Expansions have been completed at three of the eight Archdiocese of Milwaukee cemeteries, and expansions at two more are being planned. (Submitted photo)

Jodi Meier lives in Salem Lakes in western Kenosha County now, but she’s happy to know her final resting place will be in Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum in Milwaukee.

The path to that decision started with the 2011 death of her father, Joseph Meier. He was cremated and Meier took home an urn with cremated remains, known as cremains.

Meier, now 56, knew she and her three siblings needed to decide what would happen next. Joseph did no preplanning, and for a while, the idea that he wanted his ashes scattered took hold, but no one could recall a specific conversation about it.

Eventually, however, the family realized they wanted to take the last step of the Catholic funeral rites, the committal. This called for all of their father’s cremains to be interred at a permanent sacred resting place.

“I’ve learned so much in the last 10 years. I didn’t realize how important the committal is,” said Meier, who is active with the rural Kenosha County parishes of St. John the Baptist in Paris and St. Francis Xavier in Brighton. “It’s important, and I want it to be taken care of for every member of my family.”

The committal is the final part of the Catholic liturgical celebrations and prayer moments encompassed by the funeral rites. The others are the Vigil and the Mass of Christian Burial. As Catholics, we see our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, baptized with water, anointed with oil, nourished with the Body and Blood of the Lord, and touched with healing and love. Christ himself shared not only our nature, but also our very mortal bodies; therefore, we should always treat human beings and their mortal remains with respect, dignity and honor.

“By means of the funeral rites it has been the practice of the Church, as a tender mother, not simply to commend the dead to God, but also to raise high the hope of its children and to give witness to its own faith in the future Resurrection of the baptized with Christ,” according to the “Decree for the Order of Funerals, Congregation for Divine Worship” issued by the Vatican in 1969.

As Meier visited the crypt of her paternal grandparents at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum — one of eight cemeteries operated by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee — she realized that the nearby area of niches would be the perfect place for her father’s committal.

However, when she visited the cemetery office many years ago to arrange this, she discovered no niches remained available for purchase. Happily, staff shared plans for an upcoming addition.

The Holy Cross addition is one of three completed in the past 18 months in archdiocesan cemeteries to add nearly 550 crypts in total to the Holy Cross and St. Adalbert sites in Milwaukee and the Resurrection site in Mequon. Niches for urns also have been added to many cemeteries in recent years.

While the whole process took longer than Meier had hoped, there was a silver lining.

Her father had one sibling who was not married and had no children. Meier’s aunt passed away not long ago and had preplanned all of her funeral and cemetery details, including purchase of a niche at Holy Cross.

“I was very grateful,” Meier said. Her aunt’s preplanning demonstrated firsthand to Meier all its advantages. Preplanning can include many details in addition to those related to burial, including Mass readings, casket preferences, the prayer to appear on prayer cards and headstone/marker design.

The experience with her aunt’s gift of preplanning led Meier to approach her siblings about making plans as a family for their final resting places, and she and her sister have already purchased niches at Holy Cross.

“I know where I will be. It’s where I want to be — by other family. I feel a sense of relief that I know where my resting place will be,” Meier said. Throughout the process, Meier had many, many questions, and she made a point to give a shout-out to the excellent family advisor she worked with on arrangements at Holy Cross.

“Preplanning is definitely important for peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones,” said Mary Thiel, director of cemeteries for Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services – Milwaukee Resource Center.

Advantages of preplanning through the archdiocesan cemeteries include:

  • Preserving your wishes in the context of a shared faith in the Resurrection;
  • Including a spouse or other family members in an important decision;
  • Making decisions without the grief and anguish that may be present when a spouse or other loved one passes;
  • Pricing that is lower than it will be in the future because staff and maintenance costs will increase over time. Zero percent, 36-month payment plans are offered, and pre-construction and under-construction discounts also may be available;
  • Selecting a space exactly where you want it, as options may be more limited later; and
  • Knowing that you have helped make a difficult time easier for your surviving loved ones.

In addition to the recently completed expansions, plans are in the works for crypts to be added at the St. Joseph cemetery site in Waukesha and the All Saints site in Pleasant Prairie.

Archdiocese Catholic Cemeteries offer choices to accommodate different preferences. In addition to traditional burial plots, above-ground crypts for full caskets and niches for urns with cremains are available. The faces of some are outdoors and always accessible, while others are accessible during set hours in carpeted indoor buildings that include chairs and prayer spaces.

Find out more about the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries in the special section of this edition of the Catholic Herald and at www.cemeteries.org.