If you asked me 20 years ago what I’d be doing now, the last answer I would have given is cemetery manager. But that’s exactly where I find myself today.

You see, I had lived my life until that point largely untouched by death. My great grandparents passed away when I was very young, but I don’t remember much about losing them. That all changed, though, when my brother died tragically at the age of 30. His death devastated our family, and I felt anguished watching his wife and five children, along with our parents, suffering from the magnitude of the sudden loss.

Paty Rodriguez is Cemetery Manager at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery and Funeral Home.

Although this was a time of great sadness for me, it also marked a turning point in my life. Through this difficult experience, I discovered my calling. It was the staff of the cemetery where we made my brother’s arrangements who saw the potential in me. They brought me to believe that I could help families struggling to come to terms with loss because I had been there, myself, and survived with my faith and spirit intact.

In 2000, I joined the team at that cemetery, and I’ve spent the past 16 years in the greater Phoenix area helping families make final arrangements for their loved ones. During this time, I felt a great satisfaction in my professional life, but in the back of my mind I always wanted to be at a Catholic cemetery, a place where I could live out my faith each day in my work.

A few months ago, I got the opportunity to do just that when I accepted the role of cemetery manager at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery and Funeral Home. Here, I find myself surrounded by other staff members — from our family service counselors to our groundskeepers—who share my passion for our mission. We take great pride in helping families lay their loved ones to rest in the traditions of the Catholic faith with the care and compassion that Christ modeled for us all.

In the end, I know that families are placing their trust in us during some of their darkest hours. I feel a deep gratitude that I can help them bury their loved ones in accordance with Catholic teachings with the honor and respect they deserve.

Many blessings.

Paty Rodriguez is Cemetery Manager at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery and Funeral Home.