Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York has released a pastoral letter to the people of the Archdiocese of New York, printed as his column in Catholic New York on Thursday, March 2, 2017, announcing new initiatives to ensure that all Catholics in the archdiocese have access to the dignity of a Catholic burial, regardless of their financial situation

These new initiatives are a pastoral response to reports the Cardinal received from many priests and people, particularly those from predominantly Hispanic parishes, who noticed fewer families having Catholic funerals and burials in Catholic cemeteries for their deceased loved ones. This decrease was attributed, in part, to the prohibitive cost for struggling families. The assurance of a dignified repose for the deceased is intimately tied to Catholic doctrine; therefore, the Church has always made sure that Catholics who could not afford a burial, received one. These new measures extend that outreach to families and individuals of some, but limited, means. The initiatives include the archdiocese’s four cemeteries: Gate of Heaven in Westchester, Calvary Cemetery in Queens, Resurrection Cemetery in Staten Island, and Ascension Cemetery in Rockland County. They do not include parish cemeteries, although many parish cemeteries offer similar programs

Each archdiocesan cemetery already has a Saint Francis of Assisi Section for deceased persons declared indigent by the civil authorities. The deceased receive a burial according to custom, at no cost, and their names are engraved on a communal marker. Gate of Heaven, Ascension, and Resurrection will offer a Guardian Angel Section for the repose of stillborn children at no cost to the families. In his pastoral letter, the Cardinal confirmed that the cremated remains of the faithful are to be buried with the “same respect and dignity associated with a full-body burial.” Ashes are to be reserved or interred in “sacred places” that allow the deceased to be memorialized, long after their immediate family has passed. Each archdiocesan cemetery will, accordingly, designate a Saint Joseph of Arimathea Section for the burial of ashes at minimal cost to families in need. In addition to this, Gate of Heaven, Resurrection, and Ascension cemeteries will also include a number of cremation niches. Finally, Ascension Cemetery will reserve a Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Section for reduced cost full-casket burials

The Cardinal’s pastoral letter coincides with the first week of Lent, a time when liturgical services such as Ash Wednesday demonstrate the inextricable relationship between Catholic teaching and the practices that give expression to the spiritual life of the faithful

New York Archdiocesan Cemeteries:

Ascension Cemetery, Airmont (845) 352-7220n

Calvary Cemetary, Woodside (718)786-8000n

Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne (914)769-3672n

Resurrection Cemetery, Staten Island (718) 356-7738n