Recently I saw a news report regarding a local woman who came home from her grandmother’s funeral to find her home was broken into. Among the many treasures that she reported stolen was an urn that contained the cremated remains of her sister. The woman was quite distraught.
With the rapid increase in cremation rates in the United States, fewer and fewer families are choosing to perform the Corporal Work of Mercy of Burying the Dead. The traditional honor and respect shown to a deceased member of one’s family member occurs more often when a family is engaged in a traditional faith tradition.
The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) reports that cremation rates have doubled in the last 15 years in the United States. The biggest increases have been experienced in states that have fewer people identifying with organized religion.
Very often when asked what cemetery one will be buried in they respond with the fact that they will be cremated. Cremation is perfectly acceptable but is not the end decision for our faith family.
The Catholic Church no longer forbids cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching. Historically, families may have chosen cremation for reason of economics or convenience. Some families kept this secret for fear of having gone against the teachings of the church. This secret may still be present in an urn prominently displayed in the family’s home or may now be on the top shelf of the closet or stored in the attic.
The church allows cremation, and our faith calls us to treat the cremated remains with the same respect due to the body. The remains should be interred in the sacred grounds of a cemetery or entombed in a crypt or niche on the cemetery grounds.
Our Catholic Cemeteries are sacred places set aside by our church where the baptized remain at rest among their fellow companions in faith. The church is committed to caring for these sacred spaces perpetually.
If your family is in possession of the cremated remains of a loved one, you may make arrangements for the final disposition of those remains at any time, even many years after death. Contact any one of our Catholic Cemeteries though our website (www.SouthJerseyCatholicCemeteries.org) or through our toll free number (800-594-4980) and one of our counselors will be able to advise as to the options available to you.
To have the cremated remains of a loved one disrespected or stolen is akin to reliving the loss of that loved one again. Bringing these cremated remains to their final disposition in a Catholic Cemetery will be a comfort to the family, knowing that they will be cared for until the end of times.
Marianne Linka is director of Cemeteries, Diocese of Camden.