Spring clean up well underway

With what could be the last snow of the season past, spring clean up is well underway at calvary_fallenstein_headstone2_4.11.2015Calvary.

“Everything appears when the snow melts,” said Terry Miller, Calvary’s caretaker.

Terry explained that sodding, seeding and pruning is also moving along at a fast pitch. At this time of year, thoughts look ahead to Memorial Day — by far the biggest visitor time of the year for Calvary.

“I’d guess 75 to 80 percent of our annual visits happen over Memorial Day weekend,” Terry said. “We’re under the microscope then.”

In addition to all that, there are the winter burials — cremated remains held over the winter for warm-weather spring burial.

Spring comes early to Calvary…please collect winter decorations

With temperatures now soaring into the 60s and 70s, Calvary Cemetery is ready for spring cleaning.

“This warm spell gives us a chance to clean up winter decorations,” says Terry Miller, Calvary’s caretaker.

“Families who have a decorations out on the grounds that they would like to keep for next year should come and get them,” Terry said.

Clearing out the decorations is necessary for spring maintenance. This allows Terry and the ground crew to start landscaping repair, spring fertilization and aeration without obstructions.

Calvary rules state that no ground decorations are allowed except the week of Memorial Day; also that flowers must be in cemetery approved pot stands set in a concrete pad. Anyone needing a stand or pad can call Terry at 507.995.1010.

For a complete list of Calvary rules, see the Rules & Regulations page on this blog.

Calvary’s winter capability noted in national magazine

Calvary Cemetery’s hardiness in the face of burials in subzero weather was

Heating chamber used to thaw ground for winter excavation

Heating chamber used to thaw ground for winter excavation

spotlighted in the February edition of Catholic Cemetery magazine.

The feature story detailed the process of heating frozen ground to allow for excavation. This is a process used by Calvary Caretaker Terry Miller, and the story focuses exclusively on Terry’s procedure.

“It’s nice to see Calvary highlighted that way,” said Terry.

That same process is detailed here in the January 16th, 2014 blog post, “Winter fails to put Calvary activity on ice.”

The significance of burial

With the popularity of cremation rising every year, from 3.56 percent in 1960 to 43.2 percent in 2012, the choice of the final resting place for cremated remains has become very variable.

In-ground burials were once the standard option. Now many families are choosing to scatter ashes or keep them at home. Sometimes this is in line with the wishes of the deceased. Sometimes the family bends to economy. It’s not uncommon to see a cremation urn displayed in a living room.

But few people realize that skipping the funeral Mass or burial in consecrated ground, means missing important opportunities to complete the grieving process, gather prayers for the deceased and strengthen hope and faith in the living. Even beyond that, the Catholic Church stresses that while cremation is now allowed in the doctrine, it is not the preferred option.

“While the grief of the loss of a loved one is so often a sad burden, the acts of reverent prayer and burial, can be moments when faith and hope are deepened, when the meaning and passing nature of this life is better appreciated,” wrote Bishop Robert W. Finn (Diocese of Kansas City/ St. Joseph) in an article published in the Catholic Cemetery magazine, December 2014.

Bishop Finn also writes, “In some more recent practices — when the period of grief is truncated; when the funeral Mass is omitted, or the burial of the cremated remains never takes place, often the grieving is never fully realized and can leave one or more family members, friends or loved ones, feeling incomplete.”

“The burial of the body is an important act of faith, and our Catholic cemeteries are consecrated ground — set aside for this one purpose, to provide a place for the lasting disposition of those who have gone before us. Catholic cemeteries are sacred property, and we are so blessed to have them,” wrote Bishop Finn.

“Even now, if you have the cremated remains of a loved one at home — not properly reposed — our Catholic cemetery personnel stand ready to assist you in this holy work. As a priest for over 35 years, I have had the privilege of assisting and supporting families in the duties of burying their deceased loved ones. While the grief of the loss of a loved one is so often a sad burden, the acts of reverent prayer and burial, can be moments when faith and hope are deepened, when the meaning and passing nature of this life is better appreciated.”



New auger added to cemetery equipment

Efficiency and safety are key goals behind Calvary Cemetery’s acquisition of a new tractor-mounted auger.

Calvary's new tractor-mounted auger.

Calvary’s new tractor-mounted auger.

“Even though it’s been a mild winter, there’s still frost, and this auger is already proving to be a good buy,” said Terry Miller, Calvary caretaker. “Getting through that frost layer with a jackhammer takes a lot of time, even for a cremation. Plus a jackhammer is a manual operation; it’s much easier to get injured.”

Terry explained that the new auger has a carbide blade option for frost-hardened soil. For a cremation site, what took hours with a jackhammer now takes minutes with the auger. For a full-size, casket burial, the auger can be used to sink pilot holes into the ground, greatly easing excavation.

“At Calvary, we don’t let winter stop us from burials. Families may decide to wait for spring for their convenience, but most want a prompt funeral,” said Terry.

Funds for the new auger came from the much-appreciated tax-deductible donations of Calvary patrons, said Terry.

Calvary blog had visitors from around the world in 2014

As the Year 2014 is now behind us, Calvary blog statistics show that visitors from around the world visited the cemetery’s online presence.

Those countries included:

  • Canada
  • Germany
  • England
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Russia
  • India
  • Australia
  • Indonesia

“According to our stats, the blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2014,” said Terry Miller, Calvary’s caretaker.  “I think that’s a good start for our first full year.”

The Calvary Map page was the “most viewed” feature of the blog, and the “About” page was the next most popular.

“That makes sense,” said Terry. “Many of the calls I get are about lot selection or lot location. Those are from people doing genealogy work.”

Actions for expanding the history portion of the blog are underway, and an expansion of the photo gallery is also planned for 2015.

Calvary accepts end-of-year donations

As we head swiftly to the end of the Year 2014, many people try to tie up the year’s financial decisions and planning.

Calvary Caretaker Terry Miller says that the cemetery does accept tax-deductible donations to help with the facility’s continual upkeep.

“Most people don’t realize the cemetery is a separate entity of the church and runs its own budget,” Terry said. “So donations are much appreciated.”

Terry explained that the cemetery operates on a break-even budget every year. This year, the number of funerals is down — about 80 year to date.

“Eighty funerals is a low figure. We usually get about 100 a year. But there’s no way to predict that kind of thing,” said Terry.

A very good response to the Christmas wreath sale — about 230 sold — and other positive financial issues are helping balance out the low funeral count.

Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation to Calvary Cemetery can call Terry at 507-995-1010.

Winter considerations for visitors

As this post is being written, the snow is falling heavily on Calvary Cemetery, covering stone, path and grass with a thick white blanket.

With as much as 10 inches of snow expected for today’s winter storm, it may be a great time to review some cold weather considerations for visitors.

Regardless of the season, Calvary is open for visitation from sunrise to sunset every day.

While Caretaker Terry Miller and his crew strive to keep the cemetery streets clear of snow and ice, there are times during heavy storms that the streets may be difficult to drive through. According to Terry, not many people care to visit during blizzards so mishaps are usually rare.

Snow and ice make it harder to identify specific grave sites. Terry says he and his staff are always ready to help visitors find a particular site.

Please check with Terry or a cemetery staff associate before placing flowers, mementos or other objects at a site.

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.

Quiet Halloween expected at Calvary

Halloween can be a riotous party for adults. Or a sugar-infused power walk for

Actor selling 'soul' cakes at 2013 program

Actress selling ‘soul’ cakes at 2013 program


But typically at Calvary Cemetery, the spookiest holiday of the year is a pretty quiet night.

“Younger kids might like getting scared at a movie,” said Calvary Caretaker Terry Miller. “Or startled by their friends for fun. But a real cemetery on a cold, dark October night? Most of them want to be somewhere else. You know what I mean?”

Terry says young adults have sometimes braved the grounds on Halloween, but usually only briefly or to take pictures and leave.

Last year was an exception. Busloads of pre-teens and teenagers from the Mankato Catholic churches came for a special drama that educated the young people about the significance of All Hallow’s Eve and how our Halloween customs originated.

Because last year’s story never had a chance to appear on this blog, we will post the story here in time for Halloween 2014:

Calvary hosts ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ exposition

Drama, misty weather, a crypt tour and a tell-all history lesson were the highlights of an “All Hallow’s Eve” exposition that attracted 90-some pre-teens, teens and parents at Calvary Cemetery on Halloween night, 2013.

“We really had perfect weather,” said organizer Connie Wallin, Coordinator of Family Faith Formation at Joseph the Worker and Holy Family Catholic churches in Mankato and Lake Crystal. “It was an amazing night.”

Connie, Father Tim Biren and Calvary Caretaker Terry Miller were the presenters for an interesting evening laced with moonlit mist and laden with eye-opening information about one of our favorite holidays: Halloween. And what better place to do that than Calvary Cemetery where many of the attendees had loved ones buried?

But this was not a haunted house type of entertainment: The event was designed to be about eye-opening discovery, not eye-popping terror.

According to Connie, the whole idea behind the event was to enlighten area Catholic youth about the significance of All Hallow’s Eve, also known as The Eve of All Saints, and reveal how our Halloween customs originated.

“For instance, why do we dress up to scare each other on Halloween?” she asked.

The scary costumes and fright factor started when much of Europe was still

Two actors dressed for scaring

Two actors dressed for scaring

pagan. To dramatize the answer, the participants entered the cemetery to see Connie at one of the graves. She portrayed a Christian come to solemnly pay respects and decorate the graves of loved ones.

“That’s what Christians did because they had a tradition that the souls of the dearly departed would leave Purgatory and visit the living on that one night,” she explained.

Several other people, portraying pagans and dressed in scary costumes, then chased her to the chapel as the chapel bell tolled.

That’s really where the costume tradition began – pagans having fun scaring Christians at grave sites.

The crowd then moved to Calvary Chapel where the “pagans” came to the door. “Have you come a souling?” asked the woman who answered the door.

It was explained to the crowd that poor people and young children would go door to door on All Hallow’s Eve and offer to pray for the souls of the home’s departed – in return for food. The food was traditionally a “soul cake.”

Inside the chapel, Terry Miller talked to the crowd about the chapel and the history of the cemetery, including the origin of the chapel bell, the windows and other features. Although the cemetery had been visited many times by paranormal investigators, he assured those present that Calvary was “ghost free.”

In the chapel basement, the crowd was treated to talk about the “Day of the Dead” by a parishioner who still celebrated the holiday popular in Latin America.





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