On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will offer people of all faiths the opportunity to inter the cremated remains of their loved ones.
A Mass and committal service will be held at individual archdiocesan cemeteries. The service is provided free of charge for anyone interested, whether it is a family member or a funeral home.
“We reach out to funeral homes, and we offer them to bring us any unclaimed cremated remains that may be still sitting in their funeral homes that people either forgot about or abandoned. They can bring the cremains to us, and we will inter them at no charge,” said Matt Chasco, administrative historian for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries.
The archdiocese has been offering this “Gather Them Home” ministry since 2016 in response to Pope Francis’ decree that cremated remains should be interned in a sacred space. Pope Francis directed that cremains should not be scattered or placed in homes or jewelry.
“For the first couple of years, we had funeral homes bringing us as many as 70 to 100 urns that had never been claimed and just left behind. Now, funeral homes call me with only three or four, or maybe none. So, it has thinned out quite a bit. That is a good thing, because it means that we already have taken care of them,” Chasco said.
The cremains had been left for a variety of reasons.
“Some people have the best of intentions. Sometimes it is just miscommunication, or the family forgets about it. Sometimes the family just can’t afford to do anything, or they don’t want to do anything. There are a lot of reasons for it. I wouldn’t put any kind of sinister intention,” Chasco said.
Unfortunately, there are some cases where little is known about the deceased.
“Occasionally, we have a few families that come in with horror stories of how a landlord is cleaning out an apartment and finds two urns. No context, no names, nothing,” Chasco said.
A couple of years ago, a funeral home received a call from a Milwaukee scrapyard where urns were found in the trunk of a car.
“They didn’t know what to do, so they called the funeral home, and then we took it from there. We gladly gave them a place to rest. That’s the kind of thing we do. So, really, we don’t need to have specific details. We just want to make sure these people have a final resting place,” Chasco said.
On Nov. 2, cremated remains will be placed in the All Souls Remembrance Crypt. Each burial will be documented, and the records will be maintained by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries.
“Funeral homes have been really good with providing us with all the information they have. In some cases, they have already tried contacting the next of kin, and they didn’t get anywhere. We do have a record here, so if someone does have a change of heart and wants to come get that urn out of the crypt, they can,” Chasco said.
Families who later decide to reinter the cremated remains to a private space within one of the eight Catholic Cemeteries will be responsible for those costs.
“This is our chance to at least give the deceased a place to rest and to inter them with dignity and to give them a sense of permanence,” Chasco said.
GATHER THEM HOME
For information about “Gather Them Home” services, contact individual cemeteries for specific details and instructions:
3300 Springbrook Road
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158
7301 W. Nash St.
Milwaukee, WI 53216
3801 W. Morgan Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53221
9400 W. Donges Bay Road
Mequon, WI 53092
3801 S. Sixth St.
Milwaukee, WI 53221
S22 W22890 Broadway
Waukesha, WI 53186