. Diane is a great person and she is helping many people with her ministry.”

Tom and Michelle McFadden of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wheeling lost their 18-year-old son David almost a year ago. “It will be a year Dec. 20,” Michelle said. “We buried him on Christmas Eve.” Both attended the retreat in Charleston and encourage anyone who has suffered the loss of a child to attend future retreats offered by the group.

b&w Emmaus Ministry Retreat Fall 2013 Oct 6, 2013 8-009


Courtesy Photo

Al and Patti Boehm place a candle with a picture of their daughter, Jeannie, in the chapel at Blessed John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston.

“I was grateful that it was a small group,” Michelle said, “because you could really open up. Everyone involved was superb. Father Dennis was wonderful, caring and understanding. I think there are a lot of people who could gain something through this. I encourage anybody who has had a loss to go—it doesn’t matter if it was just recently or in the past. No one can know the pain you are going through. It’s different than losing a mother or father, this was part of you. To be able to open up to people who are sharing the same experience makes a big difference.”

The diocese plans to offer the retreat again next year. For more information, visit, send e-mail to or call (800) 919-9332.