by Rita Piro
November is well known as the time of year when the Church remembers her dead. Right on the heels of the joyous All Saints Day, Nov. 1, comes the more somber All Souls Day, Nov. 2, when we remember those we love who have been called home to God.
On Nov. 5, we observe National Catholic Cemetery Sunday, a day set aside to encourage us to pray, to remember and to visit the gravesites of our departed friends and family.
The Diocese of Brooklyn owns and operates four major cemeteries: Mt. St. Mary in Flushing, St. John’s in Middle Village, Holy Cross in Brooklyn and St. Charles/Resurrection in Pinelawn in Suffolk County. Five cemeteries within the diocese – Most Holy Trinity, St. Mary Star of the Sea, St. Monica, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and Trinity – are parish cemeteries maintained by the diocese.
Many of us this week will make the trip to one or more of these cemeteries to visit the burial sites of those we loved in life. On their graves we will place flowers and flags, holy cards and prayers, maybe even a picture or a child’s crayon drawing. We will remember the times we shared, say we still think of them every day, and ask them to pray for us, as we pray for them.
The next time you find yourself at one of our cemeteries, take a few moments and look around you. There will most likely be uniformed field workers with shovels and heavy equipment preparing new graves, tending to old ones, while caring for the finely manicured grounds and carrying out the many daily operations.
As you enter and leave the cemetery, you will probably pass by the main office where men and women are carefully handling all the necessary and important paperwork involved with each burial, helping families to make arrangements while offering guidance, comfort and solace, responsibilities for which they are well-trained and prepared.
These are the employees of the Catholic Cemeteries Office. Seldom are they thought of or remembered for the part they play in helping us to deal with the passing of a loved one. Like any other position in the Catholic Church, theirs is a ministry whose main purpose is to bring us closer to God and to God’s people. It is a ministry dedicated to providing guidance, support, comfort and resources at a time when we are dealing with profound grief, shock, confusion, and even despair.
As Catholics we are compelled to honor our dead through both the corporal and the spiritual works of mercy, not to mention love. This All Souls Day and Catholic Cemetery Sunday, as we pray at a Mass or at a gravesite, let us also remember our faithful and faith-filled Catholic Cemetery employees whose work and support carries us through to the end of the earthly existence of those we love.
For more about the Catholic Cemeteries of Brooklyn, including historical background, individual cemetery information and practical guides for funerals and burials, visit www.ccbklyn.org.