Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic Cemeteries initiates remembrance program for abandoned, cremated remains

Story and photo by Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the August 15, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)

Bishop Cupich prays over the cremated remains to be inurned at Holy Cross Cemetery’s Holy Angels Remembrance Crypt. At left are Cemeteries’ staff members: Dominican Sister Judith Nilles, Deacon Craig Blomgren, and Jim Falkner. (IR photo)

In a simple, dignified moment on a warm summer’s afternoon, the cremated, abandoned remains of nine individuals were interred in the Crypt of the Holy Angels at Holy Cross Cemetery in north Spokane.

In a phone interview prior to the committal, Jim Falkner, Executive Director of Catholic Cemetery and Funeral Services of Spokane, said the free interment was for those cremated remains who had been abandoned.

As the Spokane Catholic Cemeteries considered implementing the program, staff called local funeral homes. One funeral home responded with eight remains; friends of a deceased individual heard about the program and brought in the ninth.

A permanent record of who is interred is maintained by the cemetery. The ministry will be available at Holy Cross and at St. Joseph Cemetery in Spokane Valley.

The program, modeled on a similar effort by the Catholic cemeteries in the Oakland Diocese, is a response to the rise of cremation as a preferred option for the deceased. Too often, the cremated remains are not disposed of properly, if at all.

According to a printed explanation of the Holy Angels program, the Church’s teaching is that cremated remains should be buried or entombed during the Rite of Committal, after the funeral. “Scattering the remains, keeping them at home, or dividing them among various family members is not the reverent disposition that the Church requires,” say the Cemeteries’ materials.

Bishop Cupich led this first committal service. Cemetery staff and members of the Cemeteries Board placed the containers of cremated remains on a wooden platform that conveyed the remains into the crypt.

Going forward, the committal ceremonies will be scheduled as needed. “Probably at least quarterly,” said Falkner.

“We think it’s a great addition to our ministry, a great ministry to the community,” said Falkner, calling it a “dignified committal” for anyone. “It’s part of our ministry.”

Holy Cross already has a “Garden of Peace,” an area dedicated in 2003 to the inurnment of unclaimed cremated remains from the Medical Examiner’s office. The unclaimed remains of nearly 200 people were inurned there Dec. 8, 2003.

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