Companions on a Journey, Inc., was formed in 1997 as a ministry of St. Maximilian Kolbe Church by Sheila Munafo-Kanoza after the loss of her husband, Vince, to a ten-year battle with cancer. Widowed at the age of 37 and with three children to raise, Sheila found it important to be able to understand the grief that she and her children were enduring. She discovered the importance of grief support through a support group she had attended at St. John’s Church in West Chester, Ohio.
Sheila, a P&G sales representative at the time of her husband’s death, left her job to do her own grief work after taking to prayer what she was to do with the rest of her life. God gave her the vision that she would one day open a Bereavement Center in the West Chester/Liberty Township area.
She began her study in the field of bereavement and traveled throughout the U.S. training and working with other specialists and families in Oklahoma City and then in New York City six months after 9/11. As she worked with the bereaved families she found a commonality in that they all wanted their loved ones to be remembered and they needed to know that they were not alone on their grief journey.
Over time and as a response to their own personal grief experiences, Tom Kanoza, Pat Buckley, Margaret Kast and partner, Linda Sullivan, joined Sheila in her work. The demand for COJ’s services beyond the boundaries of St. Maximilian Kolbe parishioners began to grow quickly.
In 2007, the decision was made to incorporate as a non-profit organization to allow COJ to better serve the expanding community. On September 11, 2008, COJ received notification from the IRS of our status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The significance of this day that brought such grief to our nation affirmed to us the importance of our work which is to support the needs of the bereaved of our community.