by Joe Bollig
BALDWIN — There were a lot of happy people at the dedication of the new cemetery shelter here on May 26, but the happiest was probably the pastor of Annunciation Parish.
“You can see a smile on my face,” said Father Jomon Palatty, MSFS. “We have been really praying for beautiful weather, and here it is. . . . How blessed we are.”
May this year had been an especially soggy month with frequent rains, full creeks and rivers, and flash flood warnings.
But not on May 26. For the day of the outdoor Mass and blessing, held under a tent provided by the Knights of Columbus, the breezes were gentle and the sky was absent of rain. The trees and grass were vibrantly green from a month of moisture.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist of the Mass, and he blessed the new cemetery shelter.
“It’s a joy to be with you today and to celebrate Mass in this ‘green cathedral,’” said Archbishop Naumann.
Construction began in November 2018 and concluded in April. The low-maintenance shelter is built of buff brick on a cement slab, measuring 12 feet by 24 feet. The metal roof is supported by four brick pillars in front and a wall in back. The sides are open.
In the center of the back wall is a plain, stone cross. Flanking the cross are directories for Mount Calvary Cemetery on the left and Prairie City Cemetery on the right. Donor plaques are also on the wall. Forty-five individuals and families donated funds for the project.
What looks like one is actually two adjoining cemeteries. The south half is the Catholic cemetery, bought in 1867, although the first datable grave is from 1863. The north half is named for Prairie City, which was founded in 1859, but dwindled and became a ghost town. A small, stone, mission Catholic church existed nearby between 1857 and 1893.
Mount Calvary and Prairie City cemeteries are located on the southwest edge of Baldwin, slightly into the countryside, not far from the Midland Railroad Depot.
For several years, the cemetery directories were on a shed-like wooden building that was formerly the Media town library, but it deteriorated and was demolished in 2012. The new shelter was built on the former structure’s site.
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann thanked the pastor and parishioners for inviting him to bless the new structure. He also talked about the significance of a Catholic cemetery in terms of Christian belief.
“It’s important for us as Christians always to keep the memory of those who have died and gone before us,” he said. “The care we have for the remains of those who have died is a special part of our Christian spirituality.
“It shows a faith in the victory of Christ over death, but it also shows a faith in the reality that our bodies are these human temples that carry the very life of God within them. And that Jesus has promised that not only our spirits will live with him, but our bodies will be raised up as well. This is a central belief that we have as Catholics.”
Before the conclusion of the Mass, Father Jomon thanked several people who played specific roles in the planning and construction of the cemetery shelter. He also thanked the donors. He noted that fundraising chairman Dave Hill raised the $50,000 cost of the project in 60 days. Cemetery sexton Larry Butell, who supervised the construction, was given a statue of St. Joseph blessed by Archbishop Naumann.