Time for spring cleaning at Calvary


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Except for a few continuing “hiccups” of brisk temps and occasional snowflakes, the “Endless Winter of 2013-14″ is over. So now it’s time for spring clean up at Calvary Cemetery!

Caretaker Terry Miller shares some tips and precautions for those who have gravesites to tend.

“With our recent warmer weather, visits are way up. We’re grateful that we have so many dedicated families that like to make sure family sites and monuments are well kept. First and foremost, now that mowing has started, all winter decorations need to be removed,” he said.

“Remember — no ground decorations are allowed. Only cemetery-approved pot stands in concrete pads are okay. Also, any new decorations approved by a cemetery staff associate,” Terry said. “It saves time over the long run for those tending the site and helps the staff make sure decorations stay on the site they were intended for.”


    • No glass of any kind is allowed (too fragile)
    • Secure flowers in dirt or sand inside approved pot stands
    • No styrofoam please (too easily blown away)
    • No plantings of any kind in the ground (inhibits mowing)
    • Please drive and park on blacktop only (protects the turf)

“If a concrete pad is needed for a new stand, please contact someone on the staff,” Terry said. “We’ll be more than happy to assist.”

“The rules are just there to help keep the cemetery attractive and well maintained,” he commented. “Our families and visitors expect Calvary to be kept in great shape.”

Anyone with questions can contact Terry directly at (507) 995-1010 or send an email from this site.


Calvary featured in national magazine

Cover of the March 2014 Catholic Cemetery magazine featuring Calvary Cemetery's new Resurrection Garden

Cover of the March 2014 Catholic Cemetery magazine featuring Calvary Cemetery’s new Resurrection Garden

Mankato’s Calvary Cemetery was highlighted in the March 2014 edition of Catholic Cemetery, the offical magazine of the Catholic Cemetery Conference.

Along with a front cover photo of Calvary’s newly-completed Resurrection Garden, the issue includes a prominent three-page feature story on Calvary’s response to the growing demand for cremation burials.

The article includes photos from the September 6, 2013 dedication featuring Winona Diocese Bishop John M. Quinn, Mankato’s Fr. Mariano Varela and Calvary Caretaker Terry Miller. There’s even an excerpt describing the cemetery’s historical foundation.

“It’s definitely a thrill to see Calvary spotlighted. I’ve been reading this magazine for years,” said Terry. “To be featured in such a big way, I think, is a credit to the cemetery, the board and the Winona Diocese.”

Terry pointed out that it was the foresight of the Calvary Board that really caused the cemetery to be chosen for this feature article.

As Terry is quoted in the magazine article: “I am blessed with the best cemetery Board I could imagine…they don’t think about cost and limitations. They think about what’s ahead and what our families want. Then we make it happen.”

Calvary’s Board includes: Terry Miller, Michelle Folk, Fred Muellerleile, Helen Dehen, Fr John Kunz, Fr Tim Biren, Fr Mariano Varela and Chris Hughes.

Calvary board sets 2014 projects

While Calvary Cemetery is heavily blanketed with snow, Caretaker Terry Miller and the cemetery board have been busy setting a list of 2014 projects.

“Last year’s projects included the completion of Resurrection Garden, a new roof on the Calvary Chapel and painting inside the chapel as well as the basement,” said Terry.

“Charlie Shamp and his son, Steve (Steve Shamp Painting) did all the painting themselves. It was incredibly generous. And the Diamond Vogel Paint Center donated all the paint,” Terry noted.

For 2014 the board has decided that the chapel altar area should be re-carpeted and the wooden floors in the chapel will be sanded and refinished. In addition to a number of minor maintenance projects, there will be a new entrance sign because of increased traffic from the Hope Street opening. Plans are being made to paint the Maintenance Building and Fuel Building as well.

Calvary’s Board includes: Terry Miller, Michelle Folk, Fred Muellerleile, Helen Dehen, Fr John Kunz, Fr Tim Biren, Fr Mariano Varela and Chris Hughes.

Winter fails to put Calvary activity on ice


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Heating chamber used to thaw ground for winter excavation

Heating chamber used to thaw ground for winter excavation

Numbing subzero temperatures and arctic winds have battened down travel and closed schools in Minnesota. Even so, Calvary Cemetery serves its clients – whatever the weather.While many families decide to postpone cremation burials until warmer weather, traditional burials are routinely done in a business-as-usual fashion.

“Basically, we never shut down,” says Terry Miller, Calvary’s Head Caretaker.

“People often ask me how we have burials when the ground is frozen solid,” he related. “Most years if we get a decent snow cover early in the winter, the ground doesn’t freeze to rock hardness. But this year it’s been more of a challenge.”

When there’s little snow cover and temps drop to the subzeros, the ground has to be thawed. For a full-size casket burial, Terry actually prepares the burial lot for excavation by heating the ground with a specialized, propane-powered heating chamber.

The chamber is a long, steel half drum with a chimney vent. It is placed over the gravesite so the site is covered with the hollow half of the drum. Inside the drum, torches are lit.

A big, 100-pound propane tank is needed to heat the ground thoroughly enough.

“It takes all night to warm up the ground,” said Terry. During windy nights, he periodically checks the heater to make sure the wind hasn’t blown out the flame. Usually, plywood sheets are propped up around the grave site to block the wind.

Once the ground is heated, a back hoe is used to remove the earth. “The steam generated by the hot soil is really incredible,” said Terry. “It makes a huge cloud.”

Occasionally Terry has to finish the excavation with a jackhammer. A jackhammer is also used to excavate for cremation urns since the heater covers an unnecessarily large surface area.

Visiting Calvary during winter months

With its snow-topped cedars and soft evening lighting, Calvary Cemetery can be as beautiful in the winter as in warmer months. There is a still quiet in the dark winter evenings that matches the 40-acre cemetery’s solemn mission.

But there are special challenges for those visiting in the winter. For one, visibility. Often it will be difficult to browse the memorial stones because they are either buried by snow or burnished with ice. Caretaker Terry Miller reminds visitors that he is almost always available in daylight hours to help visitors find specific lots.

While the staff strives to ensure the cemetery avenues are clear at all times, challenging weather can cause temporary blockages. Obviously, during heavy snowfalls, there may be difficult travel on the facility thoroughfares.

Christmas wreath orders now open

It’s hard to think about the holidays without remembering Christmas WreathChristmas past and departed loved ones.

If you’d like to decorate a loved one’s grave with some holiday color, Calvary Cemetery is now taking orders for Christmas wreaths. Ordered wreaths will be placed on graves the last week of November and will be removed after New Year’s Day (weather permitting).

These 25-inch wreaths are Balsam Fir and feature a red bow with white-tipped pinecones.

To order your wreath for $25, call Terry Miller at 507.995.1010.

Bishop Quinn blesses the Resurrection Garden

The Most Reverend John M. Quinn, Bishop of the Winona Diocese,and no less than four Mankato-area priests appeared Friday, September 6, 2013 at Mankato’s Calvary Cemetery on a beautifully sunny summer afternoon to lead

Bishop Quinn delivers his message as Fr Mariano and attendees listen

Bishop Quinn delivers his message as Fr Mariano and attendees listen

the benediction of new Resurrection Garden.The event, tranquil though it appeared, constituted a vivid milestone in the history of the 40-acre cemetery where thousands of souls have their final physical resting place.The Resurrection Garden, graced by an impressive stone cross centerpiece by local sculptor Tom Miller, is for cremated remains only — like the already-established Rosary Garden.

Bishop Quinn led 60-some visitors through a dedication that was informally solemn but colored with some wit, nostalgia and humor.

Mankato area priests: (left to right) Fr Hottinger, Fr Kunz and Fr Mariano

Mankato area priests: (left to right) Fr Hottinger, Fr Kunz and Fr Mariano

“Today, this is a place of hope,” said Bishop Quinn, calling upon the time-honored parable of the seed that must die to create new life. He also remembered his youth and the annual event of Decoration Day when many families routinely picnicked in cemeteries, surrounded by the resting places of their forebears.”May the bodies buried here have sleep in your peace, to rise immortal at the coming of your Son. May this pace be a comfort to the living, a sign of their hope for unending life,” said Bishop Quinn in his blessing.

The peaceful ceremony was punctuated by the attendance of notable Mankato area spiritual leaders. Joining Bishop Quinn were: Father Mariano Varela, IVE  Pastor of Ss Peter and Paul Parish and Rector of the Blessed Jose Sanchez Del Rio High School Seminary as well as member of the Institute of the Incarante Word (IVE); Father John M. Kunz, Pastor of St John the Baptist Parish; Father Tim Biren, Pastor of the St Thomas Moore Catholic Newman Center at Minnesota State University — Mankato; and Father Ted Hottinger, SJ (Society of Jesus). Bishop Quinn’s attendant was Brian Mulligan, a senior student at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary at Winona.

St Thomas Moore Catholic Newman Center Administrator Michelle Folk and Calvary Cemetery Sexton Terry Miller orchestrated the event arrangements. Ms Folk and Jaci James, Director of Liturgy and Music at St John the Baptist, led the attendees through hymns and readings.

The day was a particular triumph for Miller, who led the project, including the formidable physical efforts of clearing and landscaping the heavily-wooded area. Miller especially mentioned his appreciation for his current Calvary Cemetery Board members.

Miller also cited the help of Quintin Beadell, Community Bank, who donated generously to the project, along with heavy work volunteers Joe Koberoski of Kobers Nursery Inc; Tom Hoehn, owner of Hoehn Drainage & Excavating LLC; and Tom Miller, Monuments by Miller.

(Where the Resurrection Garden is located within Calvary Cemetery can be seen by clicking on the map link in the “Calvary Map” menu.)

Bishop Quinn to open Resurrection Garden on Sept 6


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bishop john michael quinnBishop John M. Quinn of the Winona Diocese will open and bless the newly-completed Resurrection Garden at Calvary Cemetery at 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.

The public is welcome to this Open House event which will feature chapel tours and refreshments.

The  Resurrection Garden is the new cremation area at the venerable cemetery and is located in the north area of the 40-acre facility. Much preparation has gone into this area, including a center stone crucifix, entry path and gate, as well as a engraved boulder at the area entrance. The stone, engraved by local artist Tom Miller, will greet visitors as they enter the area.

calvary stone

Welcome to Calvary

This new blog was conceived as a service to the public, especially those who have loved ones interred here and to those in the future seeking a final resting place, either for themselves or someone who has recented departed.

Calvary Cemetery serves the public in general, but is the facility of first resort for the Catholic parishes in the Greater Mankato / North Mankato Area:

  • St Peter & Pauls Cathoilc Church
  • St John the Baptist Catholic Church
  • St Joseph the Worker Catholic Church
  • Holy Rosary Catholic Church

The cemetery’s expansive 40 acres is graced with green grass and majestic cedars and adorned with a historic chapel and exquisite stone monuments. Since our first funeral in 1886, Calvary Cemetery has been a first choice for thousands of families who have sought final resolution for parents, siblings and children.

Calvary is blessed with strong support from our parishes and the Catholic Diocese of Winona, as well as the services of a full-time, professional caretaker, Terry Miller. Terry has been caring for the park-like grounds since the age of 12 when he began mowing the grass for his father, Jerome “Jerry” Miller, the previous sexton.

It is the collective hope of many contributors that this blog will help those in mourning, or those planning ahead, to make informed decisions.

Please feel free to see the blog’s “About” page for inquiry details.


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