Catholic Cemeteries are Sacred Places
As an “extension” of our church “community” Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries strives to acquaint all in our diocese with the purpose of our mission and our ministry towards the Corporal Work of mercy, “to care for the dead”. As a Not for Profit organization, our primary focus is service. Our service can reach out to Catholic families before a crisis or through a face to face information exchange that outlines the process involved with pre-planning and paying for services through one of our six catholic cemeteries or Queen of Heaven Mortuary. This educational exchange will highlight the traditional and spiritual advantages of burial or funeral arrangements administered by a church owned cemetery or funeral home.
As a Not for Profit Organization, when payment for service occurs, you can be assured our pricing is more favorable than most other providers. This favorable pricing philosophy is a core element of our mission of evangelization. No other cemetery provider will be able to offer burial in ground identical to that of the church with the affordability of a Not for Profit Ministry where the souls of our faithful departed are prayed for daily in accordance with the teachings of our church.
Christian Care for the Dead
The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit. (Catechism of the Catholic Church – 2300)
The Church, who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey’s end, in order to surrender him “into the Father’s hands.” She offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of his grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory. This offering is fully celebrated in the Eucharistic sacrifice; the blessings before and after Mass are sacramentals. (Catechism of the Catholic Church - 1683)
Two Places that are Sacred in Church Teachings
When we are baptized, we are brought to a sacred place, a Catholic church, and baptized into the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection - thus giving us the promise of eternal life. When one of our loved ones die, we take them to another sacred place, a Catholic cemetery, for burial in sacred ground while they await the resurrection of the dead and the promise of eternal life.
Cremation was not permitted by the Catholic Church until 1963. Almost 50 years after cremation became an acceptable method of final disposition, many Catholics remain unaware of the church's teachings. The Diocese of Phoenix began a year long process aimed at education about Catholicism and cremation.
At the recommendation of the Presbyteral Council and the Advisory Council of the Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries (DOPCCM) and with the approval of Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, DOPCCM created a commission to review existing policies and develop new educational materials that address the issue of cremation.
A committee consisting of DOPCCM's Advisory Council and staff, along with Spiritual Director of DOPCCM and Assistant Chancellor, Reverend Michael Diskin, was formed to create educational materials and investigate the best methods to disseminate information. After studying the Order of Christian Funerals, cremation policies available from other diocese and a variety of other resources, a brochure was created by the committee, approved by the Advisory Board of DOPCCM, the Presbyteral Council and the Bishop.
The underlying principle of the brochure and of the church's policies on cremation is the need to reverence the deceased person and honor their remains. "The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come." (OCF #417)
The first step in promulgating the brochure was a letter from Bishop Olmsted providing guidance to all priests on issues of cremation. In part, this letter states:
"While it may be understandable that a family has good reasons for not burying or entombing a loved one's cremated remains as immediately as the Church desires, there must be the firm intention expressed, on the part of those making the arrangements that the final disposition of the remains will be in conformity with the teaching of the Church. If the intention of those making the arrangements is to scatter the ashes, or later comingle them when another person has died, or to separate a person's ashes into various items of memorialization, parishes will have to inform those who are making the arrangements that the Church cannot cooperate by allowing the funeral rites of the Church to be celebrated. The principle that can never be violated is that "The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come." (OCF #417)
That principle, which cannot be compromised when responding to requests from those approaching you for the funeral rites of the Church, is to ask yourself; would this request be suitable if the body was present rather than the person's cremated human remains?"
The Bishop's letter was followed by a mailing of a large supply of brochures, in both Spanish and English to each parish along with a letter from the President of DOPCCM, Mr. Gary Brown. The supply of brochures was accompanied by a Funeral Intake form created by the committee which includes questions about disposition of the body. With those questions on the intake form, ministers are reminded to delve deeper into the question of the family's intentions regarding disposition of the cremated remains.
The final phase of the education sweep saw supplies of the brochure mailed to all hospitals, hospices, mortuaries and crematories in the Diocese, along with a letter from the Bishop. Supplies of the brochures are available at no cost as part of DOPCCM's ministry to reverently bury the dead of the Diocese.
The brochure along, with staff of DOPCCM are a resource for churches unanswered questions about cremation. Bereavement Care Training classes provided by DOPCCM for ministers working with the bereaved in the parishes also include training on Catholic Cremation policies.
For a copy of the brochure, or supplies for your organization, please contact Debbie Reed at (602) 267-1329 x 164 or firstname.lastname@example.org.