Calvary to host Memorial Day Mass

Each year Calvary Cemetery hosts a special Memorial Day Mass celebration.cropped-061.jpg

This year is no exception. Mass time is set for 8:45 a.m. on Monday, May 25th. Father Paul van de Crommert of Holy Rosary Catholic Church will be the celebrant.

“In the past, we’ve had anywhere from 100 to 700 people attending. It

Members of American Legion Post 11 and Boy Scout Troop 4

Members of American Legion Post 11 and Boy Scout Troop 4

really depends on the weather,” said Terry Miller, Calvary caretaker.

While the Mass is said within Calvary Chapel, many of the visitors sit outside on lawn chairs and hear the service through the P.A. system.

Immediately following Mass, American Legion Post 11 will conduct a ceremony at the veterans’ memorial on the east side of the chapel.

Terry has some good advice for the event visitors:

  • Park on Goodyear Avenue in front the cemetery and walk in to avoid being blocked in the cemetery.
  • Bring lawn chairs in case you cannot get a seat inside the chapel.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather that morning.
  • Ground decorations are allowed to be placed on sites on or after May 19th but must be removed by June 1st. (To decorate year round, you must have a cemetery-approved pot stand in a concrete pad — certain areas only. Please check with staff.)
  • No glass containers are allowed — please anchor flowers well or the wind will take them.

Memorial Day weekend is the biggest annual event at Calvary Cemetery. Terry and his staff prepare for weeks ahead to ensure all visitors have an uplifting experience.

Child crushed by tombstone in Texas

A 4-year-old boy became the latest victim of tombstone-related accidents on May 9 when a heavy monument toppled over on top of him while he was playing in an Odessa, Texas cemetery.

The story was reported by several credible media sources.

According to one of the news accounts, the five-foot tall stone monument was almost 100 years old.

“Something like this happens about once a year in the United States, according to statistics,” said Terry Miller, Calvary Cemetery caretaker. “Of course, we never want it to happen here.”

Like most cemeteries, Calvary has numerous aging monuments that are heavy and tall. Many of the older monuments no longer have family looking after the care and maintenance.

“A monument belongs to the family that commissioned it,” explained Terry. “But as generations pass, there is no longer a ‘next of kin’ who sees to upkeep.”

“While we make huge efforts to keep all our monuments stable and safe, it’s really important that parents keep their children off the monuments during visits,” he said.

Terry says that all the prevention in the world is not as good as parents responsibly managing their children.

“We have a number of regular visitors at Calvary. Some visit daily. I hope our regulars will also keep an eye out for younger visitors and remind them not to play on the monuments,” said Terry.

Calvary preparing burial area for children lost in miscarriage

by Chris Oldenburg

Project Embrace Ministries Committee Chair

If you’ve been to the cemetery in recent weeks, you may have noticed

Members of the Project Embrace Ministry Committee stand in the area being prepared for the new memorial and burial site. From left to right: Monica Priebe, Chris Oldenburg (Committee Chair) and JoAnn Alfson

Members of the Project Embrace Ministry Committee stand in the area being prepared for the new memorial and burial site. From left to right: Monica Priebe, Chris Oldenburg (Committee Chair) and JoAnn Alfson

Calvary Caretaker Terry Miller working to ready a plot of ground near the ravine. This piece of earth is the future home of a new memorial and burial site for children lost in miscarriage – the first of its kind in Blue Earth County.

For families who lose a child in miscarriage, there is no resource available to them in our area. These families struggle to cope with their grief, and with the very real question: What do I do with my child’s remains? Project Embrace, a ministry at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, wants to provide some answers and options for these families.

As the project unfolds we’ll be sharing more details about the cemetery space and monument, and how Calvary will be the home to this much needed addition in our community.

Project Embrace provides support to families who experience or have experienced the loss of a child during pregnancy or shortly after birth, and education and awareness in the community. Contact Monica at the parish office if you have questions about the ministry or are interested in donating to this project. 507-625-3131

Monument maintenance a perpetual issue

It’s obvious that a cemetery monument or marker serves to display

Older monuments often require maintenance to keep them stable.

Older monuments often require maintenance to keep them stable.

information about the deceased. But many monuments are striking works of art — the tangible expression of a family’s grief — as well as family status symbols.

From the humblest marker to the most majestic monument, each is the property of the family that made the purchase — even though the ground it sits on belongs to the Winona Diocese.

As the monuments age, maintenance becomes an issue. The bases eventually erode. Because stone is heavy, even a modest upright monument can become dangerous if it is unstable.

In fact, on average in the United States, one person a year dies from having a heavy monument topple over on them. Usually this is a child who has tried to climb on one.

“The monument / marker is the people’s property,” said Terry Miller, Calvary’s Caretaker. “But the cemetery has the right to remove a monument if it becomes unsafe.”

But Terry says this is a last resort that is avoided. And because it is “virtually impossible” to locate next of kin for many of the older monuments, Terry and his crew do their best to keep the monuments preserved and stable.

Terry and his brother, Tom Miller, noted Mankato-area stone sculptor, continually work on monument upkeep.

“Tom routinely pressure washes the monuments and stabilizes and cleans them,” said Terry.

Every year there is an insurance inspection of all 110 diocese-owned cemeteries in the Winona Diocese. The inspector checks everything from electrical systems to fire control equipment to the monuments themselves.

Terry says that every annual inspection report contains positive remarks about the continual efforts to straighten and stabilize the monuments.

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.


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