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I never imagined the stress and difficulty a family could face when called upon to collectively arrange a proper Catholic funeral and burial. When I lost my father unexpectedly three years ago, I realized how complicated the process can be. My personal experience motivates me to educate the faithful to understand the tremendous gift you give yourself and your loved ones when you preplan your Catholic funeral and burial.

Joseph W. Lange is President and CEO of Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
Joseph W. Lange is President and CEO of Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

My family experienced the same grief, confusion and challenges that many families face when they walk through our doors every day at Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes. I draw on that experience, which makes our mission tangible to me. It helps me understand what it means to be sitting on the other side of the table and in need of compassion, care and Christ.

Our Sacred Duty

At Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes, it is our mission to serve families with compassion and care when they make final arrangements for their loved ones, as we have been doing for the past 100 years. But our mission goes far beyond tending to the practical details. We consider it a ministry that goes back to the basic belief that it is our duty as Catholics to console the grieving and bury the dead in accordance with the teachings of the Church. As part of the Diocese of Phoenix, we perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy under the direction of our Bishop, Thomas Olmsted, and our priests and in partnership with parishes to support mourning families during their time of need. This direction sets us apart from some local funeral homes and cemeteries, which is something in which we take great pride.

A Call to Educate and Welcome the Faithful

An equal part of our calling is to invite families to fully partake in the Catholic Funeral Rites with a Vigil Service at Holy Cross or Queen of Heaven Catholic Funeral Home, a Funeral Mass at a local Catholic church and a Committal service at one of our Catholic cemeteries. We want to welcome families and help them understand that the Catholic Church provides us with a beautiful way to bury the dead, founded in sacred traditions that have their roots in 2,000 years of history.

When they walk through our doors, we make every effort to meet families where they are. Whether they attend daily Mass or find themselves separated from the Church, we work to help them understand the significance of and doctrine behind the Catholic Funeral Rites. It is our utmost hope that these families see an opportunity to confirm and draw strength from their faith and traditions, reconnect with them if they have fallen away from the Church and reflect upon the unending love Christ has for all of us.

The Blessing of a Catholic Legacy

We consider it a blessing to be able to offer Catholic cemeteries to families as a final resting place for their loved ones because they are in a place where the Catholic faith is practiced every day. We celebrate Mass, pray the rosary, and engage in prayer for the living and the dead on these consecrated grounds because we believe in the Resurrection and know that we will rise again with Christ on the last day.

I often walk the grounds of our cemeteries and read the name of those who have gone before us. Although I do not know what their lives’ journeys entailed, I do know that they chose to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. This act is a declaration of their faith as they await the Resurrection. In doing so, they are telling the world that they believe in Jesus Christ. I can’t think of a more beautiful final gesture to make for the loved ones we leave behind here on Earth.

Joseph W. Lange is President and CEO of Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

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