Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, cuts the ribbon to open the new funeral center at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Lafayette. More than 500 people attended Mass celebrated by the bishop.
All: CHRIS SILVA/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Funeral center opens at Lafayette cemetery
The rose window from St. Francis de Sales Cathedral now graces the chapel.
The 8,000-square-foot funeral center also provides 709 niches for the interment of ashes.
On a peaceful autumn afternoon more than 500 Catholics joined Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, in Lafayette's Queen of Heaven Cemetery to dedicate a new funeral center that will help Catholics reverently carry out one of the corporal works of mercy, to bury the dead.
The new 8,000-square-foot center and columbarium provide improved facilities to assist families with funeral and interment needs in the diocesan cemetery.
The heart of the center is a chapel that seats 150, focused toward a powerful image of St. Cecilia.
The image is the center of a beautiful rose window that had been mounted above the choir loft in Oakland's first cathedral, the St. Francis de Sales church. That cathedral was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the 123-year-old rose window was carefully removed before the building was taken down. The St. Cecilia window has now come back to use in the funeral center.
Families will use the new chapel at Queen of Heaven for prayer vigils before and interment services after funeral Masses in their home parish church. The center has additional spaces large enough for families to hold memorial receptions associated with the interment.
The new center also has 709 burial niches where families can inter ashes of the deceased.
In his dedication Mass homily Bishop Barber noted that we "are looking for solace and peace after the fatiguing conflicts of life."
The bishop recalled the Old Testament account of God's faithful man Job, and Satan's aggressive effort to turn Job away from God. Satan destroyed Job's wealth and killed his children, yet Job resisted the devil's test and remained faithful to God.
"We know that Satan will never be victorious over God," Bishop Barber concluded.
In the Catholic tradition the cemetery "is consecrated ground," Bishop Barber said, emphasizing that "this is a temporary place of rest. We hold onto the sleeve of Jesus so that you and I will rise from the dead."
Respectful burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy for Catholics, but also can be a time of grief and stress for families.
Catholic Management Services (CMS) operates the 13 Catholic cemeteries in the Oakland diocese. CMS is a ministry of the diocese, established to assist Catholics in burying the dead.
The cemeteries serve several functions in addition to burials. They are sanctuaries for the living as places to celebrate faith and also to mourn. Many have weekly rosaries and monthly Masses. They encourage Catholics to preplan their needs, reducing stress when a loved one dies and also making advance decisions that can save money.
CMS was established by former Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron, who headed the diocese from 2003 to 2009, to strengthen its cemetery and funeral assistance to Catholics.
When he became archbishop of Detroit, he found a similar need there, and asked for assistance from the Oakland bishop at the time, Salvatore Cordileone.
From that start CMS has grown as a nonprofit corporation under the Oakland bishop into a service that now manages cemetery and related funeral services for 15 U.S. dioceses. In addition to operating Catholic cemeteries it also provides funeral assistance. It emphasizes to Catholics the benefit of pre-need planning, which can reduce costs and guide people with less stress when a family member dies.
"Part of our mission is evangelizing our faith," said Jim Peterson, West Coast director for CFCS. "Many people are looking to come back to the faith. As part of our grief ministry we have an opportunity to help them."
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