Growing up in Chicago, Joseph Lange was Catholic from the beginning, attending 12 years of Catholic school and ultimately graduating from St. Francis College.
This immersion in Catholic culture would prepare Lange well for his new role as president and CEO of Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries for the Diocese of Phoenix. Lange began June 30 after the retirement of longtime leader, Gary Brown.
Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries
Lange’s new responsibilities are enormous. Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries of the Diocese of Phoenix, with 100 employees, encompasses six cemeteries, six mausoleums and two mortuaries. Lange will oversee them all.
He most recently came from a position with the Archdiocese of Chicago where he worked closely with Bishop Francis Kane, the vicar of an area encompassing 63 parishes and 38 schools.
“I learned a lot from Bishop Kane in terms of how he handled situations,” Lange said. “He truly saw the face of Christ in everyone that he encountered. That’s my goal — to try to see the face of Christ in those that I deal with every day.”
Lange was leaving for work one sizzling hot morning recently and began thinking about the landscaping crews that maintain the cemetery grounds in the Valley. He still hadn’t quite adjusted to the 113-degree weather that Phoenix routinely has during the summer months.
“I realized that without their efforts, we could not get through any day or week for that matter,” Lange said. “I thanked them and their families first at our annual awards banquet on July 26 and let them know how much we appreciate their hard work and dedication to our mission.”
Lange didn’t always work for the Church.
“I spent many years in the corporate world and really never felt completely fulfilled,” he said.
In the Archdiocese of Chicago, Lange found meaning in teaming up with pastors and parishes, learning what it meant to be pastoral. Here in Phoenix, he said his number one goal is to fulfill the mission of the Catholic Church.
Lange’s other top concern is meeting the needs of Catholic families as together they participate in the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead. He also said there’s an even broader focus to his work: the spiritual work of mercy of assisting the grieving and educating Catholics about proper burial.
“I think most people are open to that,” Lange said. “They are yearning for that education and so we’re going to try to provide that.”
The work of Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries is unique in that it involves meeting people during their time of greatest loss and sorrow. Lange said that from what he’s seen so far, employees look at their work as a mission, not just a job.
“It’s more than that,” Lange said. “It’s a vocation.”