Jack Martin was steadfast in advocating for a proper resting place for deceased members of St. Anthony parish in Camdenton.
He died a few weeks after Father Daniel Lueckenotte blessed the new cemetery and columbarium on the grounds of St. Anthony Church this spring.
“I think he can rest in peace now,” said Fr. Lueckenotte, who served as pastor of the Camdenton parish from 2010 until June of this year.
The cemetery and the above-ground columbarium, made up of secure niches for cremated remains, are within walking distance of the church.
They are surrounded by mature trees and the glory of Creation.
“Having it right on the same ground as the church is neat, and it also highlights our sense of continuity there with those who went before us,” said Fr. Lueckenotte.
Father Daniel Vacca, who succeeded Fr. Lueckenotte as pastor in June, noted that having a cemetery near the church is an old tradition, especially for country parishes.
“It’s fitting that this cemetery has been established to complete our campus and to maintain the tradition of baptism-to-grave care for the faithful,” Fr. Vacca stated.
As part of the prescribed rite, Fr. Lueckenotte blessed the columbarium, the gravesites and a simple cross.
“The ritual for dedicating a cemetery calls for putting a wooden cross in the middle and leaving it there until it literally falls apart,” he said.
Talk of establishing a cemetery began around the time the parish was founded in 1947.
“It’s one of the things that just never got done,” said Fr. Lueckenotte. “There was always something else going on.”
In the late 1990s, Father James Fuemmeler, now deceased, secured 76 wooded acres off of what is now Business Loop 5 for a new, larger church and a parish education center.
The center was dedicated in 1999, the church in 2000.
The desire persisted for consecrated ground for burying the dead, one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.
As a member of the parish council, Mr. Martin understood that more and more people are choosing cremation instead of burial, and that they need an appropriate, dignified place for their remains to be given back to God.
He researched the matter thoroughly, gathering photos of many types of columbariums and showing them to the rest of the council.
Sam Beckman moved to Camdenton with his wife seven years ago. He became active in St. Anthony parish and eventually got elected to the parish council.
After more research and deliberation, the council and Fr. Lueckenotte resolved to purchase an appropriate columbarium and install it near the church.
Brad Copeland, diocesan director of buildings and properties, advised them not to place it too close to any major structures.
“If there’s a fire or a tornado or some other disaster, it could be damaged by the debris,” he told them.
The need to find a location farther back on the site brought the idea of a cemetery back into the discussion.
Fr. Lueckenotte had become familiar with the property, having taken regular walks through the woods to relax.
“He would mark the trees whenever he found a favorite new place to walk,” said Mr. Beckman.
An engineering survey of the property concluded that the rocky terrain would not be suitable for a cemetery.
Bill Pauls, a soil scientist for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, moved into the parish shortly thereafter.
He and some colleagues conducted more-thorough soil studies at several locations on the property and found that the location eventually chosen would be suitable for burials.
“It’s really no different from the other cemeteries around here in the Ozarks,” Mr. Beckman noted. “Every once in a while, you hit some rock, but you mostly can do it.”
The ground was also deemed solid enough to hold a concrete and stone columbarium.
The parish embarked on a short capital campaign to raise the needed money.
“Two anonymous donors made substantial contributions,” said Fr. Lueckenotte. “The Knights of Columbus and the Sisters in Christ had a few fundraisers, and the rest was basically pay-as-you-go.”
A civil engineer was hired to survey the location and draw up plans for the site, dividing it into 100 full-size plots and 35 half-size plots for infants and children.
With help from diocesan attorneys, parishioners drafted bylaws for the new cemetery association that will run and maintain the cemetery.
Meanwhile, Mr. Beckman and Mr. Pauls set about clearing back the tangled, Ozarks brush.
“We both grew up on farms and like being out working on something,” said Mr. Beckman.
They discovered behind mounds of vines a beautiful, 250-year-old oak and several other trees more than a century in the making.
Momentum increased when the gravel road and circular drive from the church to the cemetery were completed.
“People could drive out and take a look at how beautiful everything is back there,” said Mr. Beckman.
Parishioners prepared a concrete foundation on the circular drive for the columbarium, which arrived in one piece and was lifted into place with a crane.
It has space for 124 cremated remains — including single niches and double niches for married couples.
After Mass on a Sunday this spring, Fr. Lueckenotte led a procession from the church doors to the cemetery for prayers of dedication.
“God, Creator of the world and Redeemer of mankind, Who wondrously disposes the destinies of all creatures, visible and invisible; we humbly and sincerely beseech You to hallow, purify and bless this cemetery, where the bodies of Your servants are duly laid to rest, after the labor and fatigue of this life has come to an end,” he prayed.
“Pardon, in Your great mercy,” the priest continued, “the sins of those who put their trust in You, and graciously grant unending consolation to their bodies that will lie at rest in this cemetery, awaiting the trumpet-call of the Archangel Michael.”
Most funeral processions at St. Anthony now follow the same path.
Four concrete benches — one in Mr. Martin’s memory — have been ordered for placement near the columbarium.
Several parishioners are talking about creating a memorial garden near the cemetery, with flowering trees and bushes.
“And we’re preserving a lot of the forest,” said Mr. Beckman.
As people purchase cemetery plots or reserve niches in the columbarium, one-third of the proceeds goes into a special fund, with the proceeds paying for perpetual upkeep.
Fr. Lueckenotte noted that if the need arises, there’s plenty of room for more graves in the cemetery and for additional columbariums inside the circular drive.
Hope and vigilance
Fr. Vacca said the new cemetery and columbarium are not only beautiful and contemplative, they serve an important spiritual purpose.
“We need cemeteries for the sake of memory and ritual — to remember loved ones, to speak to them and prepare to join them one day,” he said. “Visiting a cemetery keeps us connected to the dead who still live eternally.”
“The care of cemeteries is part of our looking toward the resurrection of our bodies on the last day, when Christ comes again,” he stated, adding that Catholics profess in the Creed at Mass every Sunday:
“I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”