HENRIETTA — As rain clouds gradually parted, letting light filter through skylights, Bishop Matthew H. Clark went on an abbreviated indoor procession to bless the diocese’s newest Catholic cemetery and mausoleum, Ascension Garden.
During the June 22 dedication of the cemetery on the feast of diocesan patron St. John Fisher, Bishop Clark prayed that the cemetery would serve as a place of rest and hope in the resurrection.
"May this place of peace never cease to remind us of the life that we share in Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies to be like his in glory," he said.
Bishop Clark noted that the cemetery reminded him of the resting place of his parents and grandparents near Albany.
"On the spectrum of life, I am much closer to the fullness than I am to its beginning, and that makes a difference as we remember and anticipate and prepare," he said.
Demand from Catholics in the southeastern quadrant of Monroe County drove the establishment of the cemetery, according to James Weisbeck, executive director of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. Ascension Garden is a property of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, which is located at 2461 Lake Ave. in Rochester.
Weisbeck said that the Lake Avenue location is not running out of space but that customers clamored for additional options.
The 109-acre Ascension Garden site is nestled on the bucolic intersection of Pinnacle and Williams roads about a mile west of Mendon Ponds Park. Crews have developed about 40 acres of the site for the cemetery, and the rest of the land will be leased for farming until it is needed for expansion.
"We thought this was a perfect match for this piece of property and the service this will be providing for the town of Henrietta and the entire community," said Henrietta Town Supervisor Michael Yudelson, who participated in the dedication, along with Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, area Knights of Columbus, and members of the American Legion and the Rush-Henrietta Catholic Community’s Resurrection Choir.
When it is expanded in full, the cemetery will be able to accommodate nearly 100,000 burials, including traditional in-ground burials and above-ground entombment in a heated mausoleum and free-standing, outdoor columbaria that have niches for cremated remains. The cemetery also features special sections honoring veterans and emergency-services personnel.
Holy Sepulchre and Ascension Gardens are open to baptized Catholics and to direct relatives of baptized Catholics, and cemetery officials aim to keep families together, Weisbeck noted.
Although in the past Catholics had most often opted for traditional in-ground burial, that tide is now changing, he said. More Catholics are choosing cremation, and many also have been seeking above-ground entombment, Weisbeck said.
Inside the mausoleum, which offers 1,378 crypts for above-ground entombment, quiet marble corridors bear the names of prominent saints.
The mausoleum also includes two oil reproductions of famous paintings: The Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Peter Paul Rubens, which is displayed in Antwerp, Belgium; and The Ascension of Christ by Anton Raphael Mengs from Dresden, Germany.
Gorgeous and beautiful were two ways Ginny Sardella described the cemetery and mausoleum.
"I didn’t know there was anything like it," said Sardella, who is a member of the choir at Good Shepherd Church in Henrietta. She added that she wished the cemetery had been open when she was searching for her final resting place; she bought a plot and stone at another area cemetery that is farther away from her home.
Others at the ceremony gave the cemetery glowing reviews.
"I think it’s magnificent," said Jim Robinson, facilities director with Fairport’s Church of the Assumption. "I wondered what each one of these niches cost."
Weisbeck declined to cite specifics, but said the construction was a multimillion-dollar project.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For details on Ascension Garden, call 585-485-4110 or visit www.HolySepulchre.org.