by Therese Horvat
Special to The Leaven
Listening with empathy, educating on end-of-life decisions and serving with compassion are key components of the roles of the family service advisers of Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas.
Whether meeting needs at the time of a personal loss or assisting with pre-need planning, the scope of this team’s work exceeds expectations of a traditional sales team and reflects commitment to the ministry of burying the dead with dignity and respect.
Bryan Alonzo, director of sales and marketing, emphasized the importance of information-sharing, education and guidance as team members reach out to families and individuals.
“We respond to needs and anticipate needs,” he explained. “We take a difficult subject — the immediacy or eventuality of death — and strive to provoke thoughts among clients about end-of-life decisions.”
He stresses that the team of family service advisers avoids typical sales tactics like cold calls and high-pressure pitches.
“We connect with people, listen to them and help them understand the value of planning ahead for themselves and for their family members,” Alonzo said.
Family service advisers focus on the peace of mind that comes with preplanning. Alonzo described this as a great gift for loved ones who survive the deceased.
“Who better than an individual or a couple to discuss and plan their own personal final arrangements?” he asked.
Moreover, the sooner individuals and couples prearrange burial plans, the more they will save financially. Catholic Cemeteries locks in prices when contracts are signed and offers payment plans with no interest.
In addition, Catholic Cemeteries can assist with the many details associated with end-of-life arrangements. Through expanded collaboration, Catholic Cemeteries can now write policies for 10 funeral homes. Performing this role, Haley Klemencic, sales administrative specialist, is available to guide people through planning the visitation, funeral, burial and/or inurnment — from start to completion. This can range from discussion of the clothing the deceased will wear to identification of readings for the Mass to coordination of other details. Catholic Cemeteries also offers an extensive assortment of monument and urn options.
“Our goal is to be an important and valued resource to parishioners and the church of northeast Kansas,” said Sharon Vallejo, president of Catholic Cemeteries. “We want to simplify the process of making end-of-life arrangements by offering a vast array of services that are affordable, responsive to needs and consistent with teachings of the church. We do this with deep respect for the dignity of each person and family we serve and in partnership with priests, parishes and funeral homes.”
Relatively new to the organization, Klemencic chose to work with Catholic Cemeteries because she considers it a purpose-driven organization.
“The different programs we offer have huge spiritual, emotional and financial benefits for the people we serve,” she said.
For Alonzo, this boils down to taking a personal approach and considering all client encounters as opportunities to help them think about the details and decisions associated with death. He admitted this has been a challenge during the pandemic with restrictions on in-person meetings. To counter this and to meet the needs of the Catholic community, Catholic Cemeteries is offering special promotions, which have been very well-received.
Just as its sales team encourages individuals and families to plan ahead, Catholic Cemeteries also works to ensure continuous updates and improvements to the nine cemeteries it operates and manages in Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties, and in Topeka. Vallejo points to the new Veterans Garden and Memorial at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Topeka, where the first burial has occurred. Catholic Cemeteries is also adding 200 burial spaces in the veterans section at Resurrection Cemetery, Lenexa. In addition, new columbaria for cremated remains are planned for Resurrection and for Mount Calvary Cemetery in Lansing.