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Honoring family - here and in eternity

On All Souls Day and throughout the year, Catholic cemeteries are beautiful reminder of the 'communion of saints'

Editor's note: The slide show above depicts just the mosaics that are part of the artwork at the Catholic cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Miami. The cemeteries also feature stained glass windows, statues and the tombstones themselves, creating a peaceful environment for prayer and meditation.

DORAL | Each November, Mary Jo Frick looks forward to a visit from family members — up to 3,000 of them.

That's how many she expects on All Souls Day, Nov. 2, at the two cemeteries she manages for the Archdiocese of Miami.

“I'm a mother of two kids — and of every family that comes here,” she said during a recent interview at Our Lady of Mercy, one of the cemeteries. “When you can take care of people at their worst possible moment, it brings out the maternal instinct.”

The risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in this mosaic at the Lakeside Chapel, part of Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Doral.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

The risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in this mosaic at the Lakeside Chapel, part of Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Doral.

To prepare, Frick's staff has sent out 2,700 invitations for memorial Masses at Our Lady of Mercy in Doral and Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale.

The day will bring out the bereaved to hear the top two shepherds in the archdiocese. “Their homilies that day are always special,” Frick said. “They remind us of our beliefs about death and resurrection.”

Auxiliary Bishop Enrique Delgado will celebrate the Mass at 11 a.m. at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, 1500 S. State Road 7, North Lauderdale.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski will celebrate the day's Mass 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Mercy. But when All Souls Day falls on a Saturday — as will happen this year —the crowd overwhelms the cemetery, which has no chapel larger than 300 seats. That Mass is therefore scheduled at Our Lady of Guadalupe, 11691 NW 25th St., Doral. That church can seat up to 1,190 people.

Between such events, Frick's staff of 151 takes meticulous care of the park-like cemeteries, which cover 120 acres each. The land includes not only lawns but ponds and a variety of trees — oak, mahogany and royal palms, plus bright-flowered ones like poinciana, queen crepe and Hong Kong orchid.

 

HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE

But the cemeteries are more than grass and trees and graves. They also showcase artworks — statues, mosaics, bas-reliefs, stained-glass windows — offering visions of the hope of eternal life.

The artworks include:

  • An eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Jesus beckoning believers to “Come, Follow Me.” There's a copy of the statue at each cemetery.
  • Bas-reliefs of Mary in four roles — as queen of apostles, of prophets, of saints and of Jesus.
  • Dramatic mosaics of the risen Jesus appearing to the apostles and to Mary Magdalene.
  • A triptych in stained glass, with Jesus hovering over the tomb, flanked by angels.
  • A simple stone abstract of a Madonna and Child, a memorial for children killed by abortion.
  • A window showing the archangel Michael thrusting Satan at spear point into the Abyss.

In this mosaic at Our Lady Queen of Heaven in North Lauderdale, the apostle Thomas is humbled as the resurrected Jesus shows the wounds he suffered on Calvary. The Bible says Thomas burst out with,

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

In this mosaic at Our Lady Queen of Heaven in North Lauderdale, the apostle Thomas is humbled as the resurrected Jesus shows the wounds he suffered on Calvary. The Bible says Thomas burst out with, "My Lord and my God!"

Frick even oversees 21 workers who mow the lawns and care for the landscaping at archdiocesan churches and schools. The extra duty may surprise some, but she said it's a natural fit. “Who can take better care of grass and trees than us?”

All Souls Day takes a different focus than All Saints Day, Nov. 1, which honors those who have attained heaven. On All Souls Day, the faithful pray for God's mercy for deceased loved ones, that their time in purgatory may be shortened and that they too may be purified and reach heaven.

 

HONORING THE DEAD

Honoring the deceased has a long history, both among Christians and others. Benedictine monasteries did so in the sixth century. St. Isidore followed suit in the seventh century.

Liege, Belgium, was the first diocese to adopt the custom, around the turn of the first millennium. During the same period, St. Odilo of Cluny established Nov. 2 as the main day to honor the dead in his monasteries.

Some non-Catholics, including those in Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches, likewise hold prayers for the deceased. And some societies have turned the observance into a cultural event, such as the Japanese Bon Festival, the Chinese Ghost Festival, and the Day of the Dead in Spanish-speaking countries.

The Church honors this long tradition by having bishops consecrate plots of ground especially for Catholic burial. When a parishioner chooses to be buried there, “it's an outward sign of faith, even in death,” Frick said.

She added that a Catholic cemetery is one of the few places a Mass can be celebrated besides a Catholic church. Although All Souls Day Mass is the most publicized, both archdiocesan cemeteries sponsor monthly memorial Masses.

At Our Lady of Mercy, the Mass is held on the first and third Saturday of each month. At Our Lady Queen of Heaven, it’s on every third Saturday. Starting time is 10 a.m. at both sites.

Cemeteries might not be everyone's choice for a workplace, but Frick says she finds it rewarding. She pointed out that burying the dead is one of the main corporal works of mercy, equivalent with feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and giving to the poor. It's also comparable with her previous job as vice president of finance with Catholic Health Services, where she worked for 25 years.

She even considers a memorial Mass part of a fellowship that stretches beyond the grave. “Remember, the Apostles’ Creed mentions the communion of saints.”

Frick noted that family members often not only talk with some of the 19 counselors at the cemeteries, but choose the same counselors each time they visit.

“We treat a cemetery like home,” she said simply. “And we treat those who come here like family.”

Entrance to Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale includes a Greek icon of Mary.

Photographer: JIM DAVIS | FC

Entrance to Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale includes a Greek icon of Mary.


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