Remembering loved ones in a new way

The Holy Presence Columbarium at Queen of Angels Cemetery offers a peaceful views of the lake, fountain, and nature in an air conditioned setting. (MARJORIE DURANTES | FC)

When you arrive at Queen of Angels Cemetery, seeing joyful families making plans or simply visiting a loved one are commonplace. Deacon Tommy Cuff, a memorial advisor spoke of “a touching example” earlier the morning of his interview. A family secured space in the columbarium three weeks prior. Diagnosed with cancer, a husband toured the cemetery with his family. “They were actually having a great time. He was in pretty good shape and was optimistic. Today, the wife came back with her adult son to make arrangements in a hurry because dad had taken a turn for the worse.” He recalled how they loved the Holy Presence Columbarium when they were there previously. “We were able to pray together – one of the nice things of Queen of Angels.”

The beautiful glass front niches lend a richness and peace to the Holy Presence Columbarium. Comfortable chairs face two large windows at the back, with views of the entrance fountain and natural surroundings. The spot is a favorite for many.

Director of Cemeteries for the Diocese of Orlando, David Branson, recalled one gentleman who “sat and pondered.” He came to spend time with his wife. He had selected “a lovely container with a nice cross emblazoned on it, and a beloved picture of her in her youth.” Branson said, “This is what is beautiful about these glass front niches. It’s an opportunity to honor the memory of a loved one in a unique way.”

Queen of Angels Cemetery is in close proximity to San Pedro Spiritual Development Center. “So many people have stories of meeting their spouse while serving as camp counselors or having experienced marriage encounter there,” Mr. Branson noted. “People have worked and made retreats there. Their children have attended summer camp there.” He said the attraction is, “the prospect of being able to be buried here, in a place that means so much to people, and that has been such a significant piece of their spiritual journey.” Deacon Cuff affirmed, “It’s a beautiful arrangement and synergy to have these two ministries side by side on this beautiful land,” he said.

“In my 15 years as a Catholic, San Pedro has been interwoven through my whole journey. When you find out you can be buried here, it’s almost too good to be true,” he noted. “That excitement level has certainly been present. People feel privileged to be here.”

For him and his wife, it was a natural progression in their walk of faith. He said he and Amy chose the Holy Presence Columbarium “because it spoke to our life.” “If it’s comfortable and air-conditioned maybe our daughter will come and visit us,” he chuckled.

Since the Vatican gave permission in 1997, for cremated remains of a body in church to receive the liturgical rites of burial, cemeteries have seen a steady growth in cremations. Deacon Cuff says his favorite part of a tour is when people get to the Holy Presence Columbarium and think it is out of their budget. “It is just as accessible as any other spot we have in this beautiful cemetery. I love that the leaders of the Diocese had the heart to make it possible for just about everybody to make a decision to care for the dead, not based on money, but on where they would find suitable sacred ground. For some people that’s outside. For some it’s in the columbarium. “As a corporal work of mercy, the staff assures the Queen of Angels Cemetery serves them.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, September 30, 2020