Catholic Cemeteries aims to help families inter cremated remains

| September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

As cremation grows in popularity, more and more people — including Catholics — are keeping cremated remains in their homes, said Catholic Cemeteries Director Joan Gecik. Many people with cremated remains intend eventually to inter them, but for various reasons have yet to do it. Others inherit the remains of a loved one and aren’t sure what to do with them.

“People feel, ‘Well, I’ll make the decision eventually,’ but ‘eventually’ can wind up being years, or they (the remains) can be abandoned,” Gecik said.

Gecik hopes The Catholic Cemeteries can help people bury the cremated remains of a loved one through a new initiative, Bringing Them Home. Through Oct. 2, the organization is accepting cremated remains for interment during an Oct. 24 committal service at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights. Archbishop Bernard Hebda will preside.

According to the Cremation Association of North America, by 2025 an estimated 48% of Americans who die will be cremated. Last year, nearly 70% of Minnesotans who died were cremated, according to The Catholic Cemeteries, which manages five metro-area Catholic cemeteries and provides consultation to parish-owned cemeteries. The Catholic Church teaches that cremated remains must be treated with the “fundamental dignity of the human person,” and that those remains should be interred.

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A Catholic Cemeteries document about the Bringing Them Home initiative states “that we protect and secure the things we hold dear. Yet, we find cremated remains left in attics, closets, garages, storage facilities and even Goodwill stores. Some are left abandoned at church doors or never picked up from funeral homes. Some people scatter the cremated remains at a lake cabin, bury them in their own back yard, or dump them on a relative’s grave at a cemetery. Some are made into jewelry, tattoo ink or put into bullets. None of these methods show respect for one who was baptized into a community of love — one who was a child of God.”

Gecik said that while cremated remains should be treated with the same respect and reverence as an intact body, most people have good intentions when they delay interment.

“Sometimes their grief makes them want to hold on to the cremated remains because then they feel that person is closer to them. And they have every intention of doing something with the cremated remains, but as time goes on, it’s just one of those things on a list that never gets done,” she said.

It’s her hope that the Bringing Them Home initiative motivates families to put their plans into action, and that it assists people who have received remains but have been uncertain what to do with them.

Through the initiative, families can have a permanent resting place for their loved one’s remains and peace of mind that those remains will be cared for in perpetuity, Gecik said. The cost is $200, hundreds to thousands of dollars less than the typical cost for interment of cremated remains, she said.

To be eligible for the Bringing Them Home initiative, cremated remains must have been held for at least five years, or be those of someone who died this year of COVID-19. They need not be Catholic. Additional requirements include the full name of the deceased and death date, authorization from the legal next of kin and a copy of the cremation certificate (if available). Once the remains are interred, they will be unable to be disinterred.

The Catholic Cemeteries has dedicated a crypt for the cremated remains, and those interred there will be memorialized in the Book of Remembrance in the Chapel Mausoleum.

People who are interested in the initiative need to make an appointment with a Catholic Cemeteries family service counselor, who will guide them through the process and paperwork.

Because of COVID-19, the Oct. 24 committal service is not open to the public, but it will be recorded and made available on The Catholic Cemeteries’ website, catholiccemeteries.org.

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