Catholic Cemeteries do mostly graveside services
Rick McLean, executive director of the Holy Cross Funeral and Cemetery Services, sees his work with Bishop Thomas Daly, the Rev. Darrin Connall, the Catholic Diocese of Spokane and the Holy Cross Board of Directors as a ministry.
At Holy Cross Cemetery, St. Joseph Cemetery, Queen of Peace at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, Queen of Heaven in Sprague and assisting at St. Michael's Cemetery, he said, his team has dealt with only one confirmed COVID-19 death.
They have done graveside committal services, looking out for the safety of staff, families and the community.
Most services in recent months have been graveside committals, but there have also been a few outside graveside funeral Masses for immediate family, standing six feet apart. At funeral Masses "only the priest receives the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, while those in attendance pray and partake spiritually," Rick said.
Staff sanitize the tent, chairs and equipment before and after the services. The ground crew wears appropriate PPE. Some family members wear masks, and the funeral homes make masks available for all family members, even though masks are not required when outside, six feet apart.
"We purchased video equipment so we could make videos available to families who were unable to come," Rick said, "but many families take their own videos."
He notes that his parish, St. Joseph's in Otis Orchards, as others, has been doing worship online, plus encouraging people to watch the Catholic TV station EWTN, which broadcasts Mass, and Masses led by Bishop Daly.
Rick is concerned about the long-term impact for people suffering the loss of loved ones without a proper closure. At first, gatherings were limited to 50, then 10, then zero. Currently, immediate family is allowed to attend.
"We encourage families to do a committal now and a proper memorial service later at their churches," he said.
If they choose cremation, the family may keep the cremated remains in an urn for a future burial.
Staff now meet with families online, by phone or email. If families want to come in, staff sanitize the office and wear masks when requested to.
"We respect that people need personal contact," he said.
Rick, who grew up in Spokane attending St. Pascal's and West Valley High School, graduated from Spokane Community College and went into the auto industry in 1984.
In 1994, he became owner of a new car dealership in Grandview, Wash. He sold the dealership in 2007 and returned to Spokane in 2010 with his business in sales training and motivational speaking, while seeking to find a ministry position.
Jim Falkner, his predecessor at Holy Cross, invited him to be an advisor, meeting with families at Holy Cross Cemetery. Rick was hesitant to do that, but after two weeks on the job, he knew it was his calling to meet and pray with families.
"It's a wonderful vocation to talk with them about God and the mercy of Christ," said Rick, whose focus now is administration. "The three significant times of life people remember most are births, weddings and deaths."
Rick is concerned about the impact of the virus on people physically, emotionally and economically.
"I believe God is the author of life and death, regardless of whether it's disease or a heart attack," he said. "God has the final say. I do not fear death. I trust God is present. I pray for the end of the disease and for families who struggle without proper closure."
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2020