By Katherine Long | Editor
The Feasts of All Saints Nov. 1 and All Souls Nov. 2 are special days to remember the faithful departed. On All Saints, we recall all the men and women, canonized and not, who lived lives of remarkable faith. On All Souls, we commemorate all those who have gone before us, often celebrating special Masses in our parishes and visiting the graves of our loved ones. Both days also remind us of our own mortality.
As the Church approaches this season of special reflection on eternal life, the Sun visited Syracuse Catholic Cemeteries to find answers to some common questions about Catholic burial.
What makes a Catholic cemetery different?
A Catholic cemetery is ground that has been blessed and consecrated by a bishop or priest, explained Danielle Rafte, family services manager at Catholic Cemeteries of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, Inc.
Staff at a Catholic cemetery will help individuals plan or arrange a reverent burial that adheres to the Church’s teachings and traditions, she noted, and they will also make sure that care for the grounds is provided indefinitely.
There are 46 parish cemeteries — those under the care and direction of a specific parish — and 16 diocesan cemeteries in the diocese (see list at bottom). Cemetery staff are ready to help individuals pre-plan for their final wishes or to assist families at the time of need.What Catholic burial options are available in the diocese?
Cemetery staff will walk individuals through a variety of options, Rafte explained, as Catholics can choose a full-body burial or cremation, and to be buried in the ground or above it.
A full-body burial is probably the option most familiar to Catholics, Rafte said, and it is the option preferred by the Church. Cremation is also permitted by the Church, however, and more individuals are becoming interested in this option, Rafte said. (See box below for more.)
“The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, and the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains on the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 417).”
Both full-body and cremated remains may be buried in-ground, Rafte said. And if, for example, a husband wants a full-body burial and a wife wants to be cremated, both their remains can be interred in the same plot with a shared headstone.
Above-ground options for both full-body and cremation burials include a crypt space in a mausoleum and, for cremated remains, a niche in a mausoleum or columbarium.
Rafte urged anyone who may be in possession of cremated remains to contact Catholic Cemeteries about options for burial, no matter how long ago the cremation took place.
How do I start planning?
Rafte said she’d like to see more individuals and families pre-plan and encouraged those approaching retirement age to start thinking and talking about their final wishes if they haven’t done so yet.
“Death is an uncomfortable topic,” Rafte said, “but the sooner you start talking about it, the easier it will be to get something done.”
Begin the conversation with your loved ones by acknowledging that death isn’t an easy topic to discuss. Explain why this will be helpful to you and your loved ones, expressing your desire to have your wishes for remembrance followed. Ask your loved ones to accompany or assist you with the planning portion, to show the importance of making plans as a family.
Making final decisions now, rather than leaving them to family and loved ones at the time of your death, will relieve those you leave behind of unnecessary stress and worry. Pre-planning also ensures your specific wishes will be followed and guarantees current pricing.
“We are here to help you,” Rafte said.
Visit syracusecatholiccemeteries.org or call (315) 475-4639 to learn more and set up an appointment at a cemetery near you.
Catholic Cemeteries of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, Inc.
• Our Lady of Peace Cemetery and Mausoleum, Baldwinsville
• St. Mary Cemetery, Clayville
• St. Mary Cemetery, Cortland
• St. Mary Cemetery and Mausoleum, DeWitt
• Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum, Johnson City
• St. Patrick Cemetery, Johnson City
• Sacred Heart Cemetery, Lakeland
• St. Paul Cemetery, Oswego
• St. Peter Cemetery and Mausoleum, Oswego
• St. Agnes Cemetery, Syracuse
• Sacred Heart Cemetery, Syracuse
• Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum, Utica
• Holy Trinity Cemetery and Mausoleum, Utica
• St. Mary Cemetery, Utica
• St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Cemetery, Utica
• Mount Olivet Cemetery, Whitesboro