By Reagan Scott
LINCOLN (SNR) - When Brent Aden became the grounds supervisor at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Lincoln over five years ago, he said, the cemetery just wasn’t very appealing.
“Only the bare necessities were being done,” Aden said.
Under the direction of Father Thomas MacLean, new life was brought to the cemetery, starting with the removal of 77 trees from the grounds. This change made the space much more open, and made the property safer, as some were in danger of falling over.
After the tree removal, the first major project at Calvary was the installation of new stained-glass windows in the Saint Charbel Chapel, the result of a generous gift from the Pearle Francis Finigan Foundation, headed by president Liana Sandin.
The chapel was built at the encouragement of Lebanese families in the Diocese of Lincoln. Because Saint Charbel is a Lebanese saint, the chapel was named for him, and the families donated relics of his, which are kept on the altar.
Over the past few years, the chapel saw the addition of a new altar built by Aden’s brother, a podium, and crucifix. The chairs were redone by the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, and kneelers were added.
“The chapel was very somber, but it’s a nice place to celebrate Mass now,” Aden said.
Every Friday, Msgr. Timothy Thorburn, the diocesan director of cemeteries and Calvary Cemetery, celebrates Mass in the chapel at 12:15 p.m. Aden said attendance has increased steadily over the years and Calvary invites all to participate if they can.
Msgr. Thorburn said that, as the greatest prayer Catholics can pray, the Mass is an opportunity to lay intentions at the foot of Calvary.
“Souls in Purgatory need our prayers constantly, and this is a good reminder that we have an obligation to pray for our friends and relatives who have died, just as our friends and relatives should pray for us when we die,” Msgr. Thorburn said.
Cheryl Winter of Lincoln has attended Mass in the chapel for years and has seen the changes made to the space first-hand.
“It’s really wonderful to have seen this progress,” Winter said. “[The chapel] is so intimate.”
Other notable projects include improvements to the Infant of Prague portion of the cemetery, where infants are buried. New statues and fences were added to the area, trees were planted, and work continues in improving the space and straightening grave markers.
The cemetery also installed a new columbarium, for the above-ground interment of urns, and has a new area for in-ground cremations.
Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Lincoln donated all of the funds needed to build a crypt for miscarried babies, which was placed at the fence along 40th Street, where the stations of the cross can be found. In the future, Aden said, Calvary Cemetery hopes to raise the funds to beautify the flower beds surrounding them.
Aden said he has seen more and more people who want to donate both their time and treasure to the cemetery.
As part of their Eagle Scout project, young men helped to build a rope fence around the area of the cemetery for priests and nuns, and the Calvary staff were able to purchase permanent flower vases for graves with funds raised by Sister Mary-Claire Tran.
Knights of Columbus councils in Lincoln donated statues of the Beatitudes and Ten Commandments which can be viewed upon entrance to the cemetery.
And, thanks to the Pearle Francis Finnigan Fund, Aden and the grounds crew at Calvary are constructing a new maintenance shop after they outgrew their old one. It will be finished right before spring.
“We’ve made leaps and bounds from where the cemetery was at,” Aden said. “We have a lot of options for families, and a lot of people don’t know these options are there. When people come through our gates, I want them to smile and say, ‘Wow, we picked a good place.’”
One of the things that Aden is most proud of is the progress the staff have made in improving the cemetery in the past five years. He stressed that the staff at Calvary are like a family, and they’re all dedicated to the care and keeping of Lincoln’s only Catholic cemetery.
“This is our cemetery,” Aden said, “There’s not a lot of people who can say that they have a special place to bury their loved ones.”
Msgr. Thorburn is grateful to the staff for all they’ve done to care for the Catholics of the diocese, even after they pass away.
He said, “All of them are very devoted to their faith and to making their work not simply a job, but a service to the Lord and the families who have loved ones buried here.”