$350,000 gives boost to seminarian education
The company that manages Catholic cemeteries in the Oakland diocese has donated $350,000 to aid seminarian education.
The annual cost of supporting a seminarian, including tuition, room and board, insurance and other expenses, is about $46,600, said Rev. Neal Clemens, vocations director. The diocese has 18 men currently attending seminaries.
CMS had its genesis in 2002 when Bishop Allen H. Vigneron asked business executive Robert Seelig to revitalize the money-losing cemeteries owned by the Oakland diocese.
The cemeteries were renovated and a complete set of funeral services were added, Seelig said.
At a time of grief, Seelig said, people don't know what they want, and it's sometimes hard for a secular competitor to know how to present those services to Catholics.
"At the moment of death, we confront our faith," Seelig said. "Who better to talk about faith than the Catholic Church?"
"It's reassuring to a Catholic family," he said, to be able to have funeral and mortuary or cremation services and the burial through one provider.
Historically, he said, the funeral business had become fragmented. "The Church is able to put it back together from a faith perspective so the funeral home, cemetery and Church are connected at the time of death."
Fewer people have a religious connection than they did two decades ago, he explained; younger people feel a discomfort with death and are less educated about what to do for a funeral, arranging a vigil, Mass and burial. Having the one-stop shop and packages at different price points allows families to bypass some of the discomfort.
"A lot of bishops are losing money on their cemeteries," Seelig said. And as more people choose lower-cost cremation — 55 percent in California — funeral companies' operating expenses have increased as revenue has declined.
The one-stop shop plan worked so well that in 2011, Seelig asked Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone if he could branch out. With five other executives, Seelig started CMS, which now manages or consults on funeral operations in 16 dioceses, including Sacramento, Detroit, Spokane, Puerto Rico and Monterey.
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