By Andy Miller, Family Services Counselor, St. Francis Catholic Cemetery
Six months ago, when I began my role of family services coordinator at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery, I had no idea that I was ending up exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I had never worked at a cemetery before when I joined Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes. I had, however, worked in the service of individuals and families. Most recently, I did so in the seminary in Nebraska while I was undergoing discernment. There, I met with many people during some of the most vulnerable moments in their lives, such as an illness or other personal distress.
While I ultimately left the seminary, God led me to St. Francis, where I continue ministering to families during their time of need in a different way. When families walk through our doors, they are often sorrowful, overwhelmed and even doubtful. In my role, I am honored and blessed to be steady and supportive resource for them as they go through the difficult exercise of making final arrangements for a loved one.
Many times, families will tell me they have never done this before. If their loved one didn’t have prearranged plans, I am able to walk them through the process, step by step. As their family service counselor, I am their single point of contact from the moment they enter the building to the time when they say their final goodbyes at the gravesite, niche or mausoleum.
I’m also here to help them months or years later if they need assistance designing or installing a headstone, maintaining a gravesite or just want someone to pray with. Having a familiar face here can be a comfort, and I know even a small gesture can make a big impact on a grieving family.
While I find great satisfaction in every part of my role, what fulfills me most is when I am able to share with families the Catholic Church’s teachings on the death, the needs to pray for the dead, and the resurrection of the body and helping them make the best possible final arrangements for their loved ones in alignment with their faith. It is truly a joy to be able to reassure families in mourning that they are in God’s hands.