By Bill Brewer
When the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus opens next year, among its many features will be a memorial garden with burial spaces for bishops who have served the Diocese of Knoxville and a columbarium where Catholic faithful in the diocese can be laid to rest.
Father David Boettner, rector of the cathedral parish, said the Holy Family Memorial Garden is set for completion by the end of this year and will be located toward the rear south side of the cathedral in an area between the new church building, Sacred Heart Cathedral School, and the Chancery.
The memorial garden will be a first for the cathedral, a sacred, blessed area where the remains of deceased faithful can be interred.
Father Boettner described Holy Family Memorial as a gated, rectangular garden that will have burial plots for bishops and a columbarium extending on each side of the garden. The columbarium will have 1,440 spaces, or niches, and each niche can hold two urns, so there will be space for the cremains of 2,880 people. And there will be room for expansion when needed.
The garden’s main entrance will have a crucifix, and an altar will be located inside to accommodate memorial Masses.
Bishop Richard F. Stika has expressed his wish to be buried in Holy Family Memorial Garden.
“The Catholic Church has a longstanding tradition of cemeteries and having the faithful buried near a church. Since we don’t have space for a cemetery near the cathedral, we wanted to have a columbarium for the faithful of the cathedral and the diocese because the cathedral is our mother church,” Father Boettner said.
Father Boettner is looking forward to the cathedral returning to Church tradition with the Holy Family Memorial Garden.
“The beauty of this is it will allow us to do what used to be done before funeral homes became tradition. A wake can be held at the cathedral before the funeral Mass. And once the deceased is cremated, preferably after the funeral Mass, the cremains can be laid to rest in the memorial garden,” he said.
Father Boettner pointed out that upward of 40 percent of burials now are cremations. More people are turning to cremation because it is considered less costly than traditional burial.
The cathedral rector noted that as word spreads about the memorial garden, response is building and a number of people have expressed their wishes to be laid to rest there.
Father Boettner plans to be one of them, with his intention to obtain a niche there. “Because I can’t think of any place better to be buried than at a cathedral.”