Updated funeral guide makes planning ahead simple

By Beth Donze, Eternal Life, Clarion Herald

The New Orleans Catholic Cemeteries Office has updated its popular “Family Records Guide” to include a brief overview of the Catholic funeral rite.

Renamed the “Catholic Funeral Planning Guide,” the booklet still allows individuals to conveniently fill in their personal wishes and other details related to their funeral, burial and estate, but now a new preface explains the reasons behind the three parts of the Catholic funeral rite: the Vigil (wake); the Funeral Mass; and the Rite of Committal. The preface also lists other considerations, such as the need to contact your pastor or notify the funeral director if you want a Catholic Funeral Mass.

“So many times a parent will pass away and the children do not know what their wishes are: Do they want to be cremated? Have they already bought a mausoleum crypt in a cemetery? Were they drawing a pension?” said Sherri Peppo, executive director of New Orleans Catholic Cemeteries.

“My goal is that people start talking about death, so it becomes less scary,” Peppo said, noting that married couples often are total opposites when it comes to discussing the topic. “But you do need to talk about it – you’ve got to let your family know what your plans are,” she said.

Wishes listed in one place

The guide is exhaustive in its mission to take the guesswork out of sensitive, post-mortem issues and lessen the burden on surviving family members.

One section allows individuals to instruct their survivors on the location of important documents such as wills, insurance policies, tax returns, property deeds, birth and marriage certificates, while another has space for the listing of bank accounts, safe-deposit boxes, pensions and other assets.

The guide allows individuals to inform their loved ones about their specific funeral wishes, including those related to difficult, sometimes awkward topics such as their preferred mode of burial, casket type, burial clothing and jewelry; if they wish to forego the pre-funeral visitation; or if they want a closed or open casket. There are also spaces where they can list their desired clergy or funeral officiate and indicate their preferred hymns, readings and pallbearers.

Individuals can even jot down what they want included in their obituary and list the names and numbers of those they want their family to notify upon their death.

Peppo said readers of the guide might be surprised by the sheer variety of local burial options.

“In our cemeteries, we not only offer mausoleum crypts; we also have tombs, coping burials (in which the grave site is marked by a low structure and the casket buried underground), and columbaria with niches for cremated remains,” she said.

On Nov. 20, the Archdiocese of New Orleans will open its first cremation garden – Queen of All Saints – at St. Patrick No. 3 on City Park Avenue. The garden features more than 600 niches for the entombment of cremated remains.

Sometimes Peppo gets phone calls saying, “My mother told me she bought cemetery property somewhere, but we don’t know where.”

“So they have to start searching,” Peppo said. “The guide is a good place to put all your information down and it asks a lot of questions that you might not have thought about – information on life insurance, information on if you have a safe-deposit box – things you might not discuss on a daily basis with your loved ones, but that they’ll need to know after you pass away.”

The guide is part of New Orleans Catholic Cemeteries’ pre-planning folder offered to families that inquire about burial options at the 13 historic cemeteries operated by the office: St. Joseph Nos. 1 and 2 (Washington Avenue); St. Louis No. 1 (Basin Street); No. 2 (North Claiborne Avenue); and No. 3 (Esplanade Avenue); St. Patrick No. 1 (Canal Street) and Nos. 2 and 3 (City Park Avenue); St. Roch Nos. 1 and 2 (St. Roch Avenue); St. Vincent de Paul Nos. 1 and 2 (Soniat Street); and St. Charles Cemetery (Paul Maillard Road in Luling).

New Orleans Catholic Cemeteries are open to people of all faiths.

The “Catholic Funeral Planning Guide” can be picked up at the Cemeteries Office at 1000 Howard Ave., Suite 500, in New Orleans. It also can be mailed or downloaded at www.nolacatholiccemeteries.org. For more information, call the office at 596-3050.

Beth Donze can be reached at bdonze@clarionherald.org.

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