Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
"Catholic Cemeteries to Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services"
by Bishop Blase J. Cupich
(From the October 18, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
Earlier this month the Board of Directors of Catholic Cemeteries announced a new name: “Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services of Spokane.” As Jim Falkner, the Executive Director of our cemeteries, explained, “this rebranding and refocusing provides us with a unique opportunity to improve and broaden our end-of-life services for our Catholic Community.”
I welcome this new development and am pleased to hear that plans are in place to more widely publicize the important services our cemetery organization offers. In time, these services will include educational opportunities ranging from end of life decisions and care to planning funeral services.
These new and extended initiatives are needed more than ever today, given the confusion and misunderstanding in society about the meaning of death and dying. Such confusion can place people at a great disadvantage when facing decisions about end of life care for a loved one. My February, 2011 article in the Inland Register, “Preparing for Death and Caring for the Dying: A Believer’s Response,” was dedicated to this topic. There I offered some moral guidelines for these important questions. Since that time I expanded my comments on this topic in a video on our diocesan website: www.dioceseofspokane.org.
But people have other questions when it comes to death and dying, for which the newly established Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services of Spokane can provide help and insight to think through the various issues involved. For instance, people today are struggling with the issue of choosing cremation over traditional burial. What is the right decision and how does one come to the right one for their family members? While one can in good faith choose cremation, it is important to have available professional and skilled personnel, like those at our cemetery offices, as mourning family members think through the options, including the benefits of interring those we love in sacred ground.
This important ministry of providing guidance to the faithful is especially pivotal when we look at some statistics, which reveal a growing trend that devalues interment in a cemetery. Currently, the cremation rate in Spokane County is 75 percent. This is compared to a current rate of 40.6 percent nationally, which is expected to grow to 65 percent by 2030. The reasons most often cited for choosing cremation are the cost and environmental concerns. At the same time, it is chilling to learn that less than 25 percent of cremated remains are being interred in a cemetery. The rest are either scattered or taken by someone, only to be forgotten or neglected with the passage of time.
What will all of this mean in the long run for the future generations’ understanding and attitudes about memorializing our loved ones, or gathering to pray for them on important days, as we do for instance on Memorial Day and All Souls Day? Will this trend rob future generations of the powerful rituals in our tradition of commending the dead to God by walking with them to their final resting place? Our Catholic Cemeteries provide us with the blessing of gathering on holy ground, where the living meet the dead crossing that mysterious divide between time and eternity.
The Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services of Spokane is an important new development for our local Church and I very much welcome all that this new arrangement will offer our people.
For more information please contact:
© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved