Do you have questions about being buried one of our cemeteries? If you’re unsure about how to get started with pre-planning a burial or have questions about the intricacies of planning a burial at the time of loss, browse our frequently asked questions below.
- Catholic Cemeteries and Burials
- Questions about Burial Lots, Legal Questions
- Questions about Cremation, Catholic Burial Practices
Cemetery staff are responsible for the maintenance of the grounds of the cemetery, including grass cutting, planting, and repair of the landscape. Therefore, only temporary displays (fresh flowers, artificial flowers, potted plants, annual flowers) may be placed on top of or in front of a monument or marker. Cemetery staff remove temporary displays regularly when they become unsightly or pose a danger to visitors or staff. Absolutely no glass or similarly fragile material is permitted in the cemetery.
The family is responsible for the maintenance of the memorial. The cost to repair damaged memorials is often covered by the family’s homeowner’s insurance policy. The cemetery reserves the right to remove a memorial if it becomes unsightly, or if its condition threatens the safety of staff or visitors.
More appropriately defined as endowed care, these funds are essential for the continued maintenance and care of lots, roads, buildings and features in the cemetery. A portion of each grave, crypt, niche or cremation garden purchase price is placed in a permanently restricted care fund. The interest earned by the funds on deposit is used to offset the aforementioned maintenance costs.
Yes, The Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Charleston do sell memorials. See one of our experienced counselors who will guide you through the process of memorializing every life with dignity. Should you chose to purchase a marker or monument elsewhere an administrative review process must first be performed and the grave prepared, therefore and a fee applies. No marker or monument may be placed in any Diocese operated cemetery without appointment and prior written approval.
The type of memorial permitted depends on the location of the grave or graves within the cemetery. Some sections are designed exclusively for flat markers, while other sections allow for the erection of upright monuments. Memorial options should always be considered when making arrangements to purchase a cemetery lot. All markers and monuments must be approved by the Cemetery Director before it is made to ensure that it is of the correct size, material and reverence for your specific grave type and location.
Any unoccupied lots may be surrendered without question. The Diocese of Charleston has the option of buying back a space for the original purchase price from the Diocese only.
The use of a lot is for the lot holder or lot holder’s relatives for interment purposes only and not for resale or profit. When permitted, a person who is not a member of the lot holder’s family may be interred in the lot, but in no case shall a lot holder have any right to sell, transfer, or exchange any right or interest in the lot without the written permission of the Catholic Cemeteries Office.
When a non-blood heir is to be buried (except in the case in which he or she is named by the owner or in the record on file), all other blood heirs must give their permission.
Families should obtain such permissions in advance of need and file them with the cemetery office.
If the lot holder shall have filed notarized written instructions at the main office of the cemeteries as to which member or members of his (or her) family shall succeed to the right of the lot, those instructions shall be recognized by the Cemetery Authorities and shall be followed if such instructions are definite, reasonable and practicable, subject however to the vested right of interment of the surviving spouse.
Upon the death of the registered owner, interment rights automatically descend to direct blood heirs equally, unless rights are specifically assigned to a particular heir in a will or other instrument. The spouse of the original purchaser always has the right of burial ahead of other heirs.
Graves and crypts are conveyed by easement which does not convey direct ownership but an exclusive and permanent right of use. Even though the term “deed” is often used, you buy only the right of burial, not the land in a Catholic cemetery.
Yes. A concrete liner, or a metal or concrete vault, must be used for all in-ground burials in the diocesan cemeteries and can be purchased through your funeral home. Cremated remains must be placed in a container deemed suitable for burial by the Cemetery Authorities.
Yes. The donation of a body or specific organs for medical research or organ banks is appropriate and should be arranged in advance. Subsequent burial or the cremated remains must take place.
The cremated remains of the body are to be treated the same way, with the same dignity and respect as the full body. Therefore, practices of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping the remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not permitted. The cremated remains of a body should be inurned in a mausoleum or columbarium or buried in a grave in a cemetery.
The cremated remains of the body should be treated with the same dignity and respect given to the corporeal remains of a human body. This includes the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and their final disposition. The cremated remains of a body should be inurned in a mausoleum or columbarium or buried in a grave in a cemetery.
Cremation is acceptable. When cremation is chosen, burial of the cremated remains in a suitable container is required, as they are human remains which should have reverent disposition. Burial may be made in an existing family plot, or in graves, gardens and niches specially designed for cremated remains.
For entombment, or above-ground burial, you may choose a crypt in what is commonly known as a community mausoleum or a niche in a columbarium. Families may also erect their own private mausoleum or columbarium in designated areas of Holy Cross Cemetery and St. Lawrence Cemetery.
Yes. Because the time of death is often traumatic, with emotional and financial strain, it is advisable to select a burial lot in advance. Thoughtful planning and financial prudence will help avoid hasty selections made at the time of need. The Pre-need Counseling Service of the Cemeteries Office allows you to make prudent decisions without pressure. All burials spaces, crypts and niches must be paid in full before burial can occur.
If you already own a cemetery lot, and the deceased’s wishes are known, contact the priest from the person’s parish for prayers and for the consolation of those who are gathered in the presence of the deceased. You will also need to contact your local funeral director. The funeral director will make arrangements on your behalf with the cemetery. If you do not have a lot, you will have to visit the cemetery to select a lot for the burial.
The cremated remains of the body should be buried or entombed. The scattering of the cremated remains of the body, or the keeping of them at home, or the dividing of them among various family members is not the reverent disposition the church requires.
Most Catholic cemeteries have grave space or crypt space or niches for the cremated remains of the body. This allows for visitation, memorialization and prayers.
At the cemetery, a final prayer “The Rite of Committal,” is prayed as the cremated remains of the body are laid to rest.
Recognizing that the goal of our lives is eternal life with God, we prepare for that by prayer, reception of the sacraments and care for those around us. Preparation for death is an essential part of life for a Christian.
In today’s society, for some, choosing cremation is part of that preparation for death. The Church continues to prefer and encourage the faithful to bury or entomb the bodies of their departed loved ones. However, if cremation is chosen for worthy motives, the church wishes to support the faithful in honoring the life and memory of the departed.
Prior to cremation, arrangements should be made among the family of the deceased, the crematorium, the funeral director and the cemetery concerning the disposition of the cremated remains of the body.
Most crematoriums will ship the cremated remains of the body via registered mail, or some other secure service, to the person who is responsible for them.
Upon receipt, the cremated remains of the body should be treated with respect in the way they are handled, transported, cared for and in their final disposition.
The same rights as those afforded to Catholics choosing full body burial. See above.
The church strongly prefers that cremation takes place after the full Funeral Liturgy where the body is present. “This is the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life.” The Church’s belief in the sacredness of life and the resurrection of the dead encourages us to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body present while affirming the value of human life. As Catholics we celebrate our funeral liturgies, because they recall Christ’s victory over death. With His victory, comes our promise of eternal life.
If it is not possible for the body to be present at the Funeral Mass, permission has been granted by the Catholic Church which provides for the celebration of the Funeral Mass with the cremated remains of the body present in church. Since it is the ‘earthly remains’ and not the body of the deceased that is present, there are slight adaptations in the liturgy. In some diocese, local permission is needed for the cremated remains of the body to be present at Mass.
What we commonly call “ashes” are really not ash as we know it, but bone particles. The proper terminology of the remains of the body after cremation is cremated remains of the body. The Church also holds that these remains be treated with the same respect that the body was treated with prior to cremation, including the use of a “worthy vessel” or urn for the cremated remains of the body.
Cremation is the process where the body is totally incinerated by intense heat and flame. All substances are consumed and vaporized except bone fragments and any noncombustible materials. The bone fragments may be further pulverized after cooling. These remains weigh anywhere from 4 to 10 pounds.
Catholics believe that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and that all of God’s creation is sacred. Just as the body should be treated with respect in life, so should it be treated in death. As Catholics we believe that “in baptism the body was marked with the seal of the Trinity and became the temple of the Holy Spirit,” and as such, “Christians respect and honor the bodies of the dead and the places they rest” (OCF 19). During life our body was baptized into the Lord and His promise of eternal life.
From the earliest days of Christianity, cremation was seen as a pagan ritual perceived to be contrary to this and other Catholic teachings, and therefore prohibited by the Catholic Church.
Today, cremation is only prohibited if the person choosing cremation is doing so to deny Christian teachings, especially that of the resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul.
In 1963, the Catholic Church lifted its prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation. Canon 1176 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states, “The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed, it does not however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.”
Cremation may be a confusing issue for Catholics. At one time, the church prohibited cremation but this is no longer the case. We’ve provided some answers to the most commonly asked questions and we hope this will be helpful in making your decision.
The Order of Christian Funerals presents the Church’s plan for the celebration of the death of one the faithful. These rites assume the presence of the body, but adaptations are available for those choosing cremation. The Order of Christian Funerals consists of three parts:
- Vigil and Related Rites and Prayers
- The Funeral Liturgy and
- The Rite of Committal
The “Vigil and Related Rites and Prayers” gives family and friends an opportunity to gather in the presence of the deceased and offer support and prayers to and for each other as well as the deceased, and recall their Christian life. The “Funeral Liturgy”, frequently celebrated within Mass, but which may be celebrated outside of Mass, allows us to relive the Easter mystery and Christ’s promise of eternal life. The “Rite of Committal” is our farewell to our beloved brother or sister in Christ. At this time we turn over the care of our loved one to the cemetery as we await the resurrection of the dead along with the Communion of Saints.
When we are baptized our bodies are marked by the seal of the Holy Trinity. In accordance with this belief, we respect and honor the bodies of the dead and the places where they rest.
The preparation of the body of the deceased is always marked with dignity and reverence and never with the despair of those who have no hope. Therefore, in the presence of the deceased we turn to prayer. In our time of sorrow it is through prayer that we receive the necessary grace and consoling assurances of our faith.
As more families choose cremation a person may choose from several options:
- Inurnment above-ground in a niche in a mausoleum or columbarium as described above
- Burial in the ground in a traditional burial space
- Burial in the ground in a smaller, cremation-only burial space
- Burial in the ground in an eco-friendly Cremation Garden with landscaping and irrigation
- Burial in the ground in a traditional burial space already occupied by a loved one either as a casket burial or as a cremation burial. Burial in a single grave with a loved one requires an Additional Right of Interment and affords a cost savings when compared to the purchase of a separate burial space.