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Farewell to a slain soldier

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Holy Names Univ. receives $1 million for scholarships from deceased benefactor

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Unprecedented challenges in Haiti’s future

Catholic leaders
outline steps for Haitian adoptions

Catholic radio station in Haiti returns after studio destroyed

Mexican church officials call for change of strategy against cartels

Why I became a priest:
A pawn in the hands of our High Priest for 66 years

Protest walk against female infanticide in India set for S.F. and other cities, March 6

Conference to explore political, social crises in Israel, Palestine

VITA to offer free tax prep assistance

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placeholder February 22, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
Diocesan cemeteries start online obituary service

Innovation is a keyword for the funeral and cemetery services in the Oakland Diocese.

Four years ago, the diocese became only the third in the United States to operate its own mortuary and the first to provide cremation services. Now it may be the first Catholic diocese to offer a website where the bereaved may post obituaries, tributes and remembrances of the deceased.

For Robert Seelig, director of Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services (CFCS), it is another way the Church can help those who are dealing with the details of funeral planning during a time of grief.

“This service is one of the ways that we are trying to assist with a simple and practical approach” to honoring loved ones who have died, he said of the website, www.CatholicObituaries.org.

“The funeral process seems like a maze to most people,” Seelig said. “Some try to simplify the process by eliminating steps. Having no obituary, no visitation, combining the vigil and funeral Mass into one event are more common today than ever before. . . . We see the need to anticipate the choices families have to make and to change the process.”

Taking shortcuts in funeral planning can impede the consolation of the bereaved, he believes, and the process of writing an obituary is part of the grieving process.

“These little steps we take in burying our loved ones are very healthy for us. When we skip some of these steps, we often fail to resolve some of the feelings,” Seelig explained. “People often grieve for a very long time or don’t ever come to grips with their feelings because part of the process was cut out.”

At the root of writing an obituary is “the opportunity to record important information that marks the identity of a family member for all those in the community — where we come from, who we are married to, who our children and grandchildren are, and important life events,” he said.

Although an online obituary is not a panacea for grief, it does grant mourners a way to share their memories of the deceased openly and interactively — something a newspaper obituary cannot do, he said. It is also a useful tool that makes a local obituary immediately accessible by friends and family who are separated by time and distance.

Survivors are also free to print and mail the obituary to anyone who would be interested in the funeral arrangements and tribute and do not have Internet access.

A paid obituary in local daily newspapers is very expensive. A 300-word obituary and photo published in the Contra Costa Times for two days would cost approximately $490 while the same obituary in the Oakland Tribune would run nearly $600. On CatholicObituaries.org, the obituary would be published online at no charge when CFCS is involved in the funeral arrangements. Otherwise, a nominal fee would apply.

Here’s how it works: To create an online obituary for a loved one, call the cemeteries office at (510) 537-6600. A staff member will take the necessary information and guide you through the process of composing a suitable obituary that pays appropriate tribute to the deceased. The text usually will be posted on the website the same day.

A photo of the deceased may appear with the tribute if the individual placing the obituary sends a photo in either digital or print form.

The name of the deceased will appear in a list of recent obituaries on the CatholicObituaries.org home page for 30 days. By clicking on the name of the deceased, a website visitor may view the obituary for that individual. Those no longer listed among the recent obituaries can be found through a simple search function.

Website visitors may enter their brief remembrances of the deceased, which are posted daily in the guest book section below the obituary. Cemeteries office staff will filter any spam or other inappropriate content from all submissions before they appear online.

The “feedback mechanism” that Internet technology provides can be of great consolation to those affected by a death. “Each expression of love is important to our own grieving,” Seelig said.

He noted how the family and friends of a recently deceased gentleman have used the tribute and guest book for an outpouring of affection and condolences. One visitor even left a link to a YouTube video of an interview with the dearly departed that was recorded a month before his death.

Seelig believes the online tributes and remembrances tie in well with Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person and reverence for the body.

“Our Christian tradition for funerals is being tested by the pressures of modern society on families,” he said. “For CFCS, we’ve realized that we need to listen to the challenges that families face today.”

Just as importantly, he said, there is a need to connect the entire funeral process to our Catholic faith — which is precisely why the diocese opened its own mortuary.

“If we want to reinforce the wisdom of the Church, we need to make our liturgical traditions fit together better, especially in the face of challenges,” Seelig said. “Ultimately, families are seeking a connection to our Church traditions.”

For details, visit www.CatholicObituaries.org or call (510) 537-6600.

 
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