“Operating a cemetery is very expensive in today’s world, and for that reason we need to be good stewards of all cemetery funds to provide a sacred place for those who have placed their love ones in our care,” said Robert E. Brown, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Burlington. “The Catholic faithful expect our cemeteries to be a place of reverence, a peaceful area for prayer and reflection.”

But maintaining them is expensive.

The Vermont Catholic Community Foundation provides pathways for Catholics to leave a legacy that will shape the future of the Catholic Church in Vermont. “One of those pathways is the Perpetual Care Fund which enables our Catholic Parish Cemeteries to place their perpetual care monies together for an opportunity of a higher return on their investment,” Brown explained. “The foundation will manage these funds and distribute them on a percentage based on the principle invested. This will provide our cemeteries much needed funds for their operations.”

Perpetual Care by definition is the continued maintenance and care of the burial spaces, roads, buildings, equipment, tools, compensation for employees and record keeping.

Parish cemeteries are “not all that uncommon” in the Midwest, said Grant Emmel, who is charged with keeping tabs on the 125 cemeteries in the Madison Diocese.

“The parish cemetery is like a business. You’ve got to approach it with that kind of mindset,” Emmel told Catholic News Service. “You’ve got inventory, you’re selling things, you’ve got customer service, a lot of record-keeping — more so than a general nonprofit might think about. Then you’ve got the whole ministry side. … You start adding that in, there’s a lot to learn, but it’s not overwhelming.”

He explained the dual nature of cemetery as business and ministry: “Like catechesis, like religious education, like the Catholic school, the cemetery is a ministry. In some situations, you say: ‘Listen, the cemetery has to be self-sustaining. It has to pay its own way.’ That’s not an unreasonable thing to say, but at some level, there’s going to be some level of expectation that this is important to us, and it’s worth it to us to expend some of our resources to keep this up and running.”

Learn more about The Vermont Catholic Community Foundation.

–Catholic News Service contributed to this article.