ROCHESTER — During the rededication ceremony of the restored gatehouses at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano said they were "no ordinary buildings."
"These are holy buildings, and this is sacred ground," he said. "This place, these buildings help us reach beyond the limitations of our earthly life to answer the deepest yearnings of our human spirit; to reach beyond the restrictions of humanity, time and space."
Bishop Matano sprinkled the gatehouses with holy water following the May 27 ceremony that took place under a tent on the small field alongside the two structures.
"This morning, we are really gathered for a spiritual and deep religious experience to listen to our minds, our hearts and our souls as they cry out for more than this life could ever give," the bishop remarked. "In these fields, these sacred burial places, we understand we were meant for more than this world could ever give. What of the young soldier whose life is lost in war? What of the young child called home to God at such an early age? What of the many calamities and difficulties that traverse the experiences of these lives? Were they not meant for more? Indeed they were. They were meant for eternity."
The gatehouses also were meant for more than storage areas, considering the cemetery’s history, officials said. Originally constructed in the early 1880s, they were built at the main entrance to the cemetery’s east side along Lake Avenue, explained Greg Kamp, spokesperson for Holy Sepulchre. The gatehouses’ construction followed the building of the chapel on the site in 1876, he said. The cemetery itself was built in 1871.
The evolution of the gatehouses from storage to the beautifully restored buildings with air conditioning, wheelchair access and stained-glass windows has been amazing, said Valerie O’Hara of Rochester’s Pike Stained Glass Studios. She has designed the new windows for the gatehouses, and they will soon be installed, she noted.
"It’s an incredible transformation," O’Hara said of the renovation. "It’s really amazing what they’ve done."
The gatehouses originally served as waiting areas for people using the horse-and-buggy transportation line that went to the cemetery, Lynn Sullivan, Holy Sepulchre’s chief executive officer, explained during the ceremony. In 1887, Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid granted a right of way for a horse-drawn trolley to operate on the cemetery line, which later connected all areas of the city to the cemetery.
Many of the 100 people who attended the dedication ceremony came in on a trolley that had been rented for the event.
"Just as in the past, this (cemetery) connected Rochester to all different parts of the community; now it will continue to connect the present Rochester with the past, and some of that rich history and tradition we like to focus on," Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks noted during the ceremony.
The gatehouses will now serve families as a place to gather after funerals so they can remember their loves ones, added Father Peter Bayer, a Holy Sepulchre board member. The structures also can be used by parish groups for faith formation or by nonprofit organizations for meetings or other occasions, he added.
Sullivan said the restoration would not have been possible without the support of the cemetery’s board.
"Your vision and foresight made this project a reality," she said.