Peter Beauregard, director of facilities and Catholic cemeteries for the Diocese of Burlington, has direct responsibility for the diocesan cemetery, Resurrection Park in South Burlington, but he also offers support to 74 parish cemeteries throughout Vermont.
“Support of the parish cemeteries includes the sharing of best practices in the areas of services offered, accounting and property maintenance,” he explained, adding that cemeteries are eligible for the annual SafetyFirst grant program that can be used to repair, implement or improve safety concerns.
It is important to place the Catholic cemetery within the Catholic burial tradition. That tradition flows out of fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith that include:
+ the dignity of each individual human person;
+ the importance of Baptism into the faith;
+ the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ;
+ the promise of Jesus that His followers will share eternal life;
+ the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass uniting us to the Cross and our expression of adoration, thanksgiving, petition and supplication.
The operation of a Catholic cemetery ministry should support each of these tenets. “Our Catholic cemeteries are blessed and consecrated grounds not unlike our churches,” Beauregard said. “Maintaining them to the best of our ability is an outward sign that we are thankful for what we have been given.” Mowing the grass controls the pest and weeds from taking over and keeping the grass at a two- to-three-inch height helps control the moisture of the soil. Maintenance of the monuments and their foundations ensures that the stones are stable and unlikely to fall over. Proper tree maintenance includes visual inspections to identify decay that can weaken a tree causing it to fall in high winds, damaging headstones and endangering visitors.
The maintenance of the cemeteries includes lawns, fences, trees, hedges, stone walls, ponds, roadways, pathways, water systems, storage buildings and machinery.
Beauregard estimated that there are 1,200 burials annually in the cemeteries he deals with, but that number could change because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Catholic cemetery grounds are consecrated and an extension of the Church,” he said “They are adorned with special Christian symbols, monuments and structures that make visiting them a holy and serene experience.”
For more information on Catholic cemeteries, go to vermontcatholic.org/about/finance/cemeteries.
The Bishop’s Annual Appeal supports the oversight of several Catholic cemeteries and guidance for all Catholic cemeteries in Vermont. To make a donation, go to bishopsappealvt.org.
—Originally published in the May 22-28, 2020, issue of The Inland See.