Diocesan News

Improvements underway at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Lincoln

LINCOLN (SNR) - Calvary Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum at 40th and O streets in Lincoln is the only blessed Catholic cemetery and mausoleum in Nebraska’s capitol city. Currently, plans are underway to make it a more beautiful, peaceful and functional place than ever.

"The cemetery is like a diamond in the rough," said Father Thomas MacLean, who was appointed director last June.

Ever since Catholics settled in the Lincoln area, there was an effort to provide a proper place of burial for the faithfully departed. The first recorded burial at the present location was in 1869 – Michael Shea.

In 1930, the cemetery was deeded to the statewide Calvary Cemetery Association. Eleven years later, Bishop Louis B. Kucera founded the Diocesan Department of Catholic Cemeteries, which was the first such department in the country.

For the first time, a priest was appointed as director of Calvary Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum, working with local parishes and mortuaries to provide a sacred place in which to bury and to pray for loved ones.

Father MacLean’s background in environmental architecture has fueled a particular enthusiasm for furthering the work accomplished by his predecessors, as well as many patrons.

He noted especially the contributions of Msgr. David Hintz, the most recent director.

"Monsignor’s most dramatic improvement to the cemetery is easily appreciated if one drives by the entrance at 145 South 40th Street and sees the beautiful red brick and black rod iron gate and fence," Father MacLean said.

Msgr. Hintz also expanded the present mausoleum and developed a large addition to the southern edge of the cemetery with proper grading, paved roads, curbs, and trees.

With all this in place, Father MacLean is able to focus on fulfilling the cemetery’s potential to become "a beautiful garden for the dignity, honor, and respect due our loved ones who are buried here, and for our own spiritual edification."

Among the most pressing work is tree service.

Under the guidance of the cemetery sexton, who is an arborist, and a volunteer landscape architect, diseased, dead and dying trees are being taken down. Others were slated for removal due to overcrowding or poor placement, which prevented healthy growth and detracts from the overall beauty of the grounds.

Once the tree removal is complete, the arborist will trim and shape the remaining trees to ensure both health and visual appeal. Plans are also in place to improve the quality of the lawn itself.

Another immediate need is to repair and realign various monuments and gravestones.

"Anyone can see the effects of gravity that naturally press upon the majestic monuments that once stood upright," lamented Father MacLean.

In addition to the statuary restoration that is underway, stone markers that have settled at awkward angles will be realigned to prevent damage to the stones themselves, as well as to lawn-care equipment.

Father MacLean has spent some time visiting other cemeteries and meeting with families who have loved ones buried at Calvary Catholic Cemetery for insight. A cemetery advisory board has also been established.

The board determined that the present grounds and floral policy is satisfactory, but they are considering some changes to improve the dignity and appearance of the property.

"For example, while it has become a practice for some to walk their pets in the cemetery, this has caused a number of serious problems and complaints," Father MacLean said.

He is equally concerned about the liability problems that come from placing prohibited items, such as statues, urns, benches and the like, on or near graves. These items are unstable (or become so), leading to serious potential for personal injury and property liability.

Father MacLean understands that these additions are placed by well-meaning people who simply misunderstand what is allowed.

"Grave ownership does not permit the owner to place or install any permanent or nonpermanent fixtures on the burial property," he explained. "Just as covenants, codes, and restrictions in the deeds of some neighborhood home owner association policies can restrict everything from the number of people who can live in a house to a limitation of the colors the house can be painted, so the ownership of a grave comes with some reasonable restrictions."

He urges families with loved ones buried at Calvary to review the gravesite purchase agreement and the cemetery’s current regulations. Meanwhile, inappropriate items are being tagged and scheduled for removal Nov. 11. Families who would like to replace these objects with an approved permanent flower vase can purchase them through the cemetery office.

Father MacLean hopes that all will share in the vision for Calvary Catholic Cemetery as a "beautiful garden and a peaceful resting place."

"It is hallowed ground and a most appropriate place to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass on Fridays at 12:15 p.m. for the faithful departed who are buried there and friends and family who remember and mourn them," he said.

He welcomes anyone to contact the cemetery at 402-476-8787 with offers of expertise, hopes, concerns, suggestions or recommendations.

"Together with you, this holy place of rest may become a beautiful garden shared by all who wish to visit and pray," he said.

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