By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
On April 4, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for a new cemetery and funeral home in Covington.
St. Lazarus of Bethany Memorial Garden and Grace Funeral Home are a collaboration between the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Service Corporation International (SCI), a leading provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services in America.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond blessed the land and the people working on the project and expressed gratitude for being able to fulfill the need of a new cemetery on the northshore.
“One of the most important things we do for individuals and for families is to be present at the time of death, to help the families experience God’s comfort – the comfort of the church – but also to continue to give deep respect to the human body,” Archbishop Aymond said. “The body is a sacred place. It is where God dwells in us during our earthly life, and it is also the gift of God that he gives us to be who we are and do what we do.
Respect for God’s temple
“So, in our Christian tradition, there is a great respect for the dignity of the human body. We believe that we not only give comfort and love to families, but also that we show the very best of respect and dignity for the body and remains. We have no doubt that we can do that with SCI and look forward to that.”
Archbishop Aymond detailed how the names were chosen – one was taken from the Scripture passage in which Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and raised him from the dead, only to bury him again at his death.
“The image of St. Lazarus not only tells us about grief, but also about God breathing life into us and calling us home to the kingdom,” Archbishop Aymond said. “We decided on ‘Grace’ because this is a graced moment as people come into the funeral home. We believe it is a graced moment of God’s comfort and of God’s love.”
Completed in phases
The initial phase of the new development is situated on 54 acres (including wetlands) and includes an 8,500-square-foot funeral home, 800 cemetery plots, 300 mausoleum crypts and 200 cremation niches.
“The new property will be carefully designed and constructed to preserve more than 16 acres of protected wetlands,” said Eric Tanzberger, SCI’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, at the ground breaking.
“It dovetails into the serenity of the park, having this natural beauty there,” said Mike Decell, Service Corporation International’s managing director of real estate and construction, said of the wetlands. “We’re trying to use the benefit of the natural setting of the park.”
Tanzberger lauded Archbishop Aymond and the archdiocese for being “instrumental and such great partners in this project. We couldn’t be more honored to work with Archbishop Aymond to help realize his mission of serving parishioners of Most Holy Trinity Parish, the surrounding parishes as well as all of the northshore community.”
Decell said the architects studied the features of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church and St. Anthony’s Gardens (across the street) when considering the design of the funeral home.
“It’s a state-of-the-art funeral home that is going to complement the existing development there with the archdiocese,” Decell said, adding it would be tailored to the traditions of residents of the area. “We have visitation rooms and a chapel in the facility and multi-purpose rooms to accommodate both visitation and actual memorial services.”
SCI is using Kenny Whistler Architecture as the funeral home designer, and Clark and Green Associates as the cemetery’s landscape architect, Decell said. In addition, Faulk and Meek General Contractors is the building contractor; while Larry Loyd Construction is site contractor.
Legacy of ownership
The project is part of the development of approximately 370 acres that was donated to the archdiocese by Father Hyacinth Claude Mignot, canon and rector at St. Louis Cathedral, and once used by the Chinchuba Institute for the Deaf in the early 1900s. Most Holy Trinity Church and St. Anthony’s Gardens retirement residence for seniors were also built on this property.
John Eckholdt, former chief operating officer of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, said the archdiocese worked out the details of the project so that SCI leases the land and builds, maintains and runs the funeral home and cemetery. Headquartered in Houston, SCI was selected as partners because of its excellent products and services in the industry, operating 1,488 funeral homes and 473 cemeteries in 45 states and eight Canadian provinces, including the local Lakelawn Metairie Funeral Home and Cemetery, Mount Olivet Cemetery, St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery and Leitz-Eagan Funeral Home.
The Catholic presence is clear throughout the development, Eckholdt said, though people of all faiths are welcomed to use the facility.
Decell projected that Phase I of the project would be completed by the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019. Additional phases on the approximately 34 remaining acres will be built as need dictates, he said.
“The people are excited about it,” said Father Rodney Bourg, pastor at Most Holy Trinity Church and a participant in the initial planning for the church, senior residence and cemetery project. “We need a cemetery on this side of the lake.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.