Main Office: (913) 371-4040 | Topeka: (785) 272-0820 | Pre-planning info: (913) 344-7527

Sacred Spaces

Where do I start? Practical considerations for Catholics faced with the loss of a loved one

“Where do I start?” Faced with the loss of a loved one, family members often grapple with taking the first steps. Families want to know that their loved one will be respectfully cared for, even after death, by ensuring dignified treatment of all arrangements that takes into account Catholic beliefs, expectations and traditions.

When confronted with the question of where to start, consider whether the deceased has already made burial and funeral arrangements. If not, Catholic Cemeteries is one of the first calls to make. Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas, a ministry of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, provides experienced guidance, planning and support for families facing the unknown of funeral and burial planning. The counselors at Catholic Cemeteries can help with making decisions that are less costly (for example, choices related to entombment and to caskets or urns). The counselors also give families an understanding of all the decisions that go into preparing a Catholic funeral and burial and personally walk the family through the multitude of considerations that must be addressed.

After contacting Catholic Cemeteries, a family member should contact a licensed funeral director to arrange the funeral. The funeral director will arrange such necessities as transporting the body, obtaining a death certificate, preparing the obituary, and arranging the visitation, funeral mass and committal service. Both Catholic Cemeteries and the funeral director can offer helpful grief support resources for the bereaved.

Follow up with the employer of the deceased. The employer can apprise the family of the deceased’s benefits, any pay due, insurance eligibility for dependents, and steps related to life insurance policies. If the deceased had a life insurance policy aside from work (such as through a union, professional service organization, or private insurance), follow up with the insurance agent or company to file a claim. Additionally, the Social Security Administration should be notified of the death, and benefits eligibility for dependents can be addressed at this time.

A variety of important paperwork, including the will or trust, should be gathered and processed once funeral and burial arrangements are begun. Settling the estate, executing the will, filing a final tax return, closing bank accounts, and reconciling any loans such as mortgage or vehicle all will be important tasks to consider within the process.

The emotional stress of losing a loved one is often compounded by the financial and legal stress of making arrangements and settling private affairs. Grief counselors and clergy can support family and friends during this difficult time. Pre-planning for the funeral and burial can also help alleviate stress by reducing the myriad of decisions and ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are understood and carried out. Catholic Cemeteries counselors help many families before their time of need. Those who want to plan their own funeral and burial and make the decisions for themselves can find beneficial resources and counselors at Catholic Cemeteries.

Would you like to share a comment, question or experience regarding pre-planning? Visit our Facebook page, @cathcemks, to join the conversation. Or, send me an email at kmitchell@cathcemks.org.

Growing up? Growing old? Discussions about dying are tough but necessary

Have you found yourself “adulting”? Or, do you respond to the phrase “millennial”? Maybe you think of yourself as “middle-aged”? If you fall into one of these categories, you may have also noticed that your parents are getting older. They realize it, you realize it, but often nobody wants to talk about it. It seems weird. Awkward. Vulnerable.

It’s possible your parents want to open up to you about it. You don’t have to listen—you can deflect. You’re too old to listen “just because they said so.” But you’re also old enough to recognize that they are in the planning stages and engage in a gentle, mature discussion about their wishes and feelings.

They’re not planning like when you went to college, nor is it like planning a weekend with the grandchildren. They’re planning for their end-of-life needs, and even if you feel uncomfortable talking—or just thinking—about it, it may be time to listen. Otherwise, how will you honor their wishes, and their life, when they are gone? As people age, they grow in wisdom. Parents gain lots of wisdom raising children, but once their children are adults, they don’t stop growing in wisdom.

They are processing, thinking about the big questions, deciding some of the most important questions of their life—and their eternal life. They are facing a part of their heritage that will remain for the generations. Their burial could be one of the most important long-term decisions they make. They are vulnerable. And so are you. Now is the time to open up to them, allow yourself to be vulnerable with your parents (even though it’s hard), and really honor them by listening to their wishes.

This is your chance to respond honestly to the questions they have for you—the questions that will help them determine how to best honor you when you celebrate their life and their passing—and make a plan for burial. Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas, a nonprofit ministry that is part of the Archdiocese of Kansas, can help with this journey and ensure that the most important considerations are included in these decisions. Catholic Cemeteries’ experienced counselors provide their own wisdom, support you in your vulnerability, and create a plan that establishes an appropriate celebration of life and opportunity to mourn for a loved one so you don’t find yourself emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted in the rush of decisions that comes when families put off tough decisions for another day.

If you don’t know how to approach the subject, chances are your parents are feeling the same way. Maybe they have brought it up before. Skirted the issue. Hinted about it. Watch for these opportunities, and engage with them. Better yet, share this blog with them. If they’re not tech savvy, print it out and leave it in the kitchen or by the recliner. Highlight a couple of phrases. Let them know you’re there for them. Face the unknown, and walk away with a strengthened bond. Don’t wait until your loved ones are gone to wonder how they might have liked to be remembered.

Would you like to share a comment, question or experience regarding pre-planning? Visit our Facebook page, @cathcemks, to join the conversation. Or, send me an email at kmitchell@cathcemks.org.

Looking for something special to do for Lent?

Consider these five ways to remember your loved ones during this time of preparation.

Burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy. If this Lent has you thinking about how to extend corporal and spiritual works of mercy into your life, here are five ideas that are simple but rewarding.

1. Offer a mass for a deceased loved one. Many people contact their parish to have a daily or Sunday mass said for their loved one. This is a beautiful way to remember a special day, such as their birthday or date of passing. However, you don’t need a special day to offer a mass. Any day is a good day to offer a mass for the deceased. If your parish doesn’t offer a daily mass time that fits your schedule, consider noon mass at one of several parishes in the archdiocese, an evening mass, or Saturday morning mass.

2. Visit the cemetery with family members and share memories about the deceased. Take along a blanket to sit on and/or flowers to leave at the gravesite (for rules regarding memorializations at different types of interment spaces, click here). Share memories, special stories, photograph albums or songs that have a special place in the remembrance of your loved one.

3. Attend a funeral for someone who doesn’t have many family or friends to attend. This mass is offered for the repose of the soul of the deceased. Your parish priest or receptionist can give you guidance about funerals where attendance may be low due to age or distance. Don’t feel shy about attending, as your prayers for the deceased are invaluable.

4. Be open to listening to the funeral and burial plan arrangements your elderly loved ones may have. Help reassure them that you understand their wishes. Engage gently in a discussion with family members. Even those who are not anticipating an approaching death may have ideas they want to communicate about their funeral and burial ideas.

5. At prayer time at home, light a candle for family members you have lost. Encouraging children to create their own special prayer for deceased loved ones can create a lasting tradition in your family. Or, share a prayer such as this well-known one: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

These scripture readings on the topic of death and dying are recommended by the USCCB and may help facilitate a family discussion regarding the topic, which is particularly appropriate during Lent.

Job 19:23-27

Psalms 23, 91 and 121

1 John 4:16

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 25:1-13

Luke 22:39-46

Luke 23:44-49

Luke 24:1-8

John 6:37-40

John 14:16, 23, 27

Would you like to share a comment, question or experience regarding pre-planning? Visit our Facebook page, @cathcemks, to join the conversation. Or, send me an email at kmitchell@cathcemks.org.


Why choose a Catholic cemetery?

What makes a Catholic cemetery special? The answer may seem obvious—it’s Catholic. But the differences between a Catholic cemetery and a Catholic interment space in another cemetery are not always clear.

A Catholic cemetery is one that has been sanctified and set apart for God by the bishop at its inception. Whereas in a non-Catholic cemetery, the interment space is consecrated for a Catholic at the committal service by the presiding priest, the entire grounds of a Catholic cemetery are designated from the start as a sacred space and consecrated by the presiding bishop at that time.

Catholic teachings, history and tradition are reflected in beautiful works of art throughout the cemetery. While spending time visiting a deceased loved one, family and friends are consoled by sculptures, stained glass, and memorial gardens carrying comforting depictions such as saints, the resurrection, stations of the cross and rosary areas.

Catholics can take comfort and consolation in the assurance of masses for loved ones buried in a Catholic cemetery. This may be one of the most compelling reasons to choose a Catholic cemetery. Masses are held on the grounds of the Catholic cemeteries several times a year, and all those buried there are remembered. Catholic Cemeteries arranges masses and events at its cemeteries for Memorial Day, Veterans Day and All Souls Day.

These holiday masses are facilitated by volunteers who assist with parking and logistics and are trained to answer questions, guide visitors and make the experience pleasant and memorable. Families, including children, are welcome to participate and enjoy the grounds before and after mass, visiting gravesites of loved ones, decorating memorial tablets with flowers or other special items, and visiting memorial gardens, statues and prayer areas. Enjoying a picnic together on the grounds in set-aside areas was a traditional highlight of the Memorial Day holiday even into the middle of the Twentieth Century. Those who would like to carry on this tradition are welcomed by Catholic Cemeteries to do so in areas where burials have yet to take place.

Another compelling reason to choose a Catholic cemetery is that the income of the perpetual care fund ensures the grounds will be cared for in perpetuity. The cemeteries, also known as memorial parks, are kept accessible and beautiful by year-round staff. Catholic Cemeteries staff also places purchased memorials on spaces and removes worn memorializations (such as flowers and balloons) according to set guidelines and procedures. The organization coordinates and oversees the addition and upkeep of buildings, statues, memorials, trees and landscaping on these cemeteries. The public is welcome and encouraged to visit the cemeteries to enjoy the serene and sacred spaces created with mindfulness toward prayer, reflection, sharing memories and coping with the loss of a loved one.

The nine cemeteries administered by Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas were originally designated by specific parishes but are now under the direction of the archdiocese. Many Catholic cemeteries can be visited near the church which originally designated the area, while other, newer, cemeteries—such as Resurrection Cemetery in Lenexa and Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Kansas City—are easily accessible from major highways. While burial in a sacred Catholic cemetery is a priority for the faithful, non-Catholic spouses and family members are allowed burial in Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas as well. Check with counseling staff for full details and availability.

These cemeteries can be visited in person or seen virtually through videos on our website at www.cathcemks.org. Click here for cemetery hours and locations.

Would you like to share a comment, question or experience regarding pre-planning? Visit our Facebook page, @cathcemks, to join the conversation. Or, send me an email at kmitchell@cathcemks.org.