An All Souls’ Day Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades included two special relics: the chalice and the altar cross of St. Padre Pio. The relics are part of a collection in the possession of Father Joseph Tuscan, who concelebrated the Nov. 2 Mass at Catholic Cemetery, Fort Wayne.
As Mass began, the bishop asked the congregation to pray through the intercession of St. Padre Pio and to remember those who would be cared for at Divine Mercy Funeral Home, slated to open two days later. Following the Mass, Bishop Rhoades blessed the new funeral home and a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place.
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades addressed the Gospel reading of the day, which was from the Book of John. In the Gospel, Jesus tells the crowd that it is the will of His Father that everyone who sees and believes in Him will have eternal life; and that they will be raised on the last day. The bishop told the congregation that as they prayed for their beloved deceased at Mass, to do so “with faith in these words of Jesus, with hope in His promise of eternal life, and with confidence in God the Father’s love for us revealed in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.”
He noted that those at Mass who were remembering their deceased loved ones should be consoled by St. Paul’s words to the Romans that “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
“Not even death can separate us from His love. So, on this All Souls’ Day, we entrust the faithful departed to Christ’s love, the love that saves us, the love that is stronger than death.”
Bishop Rhoades then spoke of Catholic Cemetery’s beauty. He shared that it was beautiful not only because of its picturesque grounds, but also because it is a holy place and a place of prayer and love. The cemetery is a place of love, he said, because “here we remember with love those whose affection we have known in our lives.” The cemetery is also a holy place, because the ground and the graves have been blessed; also, because it is a place of prayer.
“No one buried or entombed here is forgotten,” Bishop stated. While there are people buried in the cemetery who are forgotten by those who knew them in their earthly life, they are not forgotten by the Church, which remembers the deceased in prayer at every Mass no matter where they are buried. He added that “It is a beautiful spiritual work of mercy to pray for the dead. They are aided by our prayers in their purifying journey to heaven.”
Divine Mercy Funeral Home, the first Catholic funeral home in the diocese, will also be a holy place, he said. He explained that in the days and years to come “many prayers will be offered at funeral vigil services, and many rosaries will be recited for the souls of the faithful departed in our new funeral home.” Along with these prayers, the existence of the Catholic funeral home will prompt acts of a spiritual work of mercy: comforting the afflicted. The bishop stated that he hopes and prays that people will experience the love of Christ and His Church through the ministry of our funeral home staff and that those who mourn will receive the Lord’s comfort and strength.
Besides the spiritual works of mercy of praying for the dead and comforting the afflicted, the cemetery also performs the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead. The bishop explained that part of this corporal work of mercy means the proper care of the deceased, and that “the Divine Mercy Funeral Home, in accord with Catholic teaching, will always show the upmost respect for the bodies of the deceased” brought to the funeral home.
“Many will indeed grieve over losing their loved ones, but it is our mission to help them to grieve with the hope of being reunited with them,” he said. “In their sadness and sorrow, I pray many will find healing and strength in the conviction of St. Paul and of our Christian faith that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The bishop ended with the prayer, “May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
After Mass, the congregation gathered at the doors of Divine Mercy Funeral Home. Casey Miller, executive director of Divine Mercy Funeral Home and Catholic Cemetery, spoke. He thanked Bishop Rhoades, the priests and deacons in the diocese, and the board of directors of Catholic Cemetery for their approval, leadership and work in making Divine Mercy Funeral Home a reality.
A ribbon-cutting took place, after which those present accompanied the bishop inside, where he blessed each room of the facility, and its elements. He also took a moment to thank Miller and the Divine Mercy staff, and to encourage them by noting that their ministry would be strong in another spiritual mission of giving comfort to others due to their own strong faith.
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