Understanding the church’s teaching on burying the dead

Understanding the church’s teaching on burying the dead

Msgr. Peter Joyce, pastor of Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Marmora, presents “Ad Resurgendum cum Christo” (“To Rise with Christ”), an instruction “regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation” at an event sponsored by the Catholic Cemeteries office. It was held March 21 at Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Sicklerville.
Photo by James A. McBride

The Diocese of Camden’s Office of Catholic Cemeteries sponsored a workshop last month for parish staff and local funeral directors to better understand and implement the office’s mission to aid families grieving the loss of a loved one.

In separate, simultaneous sessions for parish staff and funeral staff, priests and lay ministry leaders explained church teaching and shared ways to work with families during difficult times.

Held March 21 at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Sicklerville, the day began with a prayer service led by Father Robert E. Hughes, vicar general.

In a letter welcoming diocesan personnel and industry professionals, Marianne Linka, director of cemeteries, noted that the workshop was taking place only days after the feast of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, March 17, the patron saint of funeral directors.

“He requested the body of Jesus Christ after the crucifixion and arranged for a proper burial in a tomb, although one that was only occupied for a brief time,” she said.

“The example of this ‘virtuous and righteous man’ (LK 23:50) is one to be followed in assuring that the corporeal remains of the faithful be properly buried,” she said. “This work, along with the spiritual works of comforting the grieving and praying for the living and the dead, we do together.”

In addition to representatives of the Cemeteries Office, speakers included Andres Arango, Bishop’s Delegate for Hispanic Ministry; Sister Bonnie McMenamin, co-director of Ministry With the Deaf and Steve Obarski and Damaris Thillet, director and associate director of Worship and Christian Initiation.

They spoke to the 55 people in attendance (10 from eight local funeral homes, and 45 from 20 parishes) on understanding Latino cultural practices; serving those with disabilities; and guiding grieving families through the funeral liturgy and the proper use of hymns and readings.

Another presenter, Msgr. Peter Joyce, pastor of Marmora’s Resurrection Parish, began the afternoon with a presentation on Ad Resurgendum Cum Christo (To Rise With Christ), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 2016 document regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the beloved’s ashes in the case of cremation.

Professing belief in the resurrection of the dead and affirming that the human body is an essential part of a person’s identity, the Catholic Church insists that the bodies of the deceased be treated with respect and laid to rest in a consecrated place.

Attendees received printed guidelines on music at funeral Masses, “words of remembrance” at a funeral Mass, and other issues.

Father Joseph Szolack, pastor of Our Lady of Hope in Blackwood, sat in on the workshop with fellow priests and staff members from his community, and found insights, especially in serving the Hispanic faithful at his church.

“It’s important to understand the Latino culture” and how their practices differ from others at the parish, he said, such as burying the dead earlier, and a more celebratory view of death, when the loved one enters the kingdom of God.

“This is our moment to help them,” he said. “We are coming to them at a vulnerable time in their lives.”

Patrick Healey, of Gloucester City’s McCann-Healey Funeral Home, found the event “phenomenal,” as it brings together the Catholic Church and funeral services, in a common goal of acting on the corporal work of mercy where Jesus calls all to bring love and dignity to the deceased and grieving survivors.

“This workshop keeps communication open,” he said.

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