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Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Services says it is in the business of lessening stress in a stressful time. Photo courtesy Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Services

Pre-planning brings some peace of mind

  • November 3, 2019

Planning for a funeral — let alone your own — can be a stressful task.

After all, dealing with the details of a funeral after the death of someone close to us, or knowing that we need to make plans in the inevitable event of our own demise, are not pleasant scenarios for most of us.

But Amy Profenna, director of marketing and public relations for Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Services in the Archdiocese of Toronto, said it doesn’t need to be a stressful process.

“I find that after people make their final arrangements they have such a feeling of peace of mind knowing that their final arrangements are taken care of,” said Profenna. “Taking a little time planning this ahead of time will pay huge dividends in the future. You’ll save your family from a lot of grief, and they will know how much you cared because of what you’ve done.”

When planning a funeral with Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Services, a funeral director and cemetery family counsellor guide families through the decision-making process. The archdiocese has two funeral homes, one at Holy Cross Cemetery in Thornhill and Catholic Cremation Services at Assumption Catholic Cemetery in Mississauga. There are seven major Catholic cemeteries in the archdiocese as well as more than a dozen smaller ones that have a longer history in the area.

“Our counsellors are not commissioned; they are here to assist you and will not pressure you into buying anything you do not wish to purchase,” said Profenna.

When families want to pre-plan a funeral, they book an appointment to meet with one of the pre-planning funeral directors. They discuss if they prefer a cremation or a casket burial, then choose the appropriate casket or urn. 

A majority of the clients Profenna sees at the funeral homes are there to plan ahead, after having a friend or family member pass away.

“They want to take care of their own arrangements to make it easier for their family members,” said Profenna. “They may do it to take advantage of cost savings associated with planning in advance. Other reasons may be they just want to be prepared. Sometimes their age determines this decision as well.”

While many people believe Catholic cemeteries are reserved for Catholics, that is not the case.

“We believe that families should remain together even in death,” said Profenna. “A spouse, child, parent or relative who is not a Catholic may be buried in a Catholic cemetery.”

There are, however, some unusual requests family members want when they make their own arrangements. 

“From time to time we have families who ask if their four-legged friends can be buried in the same grave as them. We, however, do not bury pets in our Catholic cemeteries,” said Profenna. “Another request we have seen is at the time of the burial of cremated remains, some families have asked if they can have some of the remains to take home with them. This is not in keeping with our Catholic faith. We as Catholics believe that separating cremated remains, keeping them in the homes of relatives or scattering of the remains is not appropriate reverence for the deceased. Cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or cremation niche.”

Cremation has been an accepted option for Catholics since 1963. 

“The cremated remains must be treated with respect,” said Profenna. “They should be either interred or entombed. Scattering of cremated ashes is not permitted.”

There are a variety of cremation burial options, including a columbarium — a structure of small spaces for placing cremated remains in urns, usually outdoors or part of a mausoleum.

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