As the bereavement coordinator for the Catholic Cemeteries Association, I am blessed to be involved in many facets of the services our organization provides. One of the responsibilities that I covet the most is reciting the final prayers at a graveside. At times people are not able to secure a priest or deacon; they may be from out of town or they held services in another place and are bringing their loved one to their final resting place privately. There are also some occasions that our organization is instructed to “bury at cemetery convenience”. For whatever reason, family and friends are not able to attend the interment at the cemetery.
Being a Catholic organization, we are committed to the respect for all life from conception until death. The final commendation of the body is a very important part of the funeral rite and I take it very seriously. I am contacted when any cemetery office receives a request for such a burial, “Nancy, we need some prayers said.”
When I am standing by the graveside reciting our beautiful Catholic prayers, I am in awe of the gifts that our Creator has given us. I look around and I see the rolling hills of the cemetery and all of the saints that have been buried there. I see the care of the grounds and the personal memorials and decorations that have been placed so lovingly on the graves. I think of all the contributions that the faithfully departed have made to our world and that is pretty awesome!
There was one burial that will remain forever in my mind. The interment took place at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland. It was a cold, rainy day (imagine that!). There was no family present at this burial. I began to say the prayers and bless the grave, a little quicker than usual because of the weather. I began to recite the Lord’s Prayer and very quietly behind me there were two voices joining me. I turned around and there, with their heads bowed and their hands folded, were two of our field staff. Even though they were covered from head to toe in mud from their day’s work, they looked beautiful. I didn’t even notice the rain or cold anymore. It was a reaffirmation of our Mission. Faith, Hope and Remembrance.