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Resurrection of Grounds: Final resting places restored at Maple Street Cemetery in Brandon

Resurrection of Grounds: Final resting places restored at Maple Street Cemetery in Brandon Stock photo
Burying the dead is a Corporal Work of Mercy.

But sometimes cemeteries fall into disrepair after the family members of those buried there die or move away.

“It is our responsibility to continue to care for the loved ones that have gone before us,” said Robert Brown, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Burlington. “I believe it is a matter of communication between past and new volunteers and understanding that the memorial stones are the responsibility of the families, not the cemetery. This becomes a problem in older cemeteries as the families have died and the later generations have moved-on out of the community.”

Such was the situation in Maple Street Cemetery in Brandon.

“The cemetery had been falling apart,” said Charles Memoe, a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Help Parish and chair of the parish cemetery commission. Stones were tipped and falling over; some were broken. Work needed to be done on the foundations and bases of some of the marble monuments.

After a two-month project that ended in July, the cemetery has been restored.

“It’s gratifying — and not just to the Catholic community,” Memoe said of the completed project.

Thirty stones — just about all of them — were professionally repaired at a cost of about $1,500. Almost half of that came from a grant from the Vermont Old Cemetery Association and the other half from the parish cemetery fund.

The cemetery was once called French Hill Cemetery; it dates back to the 1850s when the Catholic church was next to the cemetery. In 1876, the New St. Mary Cemetery was established on the northeast side of town, and in 1891, a new church was dedicated in the village of Brandon. Both cemeteries are owned by the Diocese of Burlington and are an important part of Our Lady of Good Help Parish ministry, Brown explained.

When a cemetery needs restoration work, his office will assist parishes in finding ways to fix the problems through parish cemetery budgets, fundraising and requests for donations of money and time from parishioners, monument dealers and the community in general. 

“Going forward, the way to fix any issue is to prevent the issue before it happens. That is one of the reasons we inspect our Catholic cemeteries every year,” he said. 

The diocesan cemetery office is responsible for the management of the diocesan cemetery — Resurrection Park Catholic Cemetery in South Burlington — and St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Bloomfield and Assumption Cemetery in Canaan. 

There are 87 parish cemeteries that are managed by the pastors and advisory boards of those parishes. “I am a resource to them and assist with operations, mapping, computer cemetery software, investment options and safety concerns — just to name a few,” Brown said. “Better business practices along with good management will make sure that our Catholic cemeteries are well cared for long into the future.”

To help accomplish this, each cemetery has a “Cemetery Management Manual,” “Policies and Procedures Manual” and “Standardized Rules and Regulations” to follow.

To further explain the importance of cemetery ministry, Brown has attended weekend Masses at some Vermont parishes to speak about the history of the parish cemetery. He explains that the Catholic cemetery is a sacred place to pray for the dead and that pastors along with their staff create a peaceful setting in the way they maintain the cemeteries.

Persons who want to contribute their time and efforts to a Catholic cemetery advisory board should contact their parish office and discuss ideas with the pastor. They also may contribute to their parish cemetery by donating to either the “Operations Fund” or the “Perpetual Care Fund” by contacting their parish office.

“I have met many dedicated individuals who care for our Catholic cemeteries around the Diocese of Burlington, and I personally wish to thank you for your continued service to your parish cemetery,” Brown said. “I enjoy meeting with you and listening to the history of those who are buried in the cemetery.”

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban,
Vermont Catholic content editor/staff writer.
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