“We prepare the living for the life to come; we bury the dead in the Catholic tradition; and we comfort the living with compassion and care.”
The Catholic funeral provides courage and comfort for those mourning the death of a loved one. The Mass of Christian Burial especially expresses our faith in Jesus’ victory over death and our personal share in the resurrection. This is done through prayers and blessings, through scripture readings and music, through rituals and symbols. The more actively a family plans the ceremony, the more they are able to participate in the ceremony and therefore experience its consolation and strength.
“A Catholic cemetery is also a visible sign of our belief in the in the resurrection and recalls the unity of the living and the dead. Within this blessed environment, the love of Christ is manifested for all to see.”
In our mainly rural Diocese we have nineteen (19) parish communities with resident priest/pastors (three of them also have a priest/associate pastor). However, chancery documents indicate that we have some eighty (80) Catholic cemeteries within the territory of the Diocese.
Some of these cemeteries belong to larger parishes and are pastorally and administratively well managed from either the parish office or parish volunteer cemetery committees. But there is a majority of these cemeteries which were connected to small rural mission chapels which no longer exist. Therefore their usage for Catholic burials and their maintenance devolves to, either the nearest active parish or in some cases, the Diocese.
B. Cemetery Specific Policy:
1. Church Ownership
Cemeteries remain under the control of the parish, which remains in general charge of the land. All Catholic cemeteries are blessed so that all graves are considered to be in blessed grounds. Individual graves in a municipal or rural cemetery should be blessed if no portion of the land has been designated as a Catholic burial ground.
2. Plot size and encasements
As a general rule, the burial plot should be at least four feet six inches by nine feet six inches (137x290cm) and a plot for the burial of ashes should be at least two feet by two feet (60x60cm). Two sets of ashes may be buried on top of an existing grave with the permission of the family of the deceased. Ashes should be buried a minimum of eighteen inches (46cm) below the surface level of the soil. However, note that some families may choose to buy a plot for the burial of ashes.
Encasements are required for the burial of the body of the deceased. They may be available for the burial of ashes.
3. Decorations and Memorial Items
Families may place flowers, wreaths or other memorial items near the grave of a loved one. These should not interfere with the maintenance of the cemetery. Real or artificial flowers in good condition will remain at the graveside or the tombstone until such time as family members determine that they should be removed. However, flowers, wreaths or other memorial items that are a detriment to proper grass cutting or maintenance or are faded will be removed as a regular part of cemetery maintenance. All artificial flowers that are to be permanent should be affixed to the monument where it will be the responsibility of the family should these have to be removed or replaced.
4. Markers and Monuments
Markers are owned and are the responsibility of the family of the deceased. The markers may be re-aligned or leveled by the cemetery maintenance staff but the family must do any repairs or modifications. Unsafe markers may be removed only after the deceased’s family has been contacted and has refused to correct the situation.
The only markers allowed in most our cemeteries are the type known as pillow monuments or the flat types that must fit on the runner or sidewalk at the head of the graves. These markers are the safest and require minimum maintenance over the years and families should be encouraged to use these. Monuments may be up to a maximum height of 40 inches (100 cm.). These do not encourage vandalism and facilitate the care and maintenance of our cemeteries. However, the monuments must at all times be assessed for safety and should not present any hazard to those who may visit the cemetery. If the parish council so desires, it may allow other markers or monuments.
5. Cemetery Register
Each cemetery is to have a complete cemetery record, which should include a map of the plots, the names and owners of grave easements, notations of the amount paid and entries of burials (indicating the physical location where the deceased is buried and the plot number of the grave).
It is the parish priest (pastor) or his delegate who is responsible for maintaining cemetery registers and maintaining plot maps of the cemetery in order to identify burial plots. Note that cemetery plots are not sold, but the cemetery owner grants the right of burial to the owner of the easement.
No disinterment from the grave or removal of a body or cremated remains from a Catholic cemetery may be allowed without the consent in writing of the surviving husband, wife, or next to kin. Also required is the written permission or order from the owner of the easement of the grave, or his lawful representative, the approval of the Bishop or Vicar General or Chancery Office and the proper documents required by civil law.
There shall be no fee charges for plots that had already been reserved and paid.
Each parish is to set the fees. A suggested minimum for a burial plot in a cemetery that may no longer be attached to a church (e.g.: Therien, Warspite) will be $400.00 per burial.
The suggested minimum for plots in a cemetery attached to a parish (such as St. Paul, Morinville or Bonnyville) will be $300.00.
A suggested price for a plot for cremated remains will be $100.00.
These fees do not include the opening and closing of the plot.
However, if a new plot is sought, the price for the plot should remain the same as that charged for a burial of a body.
If a cemetery has a reserved area where smaller plots are available for the burials of ashes only, a minimum fee of $50.00 should be charged.
These fees will vary from parish to parish and may be much higher in newer cemeteries and may be dependant on the local price structure.
8. Perpetual Care Fund
Half of the fees collected from the sale of the plots are for the perpetual care of the cemetery and should be set aside in a Perpetual Care Fund, the interest of which shall be used only for the maintenance of the cemetery.
More information and guidance in regards of Funerals can be found in the Order of Christian Funeral published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Further regulations regarding the sale of cemetery supplies, disposition of remains, operation of cemeteries, mausoleum or columbarium can be found in the Cemeteries Act available at the diocesan offices or through the Queen’s Printer.
ADMINISTRATION POLICY ON DIOCESAN PROPERTY
FROM THE 2020 DIOCESE OF ST. PAUL HANDBOOK SECTION 6, NO. 5-8
A. PROPERTY INSURANCE
1. Since 1975 the Diocese of St. Paul insures, under a single set of policies, all the properties of the diocese and of the parishes. All of the arch/dioceses of Western Canada form a mutual insurance group called ASSET PROTECTION GROUP for their common protection.
2. The coverage applied to each parish or mission is decided upon by the Parish Finance Committee and the pastor. For an adequate coverage, a periodic evaluation of the properties must be made by the local people, e.g. contractors, professional appraisers or others. When additions are made to the buildings or contents, additional coverage should be requested as soon as possible when protection is desired.
2.1 In the cemeteries, the monuments are the property of the families and not of the parish. They are not protected by diocesan policies against vandalism or loss.
2.2 The small buildings unused for years, and which would not be replaced after a loss, are not insured as a rule unless there is an explicit request made by the pastor/people of that area. The request must be approved by the Bishop prior to any additions to the insurance policy.
3. When a parish building is to be erected or renovated extensively, the diocesan agent should be contacted before construction begins, to ensure the parish is adequately protected, even in the case of the construction being done by an independent contractor. The insurance premiums are paid to "The Diocese of St. Paul" within a month after the invoice is issued.
4. In the case of any kind of loss, the diocesan financial administrator is to be contacted immediately to report the details of the loss.
5. In case of an insured loss that is not replaced, and the parish is not an active community, the cash value collected from the insurance is deposited in the St. Paul Construction Trust (diocesan church building fund), to be used as needs arise.
6. All COMMUNICATIONS concerning insurance are made with the diocesan financial administrator who, in turn, will contact the administration office at Capri Insurance and if required, the Asset Protection Group.
B. DIOCESAN FINANCE COMMITTEE (RE: Buildings)
1. The Diocesan Finance Committee is established to provide advice to the Bishop and the Council of Priests (or Diocesan Consultors) regarding the following:
1.1 the need of major renovations of existing buildings (major renovations means with a budget equal or superior to 50% (100%) of the annual budget of the parish/mission),
1.2 the need of a new building (the cost of which would be superior to the diocesan imposition paid by the parish/mission the previous year),
1.3 the need for renovation or construction of a "diocesan" structure,
1.4 the planning of such a project, and
1.5 the revision of actual plans and specifications of the project.
2. The Diocesan Finance Committee will be involved as soon as a major renovation or a new building is requested. The committee will study the need of such work and the scope of the project.
3. The Diocesan Finance Committee will follow the development of the project until its final approval and the completion of the work being done
4. The members of the Diocesan Finance Committee will be appointed for a period of three years; their mandate is renewable.
C. RENOVATION OR DISPOSITION OF CHURCH PROPERTY
1. All parish properties are owned by "Le Diocèse de St-Paul".
2. To build, renovate, modify, dispose of, add to, any property of “Le Diocèse de St-Paul”, the Diocesan Finance Committee must be contacted at the very first step of the project.
3. To dispose of churches: when churches are closed and not to be used for Catholic worship in any foreseeable future, the Bishop must be consulted before any commitment is made.
3.1 The church must be stripped of any and all religious articles before it is closed permanently.
3.2 The local people must be consulted as to the future use of the property, and their reasonable reactions must be considered.
3.3 Preferred future use must go to Catholic worship in another locality, then to worship by another Christian community, and perhaps for secular purposes if morally advisable.
3.4 When advisable, the church may be demolished.
4. To dispose of other properties, not to be used again by the Catholic community, we can foresee:
4.1 The rental or lease of such property for any acceptable use;
4.1.1 All revenues proceeding from mineral rights (the production from wells or surface rentals) are the property of the diocese. They will be deposited in the St. Paul Construction Trust (to be loaned eventually to parishes who need funds for building or renovation;
4.1.2 If the proceeds come from a property in an active parish, they will remain in the parish accounts;
4.2 The sale of such property, in which case the proceeds of the sale will also be deposited in the diocesan account, unless the property is in an active parish.
5. Other parish property: documents of all kinds like parish records, bulletins, financial reports, cancelled cheques, etc. are to remain parish property and must not be removed or destroyed with the change of personnel. No liturgical property can be sold. Religious property such as pews, altars, crucifixes, etc. cannot be sold or disposed of without the express written permission of the Bishop.
D. SPECIAL PROJECT DEFERRALS
The diocese recognizes that special projects and renovations may take longer than 1 fiscal year to complete. Often special collections or fundraisers are held to generate revenues to help facilitate these special projects. The diocese will allow funds to be deferred and used until the project has been completed. However, these funds cannot be held indefinitely. Deferral of funds must be requested through the Bishop. In addition, the request must be accompanied with the following:
a. Project timelines and parameters (should not exceed 3 years)
b. Project budget
c. Sources of revenue
Extensions to project deadlines may be granted by the Bishop. If the funds have not been used after the 3rd year, they will be reclassified as revenue to the general donation account and then will be subject to imposition at the current levy rate. Long-term projects such as building construction/renovations will house the funds in a separate building investment account until the commencement of the project.