October 24, 2018 // Diocese

Cremated loved ones laid to rest during committal service

Family members hugged each other, heard words of hope and comfort, and then laid to rest 10 loved ones whose cremated bodies had never been buried.

About 30 people gathered on a partly sunny afternoon Oct. 17 for a free committal service offered by Divine Mercy Funeral Home and Catholic Cemetery, 3500 Lake Ave. in Fort Wayne.

“I’m just grateful to be here,” an older woman, who brought a loved one’s cremated body to the service, said afterward. Another woman also expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to bury her cremated loved one.

This was the first time Divine Mercy Funeral Home and Catholic Cemetery have offered free committal for cremated bodies, said Casey Miller, funeral home and cemetery executive director. The funeral home and cemetery both are owned by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

“It started with a conversation with staff here,” Miller said of the idea for the service. “We knew there are cremated bodies out there that had not been buried in consecrated ground.”

Msgr. Robert Schulte, pastor of St. Jude Parish, Fort Wayne, prepares for a prayer of blessing at a mausoleum in Catholic Cemetery during a committal service Oct. 17. The cremated remains of several families’ loved ones were interred during the service. He is joined by Casey Miller, superintendent of Catholic Cemetery.

The Catholic Church believes a deceased person’s body should be present for his or her funeral Mass, Miller said. The Church also believes a person’s cremated body should be buried in a Catholic cemetery, either in the ground or in a mausoleum crypt, and not scattered or divided.

Some participants in the Divine Mercy committal service said financial hardship or a family situation led to the delay in burying their loved one’s cremated body, said Karen Lonergan, director of preplanning services. In some cases, enough time also had passed that the family didn’t know what burial options still may be available to them, Lonergan added.

To accommodate families who wanted to participate in the committal service, Divine Mercy Funeral Home and Catholic Cemetery divided a mausoleum crypt into separate niche spaces for the funeral urns and boxes containing families’ cremated loved ones.

The crypt was named “All Souls Remembered” rather than listing the names of the people placed inside it, because Divine Mercy staff expect some of the cremated bodies will be moved to a new burial space in future years after a spouse or other family member dies, Miller said.

The brief committal service took place in one of the funeral home’s visitation rooms. Msgr. Robert Schulte, pastor of nearby St. Jude Parish, officiated.

Those present placed their loved ones’ cremation urns and boxes in a row on a long, wooden table along one wall of the room. A red rose lay on each cremation container.

A large wooden crucifix stood in the middle of the table while candles burned in two holders behind it.

Msgr. Schulte began with prayer and then read the names of the 10 individuals being laid to rest. He spoke about the message in the Gospel of John in which God the Father says all who receive His Son and believe in Him will be raised from the dead on the last day.

After closing prayers, Msgr. Schulte and the participants moved outside to the black-walled mausoleum in Catholic Cemetery behind the funeral home. Along with leading additional prayers, Msgr. Schulte blessed each cremation urn or box and sprinkled each container with holy water.

Family members holding a loved one’s cremation urn or box then stepped forward, one at a time, to hand the container to Miller, who worked with the cemetery’s director of maintenance, Scott Guerrero, to place each urn or box in a separate niche space in the crypt.

When all the loved ones had been set in the crypt, Msgr. Schulte concluded the burial.

“May Almighty God bless you all,” he said to the families, before they walked slowly to their cars to go home.

Miller said Divine Mercy Funeral Home will offer the free committal service again, possibly every two years.

Publicity about the committal service also inspired a few families to purchase niches at Catholic Cemetery so they can lay a cremated loved one to rest now and later be buried beside their loved one, Lonergan said.

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