Cars encircled Holy Sepulchre Cemetery’s Christ Our Light Mausoleum Sept. 18, as people arrived at the mausoleum’s chapel to commemorate 150 years in which diocesan Catholics have benefited from a unified and consecrated final resting place for their loved ones.
Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid, Rochester’s first bishop, consecrated Holy Sepulchre on Sept. 10, 1871.
“When Bishop McQuaid first blessed this cemetery, he was surrounded by thousands of the faithful. They had come from all corners of the diocese to rejoice with their diocesan bishop that a place, a noble place, a consecrated place had been prepared for the burial of their loved ones,” said Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, who celebrated the sesquicentennial Mass.
According to a history on the cemetery’s website, Holy Sepulchre’s mission over the past 150 years has been to “assist the Church in fulfilling its ministry to bury the deceased of the faith community in consecrated ground.”
During his homily, Bishop Matano spoke of the importance of the cemetery’s mission, as well as the importance of funeral rites and how the reception of the eucharistic Christ in holy Communion acts as preparation for eternal life.
“For the Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs us that ‘the tenets of our Catholic faith teach us that from the very beginning, the church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all, the eucharistic sacrifice so that, thus purified, they may obtain the beatific vision of God.’ (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1032). For us who profess the Catholic faith, there is no better way to cherish the memory of our beloved dead than to have holy Mass offered for them. The Mass also renews our own belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the eternal life wrought by his rising from the dead,” he said.
It is through the funeral liturgy, prayers and Masses such as those celebrated at Holy Sepulchre, the bishop noted, that consolation is offered to Catholics and grief is transformed, as individuals are given the opportunity to pray for the forgiveness of sins on behalf of loved ones who have been called home.
Following the Mass, the congregation was invited to attend a blessing on the east side of the cemetery at the gravesite of Martin Claude Duffy, an infant who on Sept. 18, 1871, became the first person to be buried at Holy Sepulchre. Bishop Matano blessed the gravesite and prayed for all those buried or interred at the cemetery.
“It’s beautiful,” participant Mary Piccone said of the gravesite, which had been adorned with red and purple petunias in freshly laid mulch.
Piccone said she attends the Masses of Remembrance celebrated at Holy Sepulchre on the third Saturday of every month, which is where she learned about the anniversary event.
Piccone said she also visits the cemetery frequently to visit the graves of family members buried there and has enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Holy Sepulchre’s history, such as how many attended the cemetery’s consecration and the location of the first person buried there.
“What really stuck out to me is what the bishop said … Our dead are buried here, and it’s very respectful, and people should attend the Mass of Remembrance,” she said.