I have been honored to serve the local Catholic community as a Catholic cemetery employee for 43 years. I have spent most of my life in serving the dead and the families that are left behind. I am truly blessed that my occupation, burial of the dead, is a corporal work of mercy. Each day is an opportunity to extend the healing presence of the risen Lord into the lives of those who are grieving the death of a loved one. Everything the cemetery staff does each day from helping visitors find a grave to picking up trash found along the road is an occasion of grace for all of us. A kind word and taking time to listen can make a huge difference to someone who is grieving.
In recent weeks we have been confronted by a unique challenge caused by the social distancing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to protect everyone’s safety, the current maximum attendees at a cemetery committal service is limited to 10 family members. All committal services are held outdoors. This restriction is especially difficult when there is a large family and heartwrenching choices must be made regarding who is going to attend the service.
While the restriction is difficult, it is in place to protect everyone’s safety, including family members, clergy, funeral home personnel, and cemetery employees. The services of our funeral directors and cemeteries are essential to health and welfare of the entire community. If one individual catches the virus, the ripple effect of the required quarantine would have a huge negative impact in fulfilling our ministry of burying the dead.
During this time, our diocesan Catholic cemeteries have been fortunate to have both practical and spiritual support from the leaders and support staff of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. We have worked together as a team during these unusual times while looking toward a brighter tomorrow. I am extremely grateful to cemetery staff members who have continued our ministry of consolation. Face masks and social distancing may be the new norm for now, but our compassion and commitment to service are as strong as ever.
In anticipation of our return to normal, I would like to offer some practical advice to assist you. A unique service offered by Cathedral, All Saints, and Gate of Heaven cemeteries is our on line grave locator and memorial app. Go to the website at cdow.org/cemeteries and click the download our app icon. It loads directly to your computer, tablet, or cell phone to provide instant access. Once you have located a family member you can add your own memories including photos etc. All submissions are reviewed before posting. Your memories will be preserved for all to see for years to come.
If you have a maintenance request or wish to submit an informational request please use the “contact us” tab on the cdow.org/cemeteries site to submit a request. If you have delayed the final disposition of a loved one who has been cremated, we are also able to assist you whenever you are ready. There are several options available for your consideration. You may also take comfort by visiting the cemetery to pray for your departed ones. Be sure to observe social distancing and always be aware of your surroundings. Until further notice, cemetery visiting hours remain 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. every day.
Our Catholic cemeteries are places of honor and respect for all who have died. They are sacred places where we come to express our grief and hope for our departed loved ones. The consecrated grounds are fitting resting places for the earthly bodies that were temples of the Holy Spirit on earth and now await the final resurrection of the dead at the end of time. We are here to serve you now and in the years to come. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.