Two new cemeteries in western North Carolina blessed
HAYWOOD COUNTY — "The Church considers the cemetery to be a holy place and therefore wishes and urges that new cemeteries, established either by the Catholic community or by the civil authority in Catholic regions, be blessed and that a cross be erected as a sign to all of Christian hope in the resurrection." So begins the introduction to the "Order for the Blessing of a Cemetery" in the Catholic Church's Book of Blessings.
Pictured: Parishioners attend the blessing of the cemetery and columbarium at St. John the Evangelist Church in Waynesville on May 22. Parishioner Janice Thomas reads from Scripture. Listening are Deacon Carlos Medina (left) of St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte; Bishop Peter J. Jugis, bishop of Charlotte; and Father Lawrence LoMonaco, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church and Immaculate Conception Mission in Canton. (Photos by Joanita M. Nellenbach | Catholic News Herald)
New cemeteries, established by the Catholic communities at Immaculate Conception Mission in Canton and St. John the Evangelist Church in Waynesville, may well be the first two Catholic cemeteries in Haywood County.
Bishop Peter J. Jugis, bishop of Charlotte, blessed the cemeteries, designed by Luis Quevedo of LQ Design Options in Waynesville, on May 22. Each cemetery includes a columbarium.
In a drizzling rain in Canton, parishioners followed Bishop Jugis from the parish hall to the adjoining cemetery space. He explained that the procession symbolized those that would take place in future when the bodies of the deceased are taken from the church and laid to rest. In front of the columbarium, he offered prayers and blessings.
Accompanied by Father Lawrence LoMonaco, pastor of Immaculate Conception and St. John the Evangelist parishes, and Deacon Carlos Medina of St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte, Bishop Jugis walked the cemetery's perimeter, sprinkling the grassy area with holy water.
The cemetery has space for 66 burial plots. Flanked by wooden benches, the red-brick columbarium capped with white stone has 66 niches – some to hold two urns, some for one. Granite plates cover the niches.
Since March 2007, the policy of the Diocese of Charlotte has been that a cemetery at a Catholic church may have a columbarium, but the cemetery must have at least the same number of burial plots as the columbarium has niches.
"The norm and preference according to the Rite for Christian Funerals is full-body burial," Bishop Jugis said. "You always present the norm first. If the parish wants a columbarium, it can have one in the same place as the cemetery."
By the time the blessing ceremony was repeated in Waynesville, the rain had ceased but skies were cloudy. The cemetery there has space for 78 burial plots; the columbarium has 58 double and 20 single niches.
The columbarium, fronted by benches for meditation, features statues from the old St. John the Evangelist Church, built in 1941, and which now serves as a youth center. The Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus are sheltered in glass-fronted niches. A statue of the Sacred Heart stands in what will soon be a fountain.
"It was always part of the plan for building the new church (dedicated Sept. 30, 2007) to have a columbarium," noted Father LoMonaco. "When the policy changed, we had to incorporate the cemetery."
A hill to the left of the old church was leveled to make room for the cemetery.
Besides St. John the Evangelist and Immaculate Conception parishes, St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Maggie Valley, also in Haywood County, has a columbarium that was blessed in 2002.
— Joanita M. Nellenbach, correspondent
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