Reflecting on burying the dead

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A view of St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix prior to All Souls Day. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
A view of St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix prior to All Souls Day. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

When we visit a cemetery, there’s often substantially more buried there who we don’t know than who we do know.

As Catholics, we respect the lives of all buried there:

  • we walk around not over their grave
  • we take a moment to read the inscription as we pass by
  • we straighten out floral decorations
  • we draw possible conclusions about that person’s life, especially if it was a short one
  • and perhaps we pray for that person

This evening, André House staff and volunteers invite you to join them for a prayer service at the county cemetery in Litchfield Park. They trek out there from near downtown Phoenix each year to remember those who the world sometimes forgets. Buried there — thanks to chain gang inmates who lower their caskets — are those who died and couldn’t be identified or whose next of kin couldn’t be located.

Some buried at this cemetery were likely André House guests at one point in time.

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Bury the dead: a work of mercy through the centuries

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As we begin to gather for Thanksgiving, Christmas and any other family holiday that lies in between, we’ll likely remember our loved ones who are no longer with us. Perhaps even more so if this is the first holiday without that person’s physical presence. Some families leave an empty chair at the table to better remember the life they shared together.

We don’t know if that’s the tradition of a Catholic family in Seligman, but the small community of St. Francis lost a revered member of the 25-family parish in October. Henriqueta Lopez Martinez, better known as “Henri,” “Auntie Queta” or just “Queta,” was six weeks shy of turning 100 when she died Oct. 6.

She was the oldest of seven children and raised by her grandparents until age 8 when she moved to Seligman to join her parents and younger siblings. At last year’s Seligman High School’s centennial commemoration, she was recognized as the oldest graduate in attendance.

Her family couldn’t afford an official obituary, but sent us this:
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Henriqueta was married to Alex Martinez in 1935, until his death in 1962. As a young woman, she was employed by the U. S. Postal Service for the next 30 years; first as clerk and then as the Post Master.  She mentioned that the most exciting part of the Post Office was inside bathroom plumbing—it was just too cold outside.

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It’s hard to believe, but some areas of the southwest still don’t have indoor plumbing. A local Catholic-based nonprofit conducts an annual Winter Warmth drive to buy wood for the Navajo Nation to heat their homes. Their restrooms are separate from the home. There’s not running water or electricity either.

The Catholic church soon closes out the month of November, the month of special remembrance of Holy Souls. Henriqueta was what the Catholic schools might call “an active Catholic” and was what the parishes might call a staple of many ministries. She was active in:

  • the Cursillo movement for over 58 years
  • Legion of Mary for 47 years
  • religious education, serving as a catechist for over 50 years. She was even recognized for it during a statewide Catechetical Congress in 1985. Hundreds of priests and clergy were there — many of who she had coordinated dinners for over the years — and saw her presented with red roses.

The family’s write-up continued:
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She was always known for her spiritual generous, kind hearted nature and her many prayers, as well as always willing to help the elderly and parents and their children. There were countless meetings and dinners coordinated by her for the Clergy of the Diocese of Phoenix, where she directed and helped her fellow parishioners with the cooking and serving of their specialty, “Mexican food”.

Throughout her life she touched many priests and other clergy and they stopped to visit her during her lifetime, as well as during her recent illness.

Mrs. Martinez was also well known throughout the diocese and surrounding areas for her prayers and devotion to her beloved Jesus Christ and his blessed Mother.

Henriqueta was preceded in death by her husband, Alex and only child Patricia (Pearsall) Espinosa, also her great-grand son Justin Pearsall and three nephews of Seligman: Michael, Peter and James (Peanut) Montoya.  She is survived by grandchildren Rosanne (Eddie) Skipper and Anthony Pearsall of Florida, and Vincent Pearsall of Indiana;  also, nephew, Rocky Montoya and family of Seligman and three great-grand children.

“Auntie Queta” is revered by the whole community of Seligman as well as by her many friends. Her message to all is “Think of me now and again, at a time which is pleasant to recall and smile!”;  “All for Jesus through Mary”.

We know she was showered with 100 roses by Jesus in heaven on her 100th birthday. You will not be forgotten—God Bless You![/quote_box_center]

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