Planned mausoleum will provide Catholic options for cremation and full burials

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CRANSTON — Site preparation is underway on a new place for the faithful to express their reverence for departed loved ones with the groundbreaking for a new mausoleum at St. Ann Cemetery on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Tuesday, May 1.

Though the cemetery already has six mausolea, five are at capacity. The sixth is a holding crypt for about 100 remains waiting to be interred in the new structure, which Office of Catholic Cemeteries Director Anthony Carpinello said has a wait list of about 150 people.

The new 22,000-square-foot mausoleum complex, to be built by McClesky Mausoleums on a design by Cemetery Design Associates (CDA), will accommodate 720 exterior and interior niches for urns containing cremains as well as 2,086 crypt entombments. Most urn niches will be fronted with marble and a name plate, but some will have a glass front.

The holding crypt will become permanent crypt space after the new mausoleum is complete, said McClesky’s Vice President of Production Kim Tadlock.

The choice of date for the groundbreaking was no coincidence, said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.

“The work we’re beginning today should enliven our faith and make us grateful,” Tobin said, noting that the mausoleum will be a place where the deceased faithful will rest while awaiting resurrection at Christ’s return.

“All of our labor, when done for the glory of God and in service to our brothers and sisters, can have immense value and meaning,” the bishop continued. The groundbreaking was only the first step in an endeavor dedicated “to the glory of God and the welfare of our brothers and sisters who will be buried here,” he said.

The feast day was also appropriate as St. Joseph is the patron of a happy death, Bishop Tobin added. The foster father of Christ was then invoked for the safety of all who would labor on the construction site.

The bishop joined in the groundbreaking with Carpinello, diocesan Chief Financial Officer Michael Sabatino, Vicar of Planning and Finance Msgr. Raymond Bastia, CDA President Larry Jones, McCleskey Mausoleums President Bob DeBeltrand and Cemetery Advisory Board Chairman Father William Ledoux.

Construction is expected to begin in June or July and take two years to complete, Tadlock said. A preliminary base cost estimate is $10 million, according to Mark Tucker of CDA.

The mausoleum’s design was inspired by the architecture of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence.

“From the moment we saw the plan, we knew it was the design,” said Carpinello. “It reinforces the bond and relationship between Catholic Cemeteries and the diocese.”

The resemblance to the cathedral is especially seen in the 50-foot-high towers flanking the mausoleum’s entrance, Tucker said.

Construction will take place in two phases. Phase One will include the main building with chapel, and Phase Two will add a rear wing with more crypt space.

The 30-by-60-foot chapel will be able to accommodate up to 200 people, and will also provide spaces for burials. Stained glass windows throughout the building will incorporate windows from churches around the diocese that have been closed. Marble will be used throughout the interior and granite will line the exterior crypts and urn niches, Tucker said.

“This is really a first-class building,” he observed. “It will serve as a throwback to what churches used to look like.”

In the present time, while scattering ashes might be a popular method of disposing of cremated human remains (or “cremains”), the Catholic faith prohibits the practice. Church teaching also forbids distributing cremains among loved ones, incorporating them into jewelry, ceramics or paintings, or even keeping them respectfully at home.

Yet many faithful are unaware of the specifically Catholic way of cremation – and of the reasons behind it. In an effort to help spread the word about the proper way to care for the remains of the dead, the diocesan Catholic Cemetery Office will soon embark on the “Coming Home” outreach and education campaign.

“It’s not people’s fault that they don’t know,” said Carpinello. “We’re trying to reinforce the Order of Christian Funerals so families understand, you didn’t do anything wrong. Just bring mom and dad home. We want you to bring your loved ones back to Catholic cemeteries.”

The Catholic Church began allowing cremation in 1963, with the instruction “Piam et Constantem.” The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith restated and clarified that document in the August, 2016 instruction “Ad Resurgendum cum Christo: Regarding the Burial of the Deceased and the Conservation of the Ashes in the Case of Cremation.”

Informed by Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person and the resurrection of the body, the Order of Christian Funerals stipulates that cremains must be contained in an urn, which must be deposited in a consecrated space such as an in-ground grave or a columbarium.

“It’s about reverence for the sacredness of the human body,” Carpinello said.