A concept drawing of what Catholic Cemeteries’ Holy Cross Catholic Funeral Home, the first Catholic funeral home in the Archdiocese of Toronto, is to resemble once the facility opens in September. Photo courtesy of Catholic Cemeteries

Catholic Cemeteries set to open onsite funeral home

  • June 28, 2014

TORONTO - Come September the first Catholic funeral home in the Archdiocese of Toronto will open its doors at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Catholic Cemeteries will operate the facility and own the grounds of the Holy Cross Catholic Funeral Home in Thornhill, Ont.

“This will be the first Catholic funeral home which operates under ... the Archdiocese of Toronto,” said Amy Profenna, a spokesperson for Catholic Cemeteries. “That will really enhance our care to our families when that opens.”

This was made possible back in 2012 when a long-debated enactment to the provincial Funeral, Burial and Cremation Act allowed for funeral homes to be established on cemetery grounds, both denominational and non denominational.

Just before the funeral home is officially opened on the consecrated grounds, Cardinal Thomas Collins will bless the new con-struction, said Profenna. This essentially will turn the archdiocese’s first Catholic funeral home into a one-stop-shop where families can purchase products, hold viewings, have a full Catholic funeral and prayer service as well as bury the deceased without ever leaving the property.

“It will offer a full range of bereavement services and products at one location in a Catholic setting,” she said.

“Now with the introduction of the funeral home we will be able to fully provide for funeral, burial and cremation needs and we are going to provide this in a Catholic environment and it is going to offer care which is consistent with the values of our faith.”

It’s a service clientele of Catholic Cemeteries have been asking for, many of whom are lapsed or non practising faithful.

“There are Catholic families that have moved away from their faith but at a time of death come back to the Church,” said Profenna. “They are looking for ritual, they are looking for liturgy and they are looking for a ministry of concilia-tion. (But) it is the funeral home that is making a lot of the decisions and they are looking at it more as a celebration of life and not a Catholic funeral.”

Other funeral homes are not happy with the idea. Glen Day owns the Heritage Funeral Centre in downtown Toronto. A Catholic himself, he doesn’t like the idea of Church dollars being invested in bricks-and-mortar to allow Catholic Cemeteries to enter the funeral home industry.

“Our ministry should be building the faith and spreading the Gospel,” said Day. “If the Catholic Church does have that kind of money to be used there are far, far better ways to spend that money than thinking that building a funeral home will help our faith. It is more of an empire-building exercise for Catholic Cemeter-ies that has misappropriated the funds that people have given to their Church for something that is irrelevant.

“We are not protecting the Catholic Church we are protecting Catholic Cemeteries and that is a big difference.”

Day believes the Holy Cross Funeral Home will actually hurt Catholic Cemeteries because other funeral homes will be less inclined to recommend families to a Catholic cemetery.

“When you get right down to the business side of it... why would any funeral home want to be referring anybody to Holy Cross to purchase a grace when they realize that there is jeopardy in terms of their business?” he said. “As an in-dependent funeral home operator you kind of look at the playing field where everybody has to go to a cemetery so it doesn’t take a PhD to figure out why would I refer anybody to who could be the keenest competitor. It is much more easy for a funeral home to refer a family to a non-denomina-tional cemetery where that faith card doesn’t become a trump card of where people would decide to stay.”

And that puts Day, who’s funeral home does about 300 tra-ditional funerals annually, in a struggle of loyalty between his faith and his livelihood.

“I am troubled because I don’t like the idea of competing with my faith and I am troubled by it because at the end of the day there is no winner here,” said Day. “I either have to prejudice the best interest of my funeral home to help Catholic Cemeteries be successful, or on the other hand work to potentially hurt the Church because of how I react to survive.”

But not all funeral homes are concerned about the competition. Brad Scott, general manager of R.S. Kane Funeral Home located just a few kilometres from Holy Cross, welcomes the new funeral home.

“We welcome the facility,” he said. “Mr. Kane and I have spoken about this at length (and) we are not afraid of competition. Com-petition is a good thing (because) it keeps you on your toes, it keeps you working smarter and that means a benefit to the consumer at the end and really that is why we are all here, to help people who are consumers at a difficult time in their life.”

Scott believes reputation is what will keep the customers coming to R.S. Kane.

“Ultimately every funeral home relies on its reputation,” he said.

He did however acknowledge that pricing could become a serious factor which draws families away from non-denom-inational funeral homes who pay property tax, something he said Catholic Cemeteries’ funeral home will avoid.

“The R.S. Kane Funeral Home is a city block wide in property so you can only imagine what our tax bill is (and) that is something that we have to cover off in our service charges,” he said. “The Catholic Cemeteries facility won’t have that implication. That is a significant factor.”

Profenna however, said Catholic Cemeteries won’t be offering extremely cheap funerals.

“A funeral at Holy Cross Catholic Funeral Home will be comparable to other funeral homes within the Greater Toronto Area,” she said, adding that the exact price lists are currently being developed. 

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