By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Office of Faith Formation welcomes Charlene Bearden as the Coordinator for the Office of Family Ministry. Bearden, a member of Jackson Holy Family Parish, is no stranger to lay ministry. She has led Cursillo weekends, helped with marriage preparation, been a catechist and was in training for a role as a lay leader. Her volunteer work goes back more than 25 years at parishes in the Jackson area.
“I thought I was training to be a lay ecclesial minister,” said Bearden of how she came to the position. Father Michael O’Brien encouraged her to join the program after he saw her natural leadership in parish life. When the family ministry job became available, she found her place.
“When I finished the interview I knew this was where I belonged. It’s a match. I have been involved with children’s CCD, Marriage Encounter, events for the engaged,” she explained. She also served on the St. Richard School advisory council and in a number of other volunteer ministries.
The Office of Family Ministry works with parishes to provide a variety of services that support and minister to families, whether these families are traditional, single parent, blended or extended. Many of these programs are focused on supporting couples. This includes marriage and remarriage preparation, natural family planning, celebrating World Marriage Day and more.
“I have known Charlene for several years and can always count on her for a kind word or encouraging smile. She lovingly sees the family as the foundation on which the whole Church built, from the example of the Holy family to our very own modern day families,” said Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation for the diocese. “I am thrilled to have her on board leading the office of family ministry and look forward to seeing where God takes her in this ministry,” she added.
Bearden said she sees the office as a way to help people better understand God’s very personal love for them. “There is something about the family that is basic to all of humanity. Everyone started with a family,” she said.
“Even though family life can be complicated, there is always the option to move towards, love, intimacy, understanding.”
Bearden also understands something about loss. She and her husband lost their first child to complications after she got meningitis. She was not quite a year old and she died in her mother’s arms.
Years later, Bearden nursed her husband through four years of cancer before his death. “When someone we love is taken from us and we feel their loss we can see that they were loaned to us. They really belong to God,” she said.
Her friends stepped in to become a new kind of family. “Family can expand beyond your immediate family. The family of community, your church family, they are also family.” She sees families as models for the kingdom of God.
She said she and her husband were “babies” when they married and had to mature into their relationship. “That storybook version of marriage is not how God wanted me to see marriage. Living with another person in an intimate environment where the other person can be who God is calling that person to be- that’s where marriage is.”
Bearden credits Father Joseph Dyer, Father O’Brien and Father Frank Cosgrove for supporting and encouraging her through the years and she said she looks forward to showing people all the love God wants to offer them.
Her first event will be the World Marriage Day celebration at the Cathedral Sunday, Feb. 12.