by Therese Horvat
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — While three of the nine cemeteries managed and operated by Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas are nearly sold out of burial space with no land for expansion, the archdiocesan ministry has multiple options available and plans projected to respond to current and future needs.
“We strive to do everything we can to accommodate the needs of the families and individuals we serve,” said Sharon Vallejo, president of Catholic Cemeteries. “Even at two of the landlocked locations, we are looking at ways to expand capacity with columbaria for cremated remains and to maximize use of ground space.”
The three landlocked cemeteries are St. John, 36th and State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas; Mt. Calvary, 38th and State Ave., Kansas City, Kansas; and Mt. Calvary, South U.S. Highway 169, Olathe. St. John is completely full. Established in 1864 on five acres, this site is the oldest managed by Catholic Cemeteries. Mt. Calvary in Kansas City, Kansas, has 98% of its capacity sold; Mt. Calvary, Olathe, is at 90% sold. All cemeteries managed by Catholic Cemeteries remain under perpetual care (mowing, upkeep, etc.) provided by the organization.
Catholic Cemeteries has identified areas inside the mausoleum at Mt. Calvary, Kansas City, Kansas, to accommodate additional cremation niches that could be in place within the next one to two years based on need. Also under exploration is a columbarium at Mt. Calvary, Olathe, to expand offerings for cremated remains. A burial section for priests is another option under consideration for this location. The Olathe cemetery has approximately 50 remaining burial spaces.
To respond to more immediate needs, families can purchase an additional rite of interment for an already occupied grave space. Each full-size grave space can accommodate up to three burial rites. This can be a combination of one traditional burial and two cremations, or three cremations.
Plenty of space and land exists at the six other cemeteries for current use and for development to accommodate future traditional ground burials, cremation ground inurnment and columbaria additions. These cemeteries include Gate of Heaven, Kansas City, Kansas; Mt. Calvary, Lansing; Mt. Calvary, Topeka; Resurrection, Lenexa; St. John, Lenexa; and St. Joseph, Shawnee.
“For families and individuals wanting their final resting places near their loved ones, it’s really important that they discuss their wants with us now, particularly for mausoleum crypts,” explained Bryan Alonzo, Catholic Cemeteries director of sales and marketing. “We have mausoleums with different tier levels for viewing at four of our cemeteries. The lower crypts are extremely scarce as the majority of our remaining inventory at all of our mausoleums is at the higher levels.”
In addition to helping ensure proximity of burial near family members, Alonzo says that families consider preplanning for several reasons. They cite the emotional advantage as their primary rationale for meeting with Catholic Cemeteries family service advisers well in advance of deaths. They emphasize the value of planning together, so no one person bears the sole responsibility in the future. They hope to avoid possible conflicts among survivors during times of grief. Plus, they would like their preferences for arrangements to be met. Lastly, families understand that preplanning leads to cost savings.
“The industry costs increase annually,” Alonzo elaborated. “The rising costs of materials (e.g., caskets and headstones) and labor continue to go up. Much of this is out of the control of the cemetery. Preplanning allows individuals and families to finance their selections with no interest for up to five years.”
Anticipating future needs, Vallejo says that Catholic Cemeteries’ plans for expansion of cemeteries are driven by two factors: feedback from local priests and parishes, and the analysis of interment data. “Our data gives us specific information about every burial that allows us to determine where and what the Catholic community wants,” she said.
For example, population growth and residential and commercial expansion in southern Johnson County point to the need for a cemetery location to serve the Catholic community in that area. This would encompass families in parishes that are among the largest in the archdiocese.
“Naturally, we encourage people to choose Catholic cemeteries for their burials,” said Vallejo. “Our cemeteries are sacred spaces with consecrated ground. In a Catholic cemetery, you are part of a Catholic community, the communion of saints, that links the faithful living and the dead. We worship together in life, and we await final resurrection together in death.”