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Symbols of life for Mother's Day

Cemeteries use notes and butterflies to remember the day

Esther Rodriguez, an administrative assistant at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Miami, shows the feather butterflies and message tags she collected from families who visited during Mother's Day.

Photographer: Courtesy of Catholic Cemeteries

Esther Rodriguez, an administrative assistant at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Miami, shows the feather butterflies and message tags she collected from families who visited during Mother's Day.

DORAL | When people visited the archdiocese's two cemeteries last weekend to pay their respects for Mother's Day, many found an eloquent way to do it: with a short note and a butterfly made of feathers.

As they entered Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Miami or Our Lady Queen of Heaven in North Lauderdale, each was handed the butterfly along with a tag on which to write their sentiments. Cemetery staffers then placed the messages at the foot of a statue of Mary in a butterfly garden.

The insect -- an age-old sign of resurrection -- seemed an apt way to honor the memory of mothers, said Mary Jo Frick, archdiocesan executive director of cemeteries.

"We always want to do something outside for Mother's Day," Frick said. "And a butterfly is a beautiful symbol of life."

Photographer: Courtesy of Catholic Cemeteries

"May you fly always," says a message tag attached to one of the 1,000 feather butterflies passed out for Mother's Day at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Miami.

The cemetery staff began by placing the Mary statue in a garden of plants, such as star jasmine, that are attractive to real butterflies. After receiving the butterflies and tags, visitors paid respects at their loved ones' graves. As the visitors left, the staffers collected the butterflies and messages, then placed them on the bushes surrounding the statues. They’ll be there through the end of the week, Frick said.

She knew her choice of observance was important because Mother's Day is the busiest day at the cemeteries. Our Lady of Mercy alone brought an estimated 2,800 cars on Saturday, 3,100 on Sunday, with an average of three people per vehicle.

"Some [visitors] are here all day, and they often visit more than one grave -- their mother, their grandmother, their great-grandmother," Frick said. "We wanted to give people a special memento they could leave behind."

She found her answer while thumbing through a vendor catalog: butterflies made of feathers, with wingspans about 2.5 inch. "I thought, 'This is perfect,' " she said.

Unfortunately, the idea was a victim of its own success. "We bought only 1,000 butterflies -- we ran out!" Frick said.

But she was gratified at visitor reactions of surprise and gratitude. Among the comments were "What a wonderful idea!" and "So nice of you to do this for Mother's Day." More than one person shed tears.

"Some wanted to give a donation," Frick added. "We said, 'No, this is just for you to write your Mom a little note and to leave for the Blessed Mother.' "

The Mother's Day butterflies may have been artificial, but both Catholic cemeteries are favorite stops for the real thing. The grounds are full of flowering plants that draw the insects -- plants including penta, coleus, cassia, crape myrtle and royal poinciana.

Frick was also delighted to learn that the cemeteries' horseflesh mahogany trees are magnets for the elusive pink-spot sulphur butterfly. She bought the trees from Flamingo Gardens in Davie.

She said the butterfly observance may well be repeated across the country next year. She's on the national board of the Catholic Cemetery Conference, and she shared the idea with her counterparts in other dioceses.

Mary statue at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery is surrounded by message tags and butterflies made of feather.

Photographer: Courtesy of Catholic Cemeteries

Mary statue at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery is surrounded by message tags and butterflies made of feather.





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