Memorial program invites families to bring cremated remains to a Catholic cemetery to be ‘laid to rest on sacred ground’
SOUTHFIELD — “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The invocation said during the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday prompts the faithful to have a penitent heart to begin Lent, but it’s also an appropriate reminder of the destination for one’s earthly body.
Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services is reminding families of the faithful that the remains of their loved ones — whether in the form or a fully-body burial or through cremation — are meant to be returned the ground, awaiting the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the body.
For that reason, CFCS Detroit — which operates six cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Detroit — is in the midst of its “Gather Them Home,” campaign, which invites families to bring the remains of loved ones to be buried at a Catholic cemetery at no cost.
“The Gather Them Home initiative is something that runs in conjunction with our All Souls Remembrance Program every third Friday of the month,” Deanna Cortese, director of outreach for Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, told Detroit Catholic. “We are asking families to bring their loved ones off the shelves, out of the closets and off the mantles and bring them back to the cemetery to be laid to rest on sacred and consecrated ground. We have a website, gatherthemhome.com, where they can learn more information.”
CFCS Detroit hosts its All Souls Remembrance Program every third Friday of the month at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield and Our Lady of Hope Cemetery in Brownstown Township, where families can bring cremated remains to be interred at no cost.
About 30 to 50 cremains are interred each month by families who do not have the financial resources for a full burial. The remains of unclaimed individuals are also interred during the monthly services.
“We believe in the sacredness of the body. Just as Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb, our bodies should be laid in sacred and consecrated ground,” Cortese said. “When Jesus comes back some day, we will be reunited with our bodies and our loved ones in heaven. It dates back to the time when Jesus was laid in the tomb.”
The third Friday services at Holy Sepulchre begin at 9 a.m. with Mass, during which cremains are brought before the altar and blessed while the burial rites are celebrated. Families are then invited to the lower level of the mausoleum, where the cremains are placed in the All Souls Remembrance crypt.
Once the crypt is full, the remains are then moved to be buried on the grounds of the cemetery. Cemetery staff keep records of where the remains of individuals are located, so families can know exactly where their relatives are.
Emily Manschot was at the Oct. 21 All Souls Remembrance service at Holy Sepulchre, laying her brother, Charles, to rest.
“It took us a long time to get him home,” Manschot said. “He passed away in the Philippines, and this chapter of our life is now closed. Our parents are buried in this cemetery, and I think our parents would be very happy Charles is with them.”
Manschot was with her two brothers, Mark and Steve, and two sisters, Cheryl and Sharron, along with their spouses, and her son, Eric, in what was a family affair for Charles, seeing him placed in his final resting place.
“It leaves your mind at peace that your loved one is in a safe place,” Manschot said. “My husband’s sister is in the same place, and it was very gracious of the cemetery to accept these people who could not afford to be buried in a regular grave.
“We are together here as a family, and God is taking care of us now,” Manschot added. “Soon, all of us will be in God’s care, when He chooses the time for us to come back home.”
CFCS Detroit’s Gather Them Home campaign coincides with the month of November and All Souls Day, Nov. 2, when Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron will celebrate Mass at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery at 9 a.m. After that Mass, more than 100 cremains will be placed in the All Souls Remembrance crypt.
“We recognize the month of November is All Souls Month,” Cortese said. “Throughout the month, we place vigil candles on graves of our loved ones and we have special prayers that happen. There is more of an awareness of a deepness of prayer during that month to remember that from dust we came, and from dust we shall return. But we have hope in the resurrection.”
The Nov. 2 Mass at Holy Sepulchre is one of three celebrations for All Souls Day, along with Masses at Our Lady of Hope Cemetery in Brownstown Township at 11 a.m. and St. Joseph Cemetery in Monroe at 2 p.m., where families can still bring cremains to be interred by calling Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services Detroit’s main office at (248) 350-1900.
In addition to the cemetery Masses, Archbishop Vigneron will celebrate a sung Mass for the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.
If cremains cannot be accepted in time for All Souls Day, families are encouraged to make use of the All Souls Remembrance services every third Friday of the month at Holy Sepulchre, as well as other programs organized by CFCS Detroit to remember the dead.
“We have several mission programs through CFCS beyond the All Souls Remembrance,” Cortese said. “We also have our Mother Teresa Program, a traditional full-body burial for those who can’t afford it, and the Precious Lives Program, for infants who pass away. All someone needs to do is call the office, and one of our family service advisers will meet with the family and walk them through every step of the process. We also invite them back and continue to provide care long after the burial.”
Families are also invited to take part in events such as the Day of the Dead celebration at Our Lady of Hope Cemetery on Oct. 29, or the monthlong All Souls Month Vigil Lights program, in which families are invited to decorate a luminary bag to honor a deceased loved one, which are then placed along the main driveway of the cemetery.
“We want families to come back to the cemetery and be with their loved ones,” Cortese said. “We know where they are (spiritually), but we say the cemetery is a place for the living. We invite them back and continue to pray for them. Every day, our staff prays for the people buried at our locations, and we pray for the families we work with when it comes to remembering their loved ones. That is what it means to offer care for a family long after the funeral.”