Bishop James T. Schuerman fires a cannon during a Memorial Day Mass at Calvary Cemetery. (Photos by David Bernacchi)

The Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War and Auxiliary, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was able to commemorate Memorial Day without restrictions for the first time since before the pandemic.

Dcn. Dean Collins, who serves as chaplain to the 1st Brigade, is a direct descendant of a Union Soldier. He assisted at the Mass in Union regalia and welcomed the overflowing crowd. In addition to those who were fortunate enough to snag a seat already set up, there were people in camp chairs, children in wagons and those who either sat in the grass or stood throughout the Mass.

Dcn. Collins welcomed a delegation of Polish dignitaries who came to Milwaukee for the event. He mentioned the strong relationship and mutual respect between the two nations, and pointed to a number of Polish sons who advanced the cause of freedom in the United States through their sacrifices.

The Mass was presided over by Bishop James T. Schuerman, with Fr. Reed Mungovan, S.D.S., from Mother of Good Council, Fr. Patrick Nelson, S.D.S., from St. Margaret Mary, and senior priest Fr. Richard Aiken concelebrating.

Musical accompaniment was provided by the 1st Brigade Band, in full Union regalia, along with members of the Mother of Good Council, St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Sebastian choirs, led by Grace Majewski.

The reading, from 1 Corinthians, was proclaimed by Danielle Michaels, a member of the auxiliary. The hope of the Resurrection provides comfort to those left behind, even when the sacrifice has been great. The Gospel, from John, reminded everyone of the necessity of sacrifice in bringing about the Kingdom of God.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)

During his homily, Bishop Schuerman shared a reflection from his first trip to Arlington National Cemetery, and how he was moved by the vastness in the quiet space. He felt the weight of the sacrifice made by those brave men and women, and was humbled to be in the resting place of those who served so well.  “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

He then spoke about the Gospel, in which Jesus’ hour comes, explaining that Jesus gave all out of his immense love for us. The same love, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is what leads to sacrifice.

He also mentioned that remembrance is of great importance but only part of the puzzle, and that we are called to bring forth duty and love to future generations. He reminded attendees that God manifests his spirit and his love in each one of us.

After the Mass, the crowds processed through the cemetery singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, stopping for a patriotic ceremony a short distance away. Nicholas Bur gave an address as President Abraham Lincoln, and Dcn. Collins read the Grand Army of the Republic Order No. 11, which officially established Memorial Day in 1868.

“Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the nation’s gratitude.”

After the establishment was read, a cannon salute, musket salute and rifle salute occurred, and taps was played by retired Lt. Ruben Burgos of the Milwaukee Police Department. All were invited to decorate the graves of veterans with the American flags provided by SUVCW.