Monthly Archives March 2021

Echoes. A history of the Association of Catholic Cemeteries. Posted on 03/26/2021

Archives of the Archdiocese

A history of the Association of Catholic Cemeteries

Help us extend our reach! Please share this article on social media


It was recently announced that the Association of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Boston (CCA) was making its archives, covering the period 1833-1940, and cemetery maps available online. This has encouraged us to better understand the cemeteries and cemetery associations in the Archdiocese, and therefore this week’s column provides a brief history of the CCA.

The origins of the CCA can be found in the Roman Catholic Cemetery Association (RCCA) incorporated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on May 19, 1868. It enabled the members of the corporation – Archbishop John J. Williams, Father George A. Hamilton and Father George F. Haskins – to secure up to 100 acres of land at Malden “for a rural cemetery or burial site, and for the erection of graves, cenotaphs or other monuments, for or at the memory of the dead. ” In addition, “the power to grant and transmit to any person or persons, the unique and exclusive right to bury in one of the aforementioned lots”.

Based on this evidence, the RCCA led to the establishment of Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden, consecrated on September 27, 1868. The cemetery would become the final resting place for Catholics across the region, not just those in and around Malden. immediate.

The RCCA evolved during Cardinal William Henry O’Connell’s tenure from 1907 to 1944, which began to consolidate Archdiocesan administration.

On January 15, 1910, members of the RCCA signed articles of agreement, setting out all “rights, franchises, privileges, land, buildings, inheritances, real and personal property, easements, things in action, assets and property of all kinds. and description, name or nature belonging to that company … will be attributed, transferred, transmitted and entrusted to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, a single company “and will be passed on to his successors in this role.

The change brought compliance with canon law, which required that diocesan property be in the name of the archbishop. The land being in his name, the archbishop often finds himself appointed president or treasurer of various cemetery associations. For example, a 1940s RCCA officers document shows Cardinal O’Connell as president, treasurer, and director; Mgr. Michael J. Splaine as Registrar and Director, and Mgr. Richard Haberlin as a director.

Another initiative during Cardinal O’Connell’s tenure was to ensure the perpetual upkeep of cemeteries. On December 1, 1927, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the elaborate coffins, floral arrangements and pomp with which funerals and burials were held in Catholic cemeteries. What he found most appalling was that after such great demonstrations, the resting places of those buried seemed to be neglected.

Rather than tolerate the costs associated with these scenes, he instead urged all pastors and superintendents to demand that the lot owners invest in a special trust for the perpetual upkeep and upkeep of the cemetery grounds.

Cardinal O’Connell was replaced by Cardinal Richard J. Cushing in 1944, and four years later he established the Office of the Director of Cemeteries, effecting the dissolution of the RCCA.

It was announced by a memorandum of January 22, 1948, indicating “with immediate effect … a diocesan director of cemeteries with a central office for the clearance, within the framework of the provisions of civil and ecclesiastical law, of questions relating to interests. and the maintenance of diocesan and parish cemeteries. “

Cardinal Cushing continues: “The deplorable state of many of our diocesan cemeteries prompted the appointment of such a director. We hope that with his help we can finally accomplish real reforms in the maintenance of cemeteries under our jurisdiction. At the very least, a central office will be able to investigate the constant complaints of landowners in our own cemeteries and to some extent avoid widespread criticism of the poorly maintained resting places of our fallen devotees.

The problems included “sunken graves, accumulated garbage, uncut grass, overturned monuments, incomplete or obscure records and general neglect.” He attributes the causes to “manpower problems, limited funds, inadequate equipment or lack of interest”.

The Cemeteries Director was responsible for planning and overseeing improvements, promoting and collecting perpetual custody fees, studying and resolving specific local issues, and saving the upkeep of cemeteries through sharing the cost. equipment, labor and materials.

There was a discussion on whether the director of cemeteries should also oversee parish cemeteries. Initially, cemeteries that pastors no longer wanted to manage were accepted, although those that continued to be maintained by parishes had to conform to archdiocesan standards.

The parish cemeteries entrusted to the care of the archdiocese tended to be divided into two categories. First, the parish cemeteries that are full or almost full; with no income from lot sales or burials, there was no money to maintain the grounds. The other reason was linked to the creation of new parishes. For example, if Parish A had a cemetery and ceded territory to the newly established Parish B that included its cemetery, Parish A would often not want to remain responsible for its upkeep.

A June 1951 document published in the Director of Cemeteries Records provides an overview of the requirements of cemeteries management. He says many people think the role is that of a caretaker responsible for the appearance of the property, but this is only the case in the smallest of the cemeteries. A cemetery director of Archdiocesan cemeteries should have knowledge of engineering, landscape architecture, horticulture, sales, cemetery law, personnel management, public relations, accounting and office management.

It was unrealistic to hire someone with these unique skills and who is experienced for each cemetery, so hiring a central manager and additional regional managers who could be well paid was ideal. The arrangement also relieved the pastors of their responsibility so that they could take care of their many other tasks. Father Arthur Lyons was the first director of cemeteries from 1948 to 1964, and was succeeded by Father Thomas B. Grady from 1965 to 1968, who in turn was replaced by the first lay director, Thomas McTiernan, later this year.

The current iteration of the Association of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Boston was incorporated on June 29, 2001. It currently oversees 25 cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Boston. More information can be found on their website:

Please note that the Boston Catholic Cemetery Association, Holyhood Cemetery Association, and St. Michael Cemetery Association are private cemetery associations in Boston not affiliated with the Archdiocese.

– Father Thomas Ryan, CSP, heads the Paulista North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Boston.

Help us extend our reach! Please share this article on social media

Recent articles in the Culture & Events section

Source link