Bring them home to holy ground for All Souls Day.

That is the message and the simple goal of “Lay Them to Rest,” a new program at two Diocese of Madison cemeteries. Bring the cremated remains of your loved ones home to the consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery for interment, at no cost. It is the latest response to a growing Catholic Church problem: cremated bodies that don’t end up in a cemetery after the funeral.

“One question I asked when I started as director of cemeteries for the diocese was whether all Catholics were being buried in Catholic cemeteries,” said Damian X. Lenshek, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Madison. “The answer is ‘no’ for various reasons, but one that really stuck with me correlated with the increase in cremation. Specifically, more than half – some sources estimate much higher – of cremated remains are never laid to rest in a cemetery. Often they are retained in private residences until they become the property of the next generation.”

The Diocese of Madison will conduct committal rites for cremated remains November 7 at Resurrection Cemetery in Madison and Mount Olivet Cemetery in Janesville. Families can bring urns with cremated remains and have them entombed in a cremation crypt at each cemetery’s mausoleum. There is no cost, although advance registration is required. The deceased will be entered in the cemetery’s burial registry and family will then always know the location of their loved one’s final resting place. Bishop Donald J. Hying will preside at the committal rites.

The program’s goal is to ensure all the dead receive a proper burial, or what the Catholic Church calls a “reverent disposition” of the body. An unknown but potentially large percentage of cremated bodies repose on shelves, tables and mantles of family homes, in vaults at funeral homes and in municipal morgues— instead of buried in holy ground as the Church prescribes. In this they risk being forgotten, or treated with less than the respect that is due the remains of a person with God-given dignity.

The Madison program follows the lead of similar diocesan programs in Milwaukee, Detroit, Seattle, Denver, Lincoln, Nebraska, and other places. Catholic cemeteries are responding to this cremation crisis by removing the financial and logistical barriers to encourage families to properly bury their loved ones. The issue could easily involve many tens of thousands of cremated remains going back decades.

Read more at Catholic World Report

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