According to a recent study by The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, about 20 percent of Americans – or 52 million people -- worship in a church each week. Most local pastors report a trend of declining attendance over the years.
Which means that when a family member who had fallen away from their church dies, they don’t get the personal experience that a minister or a priest provides.
Matt Grieco, owner and supervisor of Grieco funeral homes in Kennett Square, was recently recognized as a “certified celebrant.” It means he can offer eulogies that are spiritual in nature.
He said about 30 percent of families use him as a certified celebrant. And that number is growing.
“I just help to tell the story of a life well lived, that’s really what it’s about,” Grieco said. “I ask the family what level of spiritualness they want, and if they don’t want any tone of religion, I won’t include it.”
Grieco Funeral Home is the only one locally that offers such a service. But Grieco said it is not meant to replace a minister or priest.
“It will fill a void for some folks, but it’s not for everybody,” he said.
Typically, Grieco will quiz the family on the hobbies and likes of the deceased, and will then use that information to weave a story of what life was back in the day, and intersperse it with highlights.
Funerals, Grieco said, are for the living, and whether it’s a personalized cremation arrangement or traditional burial, the new service will help family and loved ones of the deceased to better remember and celebrate a wonderful life.
Because his new role involves speeches, Grieco took public speaking classes in Boston, Mass. The fee for the service ranges from $200 to $400, but that is value added, and typically replaces the cost of a minister or a priest.
“I feel fortunate I found a niche within my profession that brings satisfaction to me and my staff,” Grieco said. “My goal is to leave people touched, moved and inspired from having known the deceased.”