The Archdiocese of San Francisco will begin training volunteers who will help parishes support the faithful in making end-of-life decisions for themselves and loved ones informed by Catholic teaching.

“A lot of parishioners, they struggle with these issues, especially nowadays,” said Deacon Fred Totah, director of pastoral ministry for the archdiocese.

Deacon Totah will participate with 25 others from all three counties of the archdiocese in a five-week Zoom training beginning Sept. 16. It is the first such training that will ultimately be extended to volunteers from individual parishes as they form their own end-of-life ministries.

Deacon Totah was tapped by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone earlier this year to locally implement Caring for the Whole Person, a response by the California bishops and Catholic health care leaders to the state’s legalization of physician-assisted suicide in 2015.

The bishops intend for the church to take a leading role in “transforming the way in which society cares for the chronically and terminally ill,” according to a description of the initiative on the bishops’ website.

The bishops recognize that physician-assisted suicide, “while legal, is not yet an entrenched cultural or clinical reality.”

The initiative commits dioceses to developing together, and in collaboration with other leaders in the palliative care field, a medical and pastoral approach to care through the end of life that provides a dignified, compassionate, and loving alternative to physician-assisted suicide for seriously ill people and their families.

Deacon Totah said that a number of doctors, nurses, hospice workers and clergy are included on his core team of end-of-life ministers in training, but that such expertise is not a requirement of being trained to serve at the parish level.

The only requirements are compassion, empathy and an ability to listen. “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason,” he said.

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.