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Sisters’ graves moving

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  • July 25, 2019

The graves of some 300 School Sisters of Notre Dame in a cemetery on the order’s Watertown, Ont., convent property are expected to be moved to a Burlington Catholic cemetery in the near future as the sisters look to sell their long-time home.

The bodies and gravestones of the sisters and two priests are expected to be exhumed as early as the end of July and relocated to Gate of Heaven Cemetery located about 1.5 kilometres from their current resting place. The move is expected to be complete by early in the new year.

A move of such proportions brings with it logistical issues, but canonically there are few restrictions, said John O’Brien, episcopal delegate for cemeteries and insurance with the Diocese of Hamilton.

“Any necessary approvals, ecclesiastically, would be the School Sisters of Notre Dame,” said O’Brien, who has been working with the sisters of behalf of the diocese. “They would likely obtain permission from the general superior in Rome and they would have to seek authorization there. But canonically there isn’t any formal approval except those approvals required under the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act and regulations and the local medical officer of health.”

An aging congregation is behind the move. The average age of the 54 nuns who remain at the convent — which the sisters have occupied since 1927 — on Snake Road is 80, with the oldest sister being 103. The sisters are at the point where they can’t keep up maintenance on the cemetery and have chosen to sell the property and move their forebears.

Zoller told the Hamilton Spectator the property has yet to be sold but an “interested party” has been exploring its purchase.

O’Brien said the move removes the threat over time of the cemetery being abandoned and isolated.

“Given their rich and very important contribution to the diocese, since essentially 1871, it’s very important that their legacy be visibly recognized by establishing a section in a Catholic diocesan cemetery,” he said.

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