Diocese of Lancaster : Lay-led Funeral Service

Parishes, other denominations, families and funeral directors are welcome to use this document.

In the absence of a priest or deacon, a lay-led Catholic funeral service should be offered to the bereaved.

The civil authorities may limit the length of time given to a service, especially at a crematorium. They may also limit the number of those attending. The service can be cut-down in length as circumstances dictate, but should not feel rushed.

All public health requirements relating to the locations where funerals are taking place must be observed.

Staff at crematoria, graveyards and funeral directors will be under great pressure at this time. All requests from them should be accommodated where possible, so long as these do not undermine the integrity of the service.

In the absence of an ordained minister, the order of preference for funeral celebrant is:

  • Designated lay parish leader or other competent person in parish leadership team
  • Practicing Catholic family member
  • Any family member or friend (or funeral director)

(A person who has no Christian beliefs, should not be asked to lead a Catholic funeral)

If a family have requested a Catholic funeral, then themes at the service should include:

  • Faith in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus
  • Hope in eternal rest in the presence of God, together with all the angels and saints.
  • The importance of a life well lived as a disciple of Jesus, in accordance with his teaching and gospel values.
  • Thanksgiving to God for the life of the deceased.
  • Prayers for God’s mercy in the context of judgment.
  •  Our sacramental life (if appropriate)
  • Support and prayers for the bereaved, especially family and others close to the deceased.
  • The intercession of the whole Church, both on earth and in heaven.
  • Purgatory and the intercession of the Faithful for the souls there.

Consideration should be given to making adjustments for the funerals or infants and young people. Services for children are in the green book, ‘The Order of Christian Funerals’. Whilst appropriate hymns, music, and singing are an integral part of a Catholic funeral, this may be difficult to provide at this time. Care should be taken to ensure that even in these special circumstances, the absence of an organist (or similar) should not be used to justify the introduction of inappropriate or wholly secular music. For the purposes of this document attached above, no ‘music slots’ are specified. This is left to the officiant to decide with the family and funeral director. Officiants should also remember that the bereaved often find it difficult to sing at funerals. The same is true of verbal responses – the officiant may need to say the congregation’s parts too. Ordinarily, a funeral pall or Christian symbols may be placed on the coffin at the start of the service. These have been omitted here. If the government requests that ministers etc., are not to attend crematoria etc., consideration should be given to driving the funeral hearse past a Catholic church, where a priest or lay leader can say a few prayers. The text in the pdf above is broadly taken from ‘The Order of Christian Funerals’ and is subject to copyright, It must not be sold or be made commercially available. This document has been produced so that funerals may be provided at a time of emergency. It should not be used after the current situation.