by Antonina Zielinska
To observe Memorial Day, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio celebrated a Field Mass May 30 at St. Charles Cemetery, Farmingdale. Auxiliary bishops and vicars celebrated similar services in other diocesan cemeteries.
Although heavy rain in the early morning threatened to keep people away, hundreds gathered to pray for those who served in the armed forces and those buried at the cemetery operated by the Brooklyn diocese.
“Our prayer for them has power,” the bishop told the congregation during his homily. “We are never closer to them than when we come to Mass.”
Magdalen Hull came with her mother, Geneve Hull, to pray for her father who served in World War II. Geneve survived the war in Poland and came to Mass to pray for her husband who fought to end the war that crippled most of the world. He was deployed to join the American troops one year after he came to the U.S.
“He was proud to serve and to be an American,” Magdalen said.
For others, the suffering that came with the loss of a loved one was still fresh.
Dr. Hridya Suman came with her family to pray for her brother who died two months ago.
“We are still in mourning,” she said. “It is still very hard. So we are happy that there is a Field Mass here on the cemetery grounds.”
Although, Dr. Suman spoke of the difficulty of dealing with her family’s loss, she spoke of it with a radiance of hope. Expecting a newborn any day, she was still able to enjoy the presence of her family and of the community who came to pray together.
The sentiment of both loss and hope was evident throughout the Memorial Day ceremonies.
Mary Ann Patricola and her mother, Marion Quellohorst, came to the Mass to pray for family members buried there. Quellohorst said that she was glad to have been able to pray at an outdoor Mass where everyone can share their suffering out in the open, just like Jesus shared His passion in the view of the public. She also said she kept those who served in the armed forces in her prayers.
“It’s a day to remember the soldiers,” she said. “It’s an American holiday.”
The Field Mass tent was surrounded by well-kept graves and mausoleums. Family members prayed and planted flowers at their loved ones’ burial sites.
After Mass, Ed and Florence Maher tended to the grave of their son. Florence said she was comforted by the bishop’s homily and the presence of so many faithful praying together.
St. Charles Cemetery is the fastest growing cemetery operated by the Brooklyn Diocese. To accommodate the growing needs of the staff, it opened a new service center, which the bishop blessed after Mass.
Stephen Comando, executive director for Catholic Cemeteries, said the center will help house the staff of about 20 people who take care of the 500 acres and help families through the process of burial and maintenance. The new center has rooms for private consultations. A chapel with stained-glass windows depicting the cross, resurrection, Mary and the Holy Trinity is nearly complete.
This center is the largest in the diocesan cemeteries, but St. John’s Cemetery, Middle Village, will continue to serve as the main office.
Msgr. Michael Reid, spiritual director for Catholic Cemeteries, said the work of the cemeteries is to provide people a sense of security.
“We want people to walk away with a sense that Catholic cemeteries are there for them and their families,” he said. “We want them to walk away with a sense of faith, hope and comfort.”