By Gabrielle Nolan
Mass was celebrated for the first time at the altar in the columbarium of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to mark All Souls Day on Nov. 2, with Bishop Richard F. Stika serving as celebrant.
The feast, which directly follows All Saints Day, invites the Church to pray for the faithful departed, that those souls undergoing purification may soon be united in heaven with God.
“Today we celebrate the feast of All Souls Day with the Church throughout the world as we pray for those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” Bishop Stika said at the beginning of Mass.
“Some lived many years and others just a short amount of time, and yet we pray that they are in the presence of God, that their sins may be forgiven and their acts of kindness and love, whatever that might have looked like, might be rewarded,” the bishop added.
Approximately 60 people were in attendance at the blustery outdoor Mass to pray for those friends and family members interred at the columbarium.
Father David Boettner, rector of the cathedral, and Father Martin Gladysz, associate pastor, concelebrated. Deacon Walt Otey assisted as deacon of the Word and Eucharist.
The cathedral schola provided music for the Mass, and family members of those interred at the columbarium participated through proclaiming the readings and offering the gifts for Communion.
“On All Souls Day, we pray for those who are in purgatory who are undergoing that purification in the presence of God, but also just friends who have died,” the bishop said during his homily. “Friends, children, spouses, and those people that we’ll never know.”
“Faith allows us to know that something just doesn’t end when the heart or the brain might stop, but just that we pass from one existence to another,” he continued.
Bishop Stika recalled his first assignment as a priest, serving both in a parish and as a chaplain for a nursing home.
“So often I would get called in the middle of the night to be with someone to prepare them for death, to give them the Eucharist, and to anoint them, and many times their families were not around, so I would just sit,” the bishop recalled.
Bishop Stika remembered one particular resident named Agnes and his conversation with her.
“She was kind of in and out, but in those moments when she was coherent she said, ‘Father, what’s next?
What will I see?’… I said, ‘Agnes close your eyes just for a moment and then open them.’ I said, ‘When you close your eyes what do you see?’
“So, she closed her eyes and opened them, and she said she saw darkness and then when she opened her eyes she saw light. And I said, to me that’s what death is about. When we close our eyes for the last time, we see darkness on this earth, but I really believe when we die, when we close our eyes for that last time, we see light, we see light,” Bishop Stika said.
“It’s just my hope that as we gather together this day that the Lord will continue to give us consolation and serenity, but to know that those who have gone before us are still with us. We pray that they’re in the presence of God,” he noted.
At the end of the liturgy, Bishop Stika offered his thanks to the cathedral choir and staff for planning the inaugural Mass.
“This is, God willing, going to be a yearly event,” he said.
Bishop Stika concluded Mass with a series of prayers, including the Eternal Rest or Requiem prayer, for all those entombed in the columbarium and for everyone’s deceased.
“It’s always good to pray for the dead, and they pray for us,” Bishop Stika said.
“We’re praying for the dead in the place where they are resting, awaiting the day of resurrection, and the columbarium garden is intended to be a place of reflection, of prayer, where people can come and make visits for those who have been interred here,” Father Boettner said.
The columbarium was completed in September 2018, about six months after construction of the cathedral was completed.
The 4,300-square-foot garden is surrounded by 1,440 granite niches, which can hold two sets of human cremains each, for a total of 2,880 interments.
To date, there have been 30 interments at the columbarium.
“I visit here often as I walk, and I know so many of the people whose names I see enshrined,” Bishop Stika said. “The beauty is here in the memories that are contained in those names and that there are people entombed in these crypts.”
“It’s a magnificent place,” he added. “We’re going to be doing some renovation, beautify it a little bit more.”
The grass areas of the columbarium garden will be replaced with more stone pavers, and fountains and raised flower beds will be added to the space.
“We’ll get a chance to really create a very peaceful and prayerful place for everyone to come,” Father Boettner said.
For more information on the columbarium, contact Scott Barron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To watch a recording of the All Souls Day Mass, visit the DioKnox TV YouTube Channel.