Planning a Funeral at St. Joseph

Dear friend in Christ,

Whether you have lost a loved one or are planning ahead for the day when you or a loved one passes away, this page is meant to help you begin the planning of a Catholic funeral and to guide you in your decisions and choices that will be honorable, prayerful, dignified, and beautiful for you, your family, and our parish community. 

The Church’s funeral liturgies are meant and designed to facilitate prayer for your departed loved one, to commend them to God, and to comfort those left behind in their grief. 

Normally there are three parts to the Catholic Funeral process: 

  1. The Vigil for the Deceased usually takes place the evening before the Funeral Mass and includes the gathering of family and friends in the presence of the deceased (normally at the funeral home) with the reading of Scripture and the offering of prayers. The recitation of the Holy Rosary may be included in the prayer service as well as an opportunity for a eulogy to be given by a friend or family member. (Eulogies are not permitted to be given on the following day during the Funeral Mass, so if someone would like to say something or to read a letter or poem in memory of the deceased, the Vigil for the Deceased is the proper time and place for such remembrances). The service usually lasts between 10-30 minutes depending upon eulogies, and most families arrange for visitation with family and friends to take place immediately after the service. (eg. Catholic Vigil Service 5:00pm to 5:30pm followed by visitation until 7:00pm)     
  2. The Funeral Mass takes place in the church the following day and manifests the bringing of the deceased loved one by family and friends and presenting them to Almighty God. It includes the processing of the loved one up the aisle of the church to the foot of the altar and into the presence of God. Family members may be chosen to place the pall on the casket at the beginning of the Mass and to bring forth the gifts of bread and wine to be used for communion. 
  3. The Rite of Committal/Burial or Graveside Service follows the Funeral Mass, takes place at the cemetery and includes final prayers for the deceased and a blessing of the final resting place.

While all three parts of the Catholic Funeral process are recommended, for pastoral reasons an abbreviated form of the process may be chosen by family members. For example, it is permissible simply to choose the Rite of Committal/Burial at the cemetery without the other two parts. It is also possible to choose a Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass instead of a Funeral Mass (in which case, the ceremony would still be held in the church, but would not include the Eucharistic prayers and Communion). A Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass could be celebrated either at the church or at the funeral home chapel, while the Funeral Mass may only be celebrated in the church. 

The Catholic Church honors the mortal remains of Christians. In Baptism, the body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit, and therefore is worthy of great respect. For this reason, Church law requires that an appropriate Christian burial be given that honors the body of the deceased. While the burial of the body is the preferred custom and tradition of the Catholic Church, cremation is allowed. When cremation is chosen, it is expected that the ashes of cremation be present during the ceremonies and the following options are possible:

  1. The body may be present in a casket for the Vigil for the Deceased and for the Funeral Mass and then cremated afterward, with the ashes being buried at a cemetery or placed in a columbary. 
  2. The cremation of the deceased may take place prior to the Vigil for the Deceased and the remains be placed in a suitable urn or container and be present at the Vigil for the Deceased as well as at the Funeral Liturgy. The Rite of Committal would then take place at the cemetery where the ashes are buried or placed in a columbary.
  3. Because of our Christian belief in the Resurrection of the Body at the end of time, and because of our respect for the dignity of the human body, Church law requires that the ashes/remains of cremation be given a proper Christian burial or entombment. Therefore, it is not permissible for the ashes to be divided up, to be taken home for an extended amount of time, or to be discarded by scattering on land or water.

Our desire here at St. Joseph Catholic Church is to walk with you during this process of loss and grief, and our guidelines have been established to help ensure that a spirit of dignity, respect, and prayer is afforded to you and your loved one during this time. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers, and let us know how we may assist you in this process.