Catholic Funeral Guidelines


There are three elements of a Catholic funeral, as described in the Order of Christian Funerals: a vigil/wake service, funeral mass and a cemetery committal. A vigil/wake service is generally held at the funeral home. This service has as its focus proclaiming and reflecting on the Word of God. A funeral mass is celebrated in the parish church with the body present. If cremation is your preference, normally the body is present at the Funeral Mass, followed by cremation. Cremains are permitted at the Funeral Mass. A cemetery committal is celebrated at The Cemetery at the designated service area.
The Funeral Director provides for the coordination of the three liturgical elements (i.e. Vigil, Funeral Mass, Cemetery Committal) with the St. Wendelin ministers.
The Funeral Director also provides tangible goods and services such as casket, embalming or cremation arrangements, filing of legal documents, obituary notices in the newspaper and much more. 


Catholic cemeteries are set apart from other cemeteries in that they are part of the ministry of the Church. The ground is blessed, thereby making it hallowed or holy. These sacred places minister to the deceased, the bereaved, the poor and the alienated as well as to local parish communities. Family members who are not Catholic can also benefit as they are welcome to use the Catholic Cemetery.
Services provided by The Cemetery caretakers include: burial sites (i.e. grave or mausoleum crypt), interment/entombment/inurnment services, and perpetual care for the grounds and mausoleum. 
In particular, there are four cemetery issues which must be arranged for at the time of need:

  1. Deciding your interment:
    1. Remains buried in ground - traditional grave;
    2. Remains entombed above ground - community mausoleum;
    3. Cremated remains either buried in ground or entombed in community mausoleum.
  2. Professional fees for opening and closing the grave.
  3. The Cemetery requires a burial vault for all adult and infant burials (caskets and urns).
  4. Choosing your memorialization. 


The funeral home is usually the first place to be contacted immediately following a death. Our parish community has trained pastoral ministers available for liturgical funeral planning at the time of the funeral and with post-funeral bereavement ministry.
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, all are made one in Jesus Christ. Therefore, at the time of our death, each of us is entitled to a Catholic burial from the parish community. The family or friends of the deceased simply need to request a Catholic funeral by having the Funeral Director contact St. Wendelin.
There are three areas which require attention when making funeral arrangements: liturgical and spiritual, legal, and the cemetery graves and burial. The liturgical and spiritual questions are most properly the concern of the Pastor, the Parish Administrative Assistant, and the parish community. Legal matters that need to be addressed are usually cared for at the funeral home by the Funeral Director (i.e. death certificate, etc.). The cemetery graves and burial are the services provided by the cemetery.
Decisions regarding these three elements are best made with the Funeral Director at the outset of formulating the funeral arrangements. With Roman Catholic liturgical considerations in mind, funeral arrangements can be made with the Funeral Director of your choice and St. Wendelin ministers.


Making cemetery and funeral home arrangements in advance of need is both a loving and financially-wise thing to do. Advance planning provides a family reassurance, comfort and peace of mind. Such thoughtfulness relieves family members from shouldering the burden during a most stressful time, allowing for careful decision-making in an unhurried atmosphere, and assuring that your expressed wishes will be followed. The added affordability of working with today's prices as opposed to tomorrow's can also represent a significant savings. This shows both a sense of thoughtful planning and a sense of economic prudence. The decisions made now will be your own which gives you peace of mind now and your loved ones’ peace of mind later. One of the most frequent questions we hear is "What would they have wanted for their burial choice?" Prearrangement eliminates this problem of uncertainty. A pre-need selection may be made today calmly, responsibly, economically and prudently to protect your wishes and finances for the future. For more information, please contact a local funeral home or our Cemetery representatives to answer any questions. 


What is cremation?
Cremation (using fire and heat) is the process by which the body of the deceased is reduced to its basic elements. Cremation is permitted for Catholics as long as it is not chosen in denial of Christian teaching on the Resurrection and the sacredness of the human body.
Does the Church have a preference for either cremation or burial of the body of the deceased?
Although cremation is permitted, Catholic teaching continues to stress the preference for burial or entombment of the body of the deceased. This is done in imitation of the burial of Jesus’ body. “This is the Body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. Our identity and self-consciousness as a human person are expressed in and through the body. Thus, the Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of a reverence and concern for the person whom the Church now commends to the care of God.”1
What are the steps to be taken?
When cremation is chosen for a good reason, the full course of the Order of Christian Funerals should still be celebrated, including the Vigil Service (wake), the Funeral Liturgy, and the Rite of Committal. The preservation of this order allows for the greater expression of our beliefs and values, especially, the sacredness of human life, the dignity of the individual person and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the first born of the dead. Through its funeral rites, the Church commends the dead to the merciful love of God and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins.
Should cremation occur before or after the funeral?
The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body be present during Vigil and Funeral Mass, and that if cremation is to be used, it take place following the Rite of Final Commendation. The cremated human remains would then be interred during the Rite of Committal. However, the diocesan bishop may for good reason permit the cremated remains to be present for the Funeral Liturgy.
What should become of the cremated remains following the funeral?
Church teaching insists that cremated remains must be given the same respect as the body, including the manner in which they are carried and the attention given to their appropriate transport and placement. The cremated remains of a body are to be buried or entombed, preferably in a Catholic cemetery, and using the rites provided by the Order of Christian Funerals. The following are not considered to be reverent dispositions that the Church requires: scattering cremated remains, dividing cremated remains and keeping cremated remains in the home. The remains of a cremated body should be treated with the same respect given to the corporeal remains of a human body which includes a worthy container to hold the cremated remains.
If you are considering cremation, it is wise to discuss your choice with your family, your parish priest, or the Catholic Cemetery office representatives. For further information on Catholic teachings on cremation, see the 1997 statement of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites, available from USCCB publications (800-235-8722). 

1. Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites, Committee on the Liturgy, USCCB, 1997