All Souls Day: Remembering loved ones with tears, hope
Story by Georgiana Francisco, Correspondent
At Jesus, Bread of Life Cemetery, Mount Laurel, and St. Mary Cemetery and Mausoleum, Hamilton, faithful of the Diocese of Trenton gathered Nov. 2 to commemorate All Souls Day, and to pray with hope for the souls of the deceased.
The threat of rain had disappeared and the sun began to peek through the clouds as more than 80 guests gathered under a green awning where, Father Jorge Bedoya, parochial vicar of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, celebrated an outdoor Mass.
“This is our second time celebrating the Mass here at Bread of Life Cemetery,” said Father Bedoya, “not just to remember all those who were buried here but all of our beloved ones. It’s a beautiful Christian Catholic tradition on All Souls Day [to] go to the cemetery and take part in the Mass to remind us that we are in communion with God, with all the saints, and our faithful departed.
“So as we come here, some with sadness or tears in their eyes, we also come with hope that we will see [our faithful departed] again in everlasting days, and that’s a hope that will give us courage to live our lives in the presence of God,” Father Bedoya said. Noting the increasing attendance, he expressed the desire that the tradition will continue to grow through the years. “Eventually, when the mausoleum is completed, we will celebrate Mass there.”
At St. Mary’s Cemetery and Mausoleum, family and friends of the deceased interred or entombed there arrived well before the 10 a.m. Mass to locate and pray at a loved one’s gravesite. More than 120 attended the Mass celebrated at the cemetery by Msgr. James Dubell, retired priest of the Diocese.
“It is a Catholic tradition to pray for the souls in purgatory,” Msgr. Dubell said, “and we do still believe in purgatory, as stated in the new Catholic Catechism ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins, the Church offers her suffrage for them’ (CCC958).”
Many arrived early and stayed after to pray at the headstone or in the mausoleum for their individual family members who have died, not only as a way to remember them, but also to help ensure their after-life journey ends with God in heaven.
“Pope John Paul II made clear to us in 1999 in his second encyclical that purgatory is not a place. Rather, it is a process of purification,” Msgr. Dubell continued, “so we pray for our relatives who may be in purgatory.”
Father Bedoya’s homily theme at Jesus, Bread of Life Cemetery, was one of remembrance. “We remember our loved ones with gratitude and all the good things they did for us,” he said, “but we also remember sad stories that make our hearts full of grief. Before he died, Christ asked the apostles to ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ And on the day he died, one crucified with him said, ‘Remember me when you get to paradise.’ Again, the word ‘remember’ is used to complement all the memories our hearts and our minds hold of those who have gone before us to lead the way in the hope of seeing them again in eternal life.”
Father Bedoya asked each of those in attendance to name aloud the person they came to remember and pray for that day.
“We profess in our Creed that we believe in the communion of saints,” Msgr. Dubell said in his homily. “In the month of November we venerate the saints on All Saints Day and pray for our departed loved ones on All Souls Day. Praying for those who have died dates back to the writings of the early Fathers of the Church, from which comes the traditional practice of visiting the cemetery on All Souls Day, as it brings us nearer to our loved ones and shares a love for them that never goes away.”
“In the Second Reading at the All Souls Day Mass (Romans 6:3-9) St. Paul says that God doesn’t give up on anybody, and the Gospel reading also reminds us that we are never truly lost to God – there is hope for everyone, which is the most important message we can take away from All Souls Day,” Msgr. DuBell continued. “You may have given up on God, but he never gives upon you, for he desires our salvation even more than we do.”
Kelly Robinson, a mother of four, whose husband teaches at Pope Paul VI High School, Haddonfield, came to Jesus, Bread of Life Cemetery to remember her grandparents.
“My grandfather passed away a year ago and my grandmother passed away this summer,” she said, noting they were longtime members of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton. “They set a great example of faith and left behind eight grandchildren, all of whom are Catholic … Without them I would never have experienced this, and it was only upon their death that I came to appreciate that more and more.”
Kelly’s teenage daughter Lea said she came to pray for those who died without the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick or who may have died alone.
Walter Yansick, Jr. of Delran came to remember his wife, Janet, who passed away just three weeks earlier.
“My wife was just 67 years old,” he said. “We had been married for almost 44 years. She had been sick for a very long time. It’s been very difficult … being here today has helped the grieving process.”