SOUTH PORTLAND---In view of the tombstones and damp terrain of the large and rolling Old Cemetery at Calvary, a small crowd stood reverently as Bishop Robert Deeley prayed over the unclaimed and cremated remains of ten people.
“May God grant them a merciful judgement, deliverance from death, and pardon of sin,” said Bishop Deeley. “May they rejoice forever in the presence of the eternal King and in the company of all the saints.”
Bishop Deeley then sprinkled holy water on the remains, which sat next to the All Souls burial plot, part of a special outdoor prayer service on Monday, November 22.
The rite of final commendation and committal of cremated remains is an act of mercy that serves as a reminder of the sacredness of the human person. In committing the body to its resting place, the community expresses the hope that, with all those who have gone before marked with the sign of faith, the deceased awaits the glory of the Resurrection. The rite of committal is an expression of the communion that exists between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven.
“We commend to Almighty God our brothers and sisters, and we commit their earthly remains to their resting place, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the bishop prayed during the Prayer of Committal. “The Lord bless them and keep them.”
The remains on Monday came from area funeral homes.
“The diocese offers at no charge, to all funeral homes and to anyone who is considering scattering, the dignified committal of cremated remains at Calvary,” said Jessica Letendre, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Portland.
“There are different reasons for remains to be unclaimed, including no family or the cost,” said Kenneth Greenleaf of Maine Catholic Cemeteries. “Bishop Deeley being at this service sends a powerful message that we have a bishop who is a leader that takes care of the poor and those in need.”
Respecting and taking care of families and the faithful departed is a central mission of Maine Catholic Cemeteries, one it proudly and humbly completes each day.
“We’re serving these families today. There are ten families here that don’t have anybody,” said Greenleaf. “We’re here serving them to make sure they are not forgotten.”
Joining the bishop on Monday was Monsignor Marc Caron, Deacon Mark Tuttle, and Sister Rita-Mae Bissonnette.
Fittingly, the service was held in November, a month in which Catholics are encouraged to pray for deceased loved ones and recall that they enjoy communion with each other on earth and with those who have preceded them in death.
Those in attendance at the service on Monday remained mindful of the persons, men and women, represented by the remains as they were commended to God in the hope of eternal peace.
“Burial in a Catholic cemetery recognizes baptismal commitment and gives witness, even in death, to our belief in the Resurrection,” said Letendre. “It was an honor to have Bishop Deeley preside over our outdoor prayer service on Monday afternoon, highlighting the great importance of respecting and revering all remains.”
One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is “bury the dead,” the act of which offers the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through prayer and action during these times, we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn.
“In gathering to bury the dead today, we are reminded of the humanity of those who we gather to bury, the way they shared the world in which we all live, and the charity they shared with others,” the bishop said during the service. “This is an act of mercy.”