John Seelie: Pearl Harbor Survivor

In September of this year, the Catholic Cemeteries Association had the honor of care taking for the final remains one of this country’s final Pearl Harbor survivors: John Seelie. A man of pure dedication to faith, family, and country, his experiences provide us with a glimpse of what so many men and women sacrifice for the good of our country each and every day—willingly placing themselves in the path of danger and uncertainty. Keep reading to learn more about this brave American solider.

John Seelie
Photo Credit 

John Seelie was born on November 25, 1922. When he was only 18 years old, Seelie decided to enlist in the United States Army and was stationed at Fort Hayes in Columbus, OH. Only a year later Seelie was transferred to Schonfield Barracks Oahu with the 65th Combat Engineers, 25th Infantry Division with the mission to protect Wheeler Field, a U.S. air base. According to Seelie’s public Facebook page, this transfer was decided by the flip of a coin by his captain. Seelie and another solider were transferred to Hawaii, whereas two other soldiers were transferred to the Philippines. While this may at first seem like a rather unlucky test of fate for Seelie, the two soldiers that were sent to the Philippines did not survive.

That is not to say, of course, that Seelie’s time at Hawaii was without its own tragedy. On the morning of December 7th, 1941 Seelie was just waking up when he recalled seeing the first of the Japanese planes. In a 2009 interview Seelie tells of his experience firsthand:

“We grabbed our M-1 rifles and our redesigned steel helmets we had just been issued, a couple of .30 caliber machine guns and ran outside. We had no ammunition because it was all locked up to keep it away from saboteurs. We asked the sergeant to open the ammunition room, but he had no orders to do that. So we broke the door down to get to the ammo. We started firing at the planes. Whether we knocked an enemy plane down nobody knows.”

Seelie was one of the lucky survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, and paid constant tribute to those who had fallen by attending yearly memorial services and recounting his experiences to all who would listen.

Seelie passed away on August 11th, 2017. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH (Sec#7, Lot#152, Grave#1). May his dedication and service to our country inspire us all.

Information gathered from: https://pearlharbormemorials.com/survivor-john-seelie/ 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Meaningful Music: WHERE I BELONG by Building 429

Life is hard—there’s no question. Whether it’s small day-to-day struggles, or major traumatic experiences such as losing a loved one, this world can be a confusing place. We may wonder why our God, who is all loving and benevolent, would allow such strife to happen. While we may never know these answers, what we do know is this world is not our final destination, but rather a stop on the road to God’s eternal kingdom. The popular Christian music group Building 429 addresses this topic in their song ,“Where I Belong.” Let’s take a closer look at this song and how we can all relate to its powerful message!

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Photo Credit 

The song begins by describing the unique sensation of distance between body and soul:

Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing but am I alive?
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find

The singer exposes a questioning attitude that we’ve all experienced at some point. What does it mean to be alive in this world? Why are there so many questions that can’t be answered? What is the purpose of all this ambiguity? As the chorus winds up, we are given the poetic answer:

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong 

The reason why this world is so confusing is because it is not our final home. We are only visiting. Our actual and eternal home is with Jesus Christ, and only with His help can we begin to understand the intricate and complex workings of life as we know it. This may seem overwhelming, but let it be of comfort. We are not supposed to understand everything in this world—not yet. If you find yourself struggling with feelings of doubt or discouragement, let this song serve as a source of hope and encouragement. One day we will be reunited with our heavenly Father, who will take away all our pain, confusion, and trouble.

Take some time to listen to the rest of the song below!

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

I Cried All Day Yesterday

“I cried all day yesterday so that I could be strong for the family today.” If you should ever wonder what kind of people work at the Catholic Cemeteries Association, the quotation above says it all. We know that families need us to be strong when they are broken, to guide them with love and compassion. We give a piece of ourselves to that family as we help them through the most difficult of tragedies. Giving the family a piece of our heart is the only way we know how to do this ministry. I know that every single member of the Catholic Cemeteries Association staff willingly gives of themselves to serve when families need us most.

To all the families served by the Catholic Cemeteries Association staff, whether it is the CEO or the staff member preparing the final place of rest, know that we accept our responsibility with reverence and are devoted to the person loved by you and entrusted to our care.

 

– Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association

 

John Joseph Bernet: Railroad Tycoon

John Joseph Bernet, later called the “Doctor of Sick Railroads” is an example of someone who took their business skills and achieved measureable success. Throughout his successful career, Bernet made sure to be charitable and humble. Keep reading to learn more about this intelligent figure!

 

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Photo Credit

 

John Joseph Bernet was born on February 9th, 1868 in Brant, New York. His father, Bernard Bernet, was a blacksmith and at a young age John became an apprentice at his father’s shop. However, the pairing wasn’t meant to be, as John was not as skilled at the craft as his father. Seeing that he needed to explore other career options, Bernet developed his telegraphy skills and was eventually hired to work for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway in 1889. It wasn’t long before Bernet worked his way up through various positions and became a Vice President for the New York Central Railroad, controlling all the lines west of Buffalo. But this was only the beginning for Bernet.  

In 1969, Bernet was asked to lead the Nickel Plate Railroad. Under his leadership, the railroad experienced massive success. This was largely due to upgrades proposed by Bernet which included doubling the total freight capacity and doubling speed while simultaneously cutting fuel costs. After leaving the Nickel Plate Railroad in 1926, Bernet became president of the Erie Railroad. Again, the railroad experienced much success due to his innovative cost-cutting measures. During the Great Depression, Bernet was brought on as President of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, and with his leadership the company actually experienced a profit in the midst of the Great Depression, and even paid dividends in 1932.

Bernet held this position for only a short time, however, as in 1933 he returned as President of the Nickel Plate Railroad. He remained president until his death in 1935. He passed away in his home in Cleveland, OH and is buried in Calvary Cemetery (Sec #78, Crypt #6, Grave #2) Bernet was a man of strong faith and is noted for his charitable giving. In fact, Bernet was involved in the construction of the dormitories at John Carroll University. So much so, that the first residence hall was named Bernet Hall in his honor. Bernet is a wonderful example of someone who used their business acumen and followed a passion to serve God and others.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

 

Meaningful Music: THY WILL by Hillary Scott and the Scott Family

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I’m sure we’ve all recited this passage at one point or another in times of great stress. It doesn’t matter how kind you are, how selfless you are, or even how faithful you are– no one is immune to the pain that life brings. Suffering can be hard to comprehend at times– why would God, who is supposed to love us, put us in so much pain? What purpose does suffering serve in His plan? Why is it necessary?

We can turn to scripture (such as the verse above) to help guide us on our search for answers, but in the end it all comes down to trusting God and His will for our lives. Hillary Scott and the Scott Family use their music to address topics such as this. Their song “Thy Will” has grown to be incredibly popular, expressing the pain and desperation so many of us have felt throughout our lives.

thy will

Photo Credit

The song begins with Hillary opening up to God:

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here  

This first verse is applicable to so many of us who listened closely to God, who remained faithful and devoted to Him– yet still experienced pain and suffering. It’s these instances that are the hardest to understand. How could following God lead us astray? Hillary expresses this confusion saying:

I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words 

Often, when we are going through a painful experience we feel distant from God. We may even be angry that He let something so awful happen to us. As Hillary so openly reveals, we may never understand the reasoning behind God’s will. But that’s why we have faith. The chorus of the song, taken directly from the Our Father, is a repeated reminder of the foundation of the Catholic faith– having full trust in God’s will and not our own:

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done 

Take some time to listen to the song. Read the lyrics and reflect on your own experiences.

 Post written by Katie Karpinski

Daylighting Project at Holy Cross Cemetery in Akron

The Catholic Cemeteries Association considers it a sacred duty and obligation to maintain, enhance, and otherwise improve your Catholic cemeteries. The CCA uses funds generated from the sale of our products and services to fund these improvement projects and to benefit the families who have entrusted the earthly remains of their loved ones to us. Lately, Holy Cross Cemetery in Akron has been in process of daylighting its streams. The daylighting of streams allows nature to become an integral part of the cemetery. Nature allows us to reflect and remember that we are surrounded by God’s creation. Further, water allowed to flow through the cemetery is a reminder of our baptism and of our belief in life everlasting. Check out some interesting pictures of the project below!

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Handling the Holidays After Losing a Loved One

The air is getting colder, Halloween is over, and people are starting to flip their calendars to the ever-busy months of November and December. The approaching holiday season is enough to make anyone anxious: the plethora of social and financial obligations can be overwhelming, not to mention the emotional stress that the holidays may bring. This may be especially challenging for those who have lost a loved one. The holidays often are a reminder to people that their loved ones are gone. Therefore, this season can be saddening, or even painful for certain people. While there is no way to reverse or avoid these feelings, there are some things to keep in mind to make the holidays more bearable.

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Take care of yourself
The holiday season can be a time of obligation. It’s easy to get swept up in other people’s schedules. Not only that, but we are also prone to setting certain holiday obligations on ourselves. The holidays are also a time of heightened emotional stress, so it’s important that you take time for yourself and enter the season with realistic expectations of what you can and can’t accomplish. A good way to approach this is to prioritize your tasks and make a list of what you would most like to do. Anything that doesn’t make the list doesn’t need to be done, and you can spend more time to practice self-care.

Modify tradition
After losing a loved one, the idea of maintaining certain traditions or customs may seem too hard to handle. The idea may arouse feelings of sadness or loss that you want to avoid. However, the loss of a loved one should not prevent you from enjoying a holiday or your previous traditions– you may just need to modify them a bit. For example, if the idea of not buying a gift for your loved one this year saddens you, buy a gift that they would have liked and give it to someone who would otherwise not have a gift. If you still celebrate with other family members and opening gifts on Christmas is too hard on you, suggest exchanging gifts a few days after Christmas or on New Year’s. It’s all dependent on what is best for you and your family– don’t be afraid to change things up!

Accept the tears– both happy and sad
Of course, there is nothing you can do to completely erase the sadness that losing a loved one adds to the holidays. You may feel overwhelmed at random times, and tears may come more freely than you think. This is natural and completely okay. However, it’s important to also look past this sadness and remember the happy memories you have of your loved ones. Whether it’s a favorite gift they were given, their favorite holiday movie, or a silly story, try to remember the wonderful moments you shared with them. Instead of becoming downtrodden with grief, celebrate all the joy your loved one brought you during their life!

Focus on the real reason behind the season
Above all this, remember why we celebrate in the first place: Jesus Christ. Focusing on the spiritual element of the holidays can help us put into perspective whatever suffering or hardships we are going through and place them within the context of Christ. Spending some alone time with the Lord and praying for your departed loved one may help you feel more connected during the holiday season. If you’re comfortable, light a candle in honor of your loved one– not as a memorial, but rather as a reminder of the light and joy they brought you while they were on Earth; let that light remind you also of God’s eternal light and the promise of hope he leaves in all our hearts.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Information gathered from: Getting Through the Holidays When You’ve Lost a Loved One by Darcie D. Sims.

All Saints, All Souls, and Cemetery Sunday: What are the differences?

While many of us “cradle Catholics” have grown up with the expectation of attending Mass the day after Halloween in observance of All Saints Day, I’m sure that there are some of us, myself included, that never really stopped to ask why All Saints Day was a holy day of obligation. Even more so, I was never aware that there are two other major Catholic observances in the month of November: All Souls Day and Cemetery Sunday. While all related, these three days are actually quite different, and each offers its own special intention. Keep reading to learn more about these three holy days, how they’re different, and how you can celebrate them.

 

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All Saints Day (November 1st)

As I mentioned, All Saints Day (officially named Solemnity of All Saints) is the most well-known of the three November observances. All Saints Day is meant to be a celebration of the souls that are currently in Heaven. These souls include both known saints recognized by the church, and those that are unknown. Being a Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints Day is celebrated with a special Mass.

All Souls Day (November 2nd)

Not to be confused with All Saints Day, All Souls Day is a day dedicated to souls who are not in Heaven. This day is a chance for those of us here on Earth to offer prayers and intentions for those souls in purgatory– that they may find eternal peace and rest in the Kingdom of Heaven. While not a holy day of obligation, All Souls Day is an opportunity for all Catholics to pray for our departed brothers and sisters.

Cemetery Sunday (First Sunday in November)

Cemetery Sunday, while closely related to All Saints and All Souls Day, is rather unique. Proposed by the National Catholic Cemetery Conference in 1978, the day focuses on the physical location where souls are laid to rest: the cemetery. Catholic cemeteries are sacred ground, as they are blessed upon their founding, and they are treated as an extension of the Church itself. Therefore, Cemetery Sunday is a day dedicated to those buried in a Catholic cemetery. The day is normally celebrated with a special Mass on cemetery grounds. Cemetery Sunday is a spiritual way to honor family members who have passed, and provides families with a special opportunity to visit the graves of their dearly departed loved ones.

The Catholic Cemeteries Association will be celebrating Cemetery Sunday on November 5th, 2017.  Mass will be said at the following locations at 3pm:

Cemetery Mass Location Celebrant
All Saints, Northfield Nativity Mausoleum Rev. Luigi Miola
All Souls, Chardon Service Building Rev. Dave Woost
Calvary, Cleveland Main Office Rev. Thomas O’Donnell
Calvary, Lorain Our Lady of Guadalupe Mausoleum Rev. Robert J. Glepko
Holy Cross, Akron Sacred Heart of Jesus Mausoleum Rev. Thomas McCann
Holy Cross, Brook Park Service Building Rev. Michael Troha
St. Joseph, Avon St. Joseph Mausoleum Rev. Gerald Keller
St. Mary, Cuyahoga Hts. Service Building Rev. Andrew Panek

 

For more information, please email Rhonda Abrams at rabrams@clecem.org

Visit our event page on Facebook here.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Padre Pio: Seeing through the suffering

Saint Padre Pio is one of the world’s most popular and well-loved Saints. His story is one of true dedication and devotion of God, and his spiritual gifts still stun even the most secular of scholars. What’s even more amazing is that Pio is a relatively modern saint, having only passed away in the 1960’s! Padre Pio is proof that Saints still walk among us—keep reading to learn more about his remarkable life and legacy.

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Padre Pio was born on May 25th, 1887 in a small town in southern Italy. His parents were two peasant farmers who worked hard to care for their 5 children. Pio was the second eldest, with one older brother and three younger sisters. With his parents being devote Catholics, the whole family was held to a strict Catholic lifestyle which included attending daily Mass and praying the Rosary each night. While his parents were illiterate, they memorized scripture and would tell Pio and his siblings stories from the Bible by memory. Pio felt a special connection to Jesus and Mary from a young age, and it’s said that he could see and speak to Jesus, Mary, and his guardian angel as a child. He simply thought that all children had this ability—little did he know that he was selected by God to accomplish great things! Because of this upbringing, Pio knew by the time he was five that he wanted to devote his entire life to Christ. He began taking penances in his youth. His most notable penance including sleeping on the stone floor and using a stone as a pillow which his mother, as you can imagine, highly discouraged!

While Pio’s childhood was certainly rich in spiritual connection and growth, it was also one of great physical hardship. As a young boy, Pio contracted several severe illnesses such as typhoid fever and gastroenteritis. These illnesses were only the beginning of what would be a life-long health struggle for Pio, but this didn’t stop him from following God’s will. As he grew older, Pio started to experience prolonged visions and ecstasies where he would spend time with the Lord. This ignited his desire to enter into religious life, and at the young age of 15 he was officially made a member of the Capuchin Order of Friars as a novice. On January 22, 1903, he took the Franciscan habit and the name Friar Pio (his baptized name was Francisco) in honor of Pope St. Pius. As a friar, he took simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

When Pio was 17, he was struck with another bout of bad health and those around him started to notice changes in him. While praying, he seemed to be completely detached from reality and in some instances there were reports of him levitating off the ground. This, again, was only a precursor to what was to come throughout his life. His health continued to decline, and he was sent home to stay with his family to recover. His illness, however, did not prevent him from being ordained a priest in 1910. While normally this would require Pio to enter immediately into community life, due to his poor health he was permitted to stay with his family until 1916, when his health progressed enough and he was able to move to Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary. He would stay at this friary for the rest of his life, aside from his brief time serving in World War I in the Medical Corps (While Pio was enlisted and served for a few months, he was quickly sent home due to his poor health.)

 

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Padre Pio celebrating Mass

 

It wasn’t until 1918 that Pio would receive the spiritual gift that would spark his worldly fame. It was in 1918 while hearing confessions that Padre Pio received the stigmata. The marks on his hands, feet, and sides would stay with him his entire life, and they reportedly smelled of flowers or perfume. The occurrence was painful, and later would be accompanied by transverberation, which is a piercing of the heart that indicates a union with God. While very painful, Pio accepted these graces from God and understood that to be in pain was to be in union with Christ. While he didn’t prefer to make any of this suffering public (Pio even wore mittens to hide the marks on his hands), news of Padre Pio spread throughout the world, and he soon became a sign of hope for those recovering from the first World War. Countless doctors and laypeople like came to examine his marks but no one could offer a logical explanation. It was clear that Padre Pio was a true servant of Christ—and the world was taking notice!

Throughout the rest of his life, Pio was known for possessing several spiritual gifts including healing of the sick, bilocation, levitation, prophesizing, extreme fasting from both sleep and food, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, and the ability to convert people. He became a very famous priest and would later become a spiritual director. His focus always remained in walking in Christ’s footsteps. He even outlined five rules for spiritual growth which were:

1. Weekly confession
2. Daily communion
3. Spiritual Reading
4. Meditation
5. Examination of conscience.

One of his most famous quotes “Pray, hope, and don’t worry” was adopted by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Sadly, Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81 due to health complications. It wasn’t long before he was declared a Saint on June 16, 2002 after several miracles were attributed to him. It was also discovered during his canonization that his body was incorruptible. Saint Padre Pio and his wise teachings are something we should all strive to live by—his ability to see past his suffering and keep his focus on Christ is just one of the many reasons why he is revered around the world today.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

St. Therese Lisieux: A Subtle Road to Sainthood

We often hear stories of Saints performing grandiose miracles, partaking on dramatic journeys and accomplishing impossible tasks.While these stories are inspiring and motivate us to better ourselves, sometimes they can make us feel as if becoming saints ourselves is unachievable. However, some saints such as St. Therese Lisieux prove that sometimes sainthood is gained through simple tasks. Keep reading about this amazing saint and her subtle road to sainthood.

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Born on January 2, 1873 to Marie and Louis Martin, St. Therese was immediately immersed in an extremely devout and faithful environment. Both of her parents were strict Catholics. In fact, when Marie and Louis were first married, they lived as a religious brother and sister, practicing a marriage of celibacy. However, their confessor pressed them to discontinue this practice, and so the couple went on to have nine children. Of these nine, four would pass away before reaching adulthood. The five remaining children would all become nuns. Therese was the youngest.

Growing up St. Therese was held to the same religious standard as her older sisters and parents. This meant attending daily Mass at 5:30am, observing religious fasts, and partaking in daily liturgical prayer. As a family, they would often visit the sick and suffering and often opened their home or table to those who needed nourishment. As a young child, Therese was known for being happy yet fragile. She would cry easily and seemed to feel emotions more intensely than her family members. When Therese’s mother died in 1877, Louis moved the family to Lisieux which is where St. Therese would start schooling and continue her religious journey.

The loss of her mother signified the beginning of what St. Therese would later call the saddest days of her life. Starting school when she was eight years old, Therese was often bullied because she was much younger than her classmates yet received very good grades. Therese also did not enjoy the loud and rowdy nature of the children at school. She would find places to hide when the situation overwhelmed her, and savored her time at home. She was very close to her older sisters and father, so when her sisters eventually began to join the local convent, it was very hard on Therese who felt as if she were losing her mother all over again. The ordeal upset Therese so much that she tried to join the convent. However, due to her young age, the prioress did not allow her to enter, but rather called her a “future daughter” and told her to return later in life.

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In addition to emotional stress, St. Therese also experienced physical ailments, mainly in the form of tremors brought on by her nervousness. It was later discovered that St. Therese also suffered from scruples, which other saints have also experienced. (Scruples is the condition of feeling overwhelming guilt and sorrow for the evils of the world, and the feeling of hopelessness of not being able to cure the world of evil). This time of sorrow and illness continued until Christmas Eve of 1886 when Therese had a revelation.

Therese recounted the night saying “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant… On that blessed night… Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood.” Therese was given the strength from God to leave behind her sensitivity and made huge steps toward becoming an adult. This sparked a new beginning for Therese, and the following year her father took her on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome. During this trip, Therese was given the opportunity to have an audience with Pope Leo XIII. Pope Leo blessed Therese, and she remained at his feet until the guards carried her out. After, Therese and her family visited several cities in Italy, giving her a plethora of new experiences and knowledge. This experience only heightened Therese’s desire to serve the Lord and upon her return to Lisieux in 1888 Therese became a Carmelite postulant.

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While St. Therese was so happy to be admitted into the convent, soon after entering she experienced another challenging time in her life. After suffering some a series of strokes, her father began to hallucinate and he was soon admitted to an asylum. As a cloistered nun, neither St. Therese nor any of her sisters, who were in the same convent, were permitted to visit their father. This was also followed by a dry period of prayer for St. Therese. This was partially due to her realization that as a cloistered nun she could not be an active missionary or perform the same acts as a priest. She dreamed of being a martyr and found it troubling to realize she would never perform great acts. However, she would soon realize her true vocation.

Until her untimely death on September 30, 1897, St. Therese dedicated her life to acts of love. No act was too small– be it volunteering for extra work, smiling at someone, or simply being cheerful and happy. Following her death, St. Therese’s sister Pauline collected Therese’s writings and compiled them into a book, which she sent to other convents. This made St. Therese quite famous, and by 1925 she was canonized. St. Therese is a wonderful example to all of us, proving how simple, kind acts can make a world of difference.

Post written by Katie Karpinski