Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer
November 21, 2023 // Diocese

Maintaining Cemetery Grounds Gives Hope to Those in Grief

Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer

The grief that comes with death is inevitable – particularly for the families and loved ones of the deceased. Across the diocese, grounds-keepers and their crews at Catholic cemeteries work hard year round to ensure that those who come to honor and mourn those they’ve lost can do so in a clean, respectful and serene environment.

“Bottom line is cleanliness and a well-kept cemetery is very important to all of our parishioners,” said Matthew Pletcher, Business Manager at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Elkhart. St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery is the only catholic cemetery in Elkhart County. While directly connected to St. Vincent de Paul Parish, it is available to all Elkhart County parishes and parishioners.

Joshua Schipper

The approximately 5,000-plot cemetery spends more than $30,000 a year to maintain its tidy appearance. St. Vincent de Paul Parish believes this is vital to offering some solace to the families and loved ones of those buried there. 

“It is an important part of our ministry to perform the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead and maintaining a space where friends and families can come to pray for their deceased loved ones,” Pletcher said.

The staff at the Catholic Cemetery and Divine Mercy Funeral Home in Fort Wayne share a similar sentiment.

“I feel by making the grounds look its best that at least the family knows we take care of the grounds,” said Catholic Cemetery Grounds Manager Scott Guerrero. “We also would take care of their loved ones just as much.”

Guerrero manages the grounds alongside Lead Groundskeeper Brandon Payton. The groundskeeping team totals five full-time members with several additional seasonal members.

“We are really, genuinely living out what we believe in with whole hearts with each and every family we have a service for,” Payton said. 

Guerrero and Payton both told Today’s Catholic that positive feedback about the grounds from the families of those who have been buried in the cemetery is one of the most rewarding parts of their jobs. 

Groundskeeping and care for the property has also helped the staff at Catholic Cemetery form relationships. 

“I meet new people and create relationships with friends and family members,” Guerrero said. “I have long-lasting relationships with family members that come in quite regularly.”

Guerrero focuses on offering patience, kindness, and compassion in his interactions with the grieving families and loved ones of the deceased.

As one might imagine, in their many years at the Catholic Cemetery, by maintaining the grounds, Guerrero and Payton have walked alongside many families. Their care and concern for their work is evident.
“I have worked with several cemetery grounds professionals in my 40-year career, and Scott Guerrero and Brandon Payton are the best of the best,” said Casey Miller, Executive Director of Divine Mercy Funeral Home. “Collectively, they have been with Catholic Cemetery for over 25 years, and they will be here to assist our families for many more years to come.”

In Lagro, Janet Poole is the President of the Friends of St. Patrick’s Oratory, which is a committee that cleans the church. She said much time is spent by others cleaning and caring for the grounds at nearby St. Patrick’s Cemetery, which is located about 10 miles from the church. Poole says she’s spoken with people who lean on the beauty of the cemetery to cope with their grief. 

“I know it does bring comfort to the families,” said Poole, who said that even she finds the aesthetics of the grounds to be soothing. 

“It’s a beautiful cemetery. It’s peaceful. Very peaceful.”

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