Frequently Asked Questions

Good Shepherd Catholic Church Columbarium

Frequently Asked Questions

 What is a Columbarium?

A Columbarium is a group of niches, typically within a wall of brick, stone, granite, marble or other materials, that contains the cremated remains (cremains) of the departed. Our Columbarium includes a hexagonal memorial wall that can accommodate 440 niches to be installed in niche sections as the need arises.  When that wall is full, the plan is to replicate the hexagonal section and that will accommodate an additional 440 niches.  Each niche is approximately 11.5” x 11.5" x 11.5" and can accommodate two urns.

Can Catholics be cremated?

Yes. In May 1963, the Vatican's Holy Office (now the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith) lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation.  This permission was incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 (Canon # 1176), as well as into the Order of Christian Funerals.  It then became standard practice to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body and then take the body to the crematorium.   The Bishops of the United States and Holy See have now authorized the celebration of a Catholic funeral liturgy with the cremains when the body is cremated before the funeral.  The church then encourages placement of the cremains in a final resting place.

 Why have a Columbarium?

The church property has traditionally been the final resting place of the bodies of deceased members of the Christian community.  Burial within the church itself or in the adjacent churchyard was once common practice.  The amount of land necessary for a burial ground is no longer available to most churches and a myriad of laws and regulations make it extremely difficult to establish a burial site.  In recent years, cremation with inurnment of the cremains, rather than burial, has become more common.  In addition, many people today are turning to cremation as an economical, dignified way to address the rising costs of funerals.  In this way, the remains of the deceased can remain at the church that played such an important part in their lives.

 What are the benefits to our congregation?

A niche in a columbarium is modestly priced, aesthetically pleasing, and ecologically sound.  The ambiance of the columbarium creates a comfortable meeting place for families and friends to gather in love and remembrance, a consoling link between life and death.

Does the parish website have any information about the Good Shepherd columbarium?

Yes. The website will be a living document that will be updated to address questions about the columbarium, its purpose, how to acquire a niche and many other bits of information.  A Right of Inurnment certificate may be downloaded as well as other documents such as the bylaws.

 How will the niches be marked?

Each niche will provide the person's legal name and dates of birth and death. These will be inscribed in a uniform size on the face of the limestone faceplate covering the niche, at the time of inurnment.  The church office will order the inscription prior to the inurnment. 

Who can be inurned here? 

The columbarium is reserved for the use of current and former registered members of Good Shepherd and their immediate families (spouse, children, parents), and members of the Catholic community as stipulated in the Columbarium Rules and Regulations.

Only human remains may be inurned at the columbarium.

How are arrangements for cremation and inurnment made?

Arrangements for cremation are made through a Funeral Home.  Prior to going to the Funeral Home a visit to the Church should be made to discuss the pending funeral, obtain an urn and confirm the inscription to go on the faceplate of the niche.  The Funeral Home will return the urn with the cremains for the final services.  Once you know when the cremains will be available, the inurnment can be arranged.  The parish office will assist in arranging the church services and inurnment.

Will there be a funeral/committal service?

Yes, traditional services may continue as usual in the Church, and may include the committal service at the Columbarium.  The burial service will be as prescribed by the Pastor of Good Shepherd, in consultation with the family, and in accordance with the regulations of the Diocese of Birmingham.

What option does my family have if they want to have a traditional viewing and funeral with the body present and cremation to follow?

Some people feel there is a therapeutic value to the family of celebrating the full funeral liturgy with the body present.  Cremation would be at a later date followed by inurnment at the Columbarium.  Arrangements would be made through a funeral home.  Besides the cremation costs, additional costs will be incurred.  Embalming would be required as well as facility fees if visitation is there, body preparation and a rental casket for the viewing and funeral.

May a particular niche be chosen?

Yes, niches will be offered on a "first come, first served" basis and may be chosen from those available.   Sections of niches will be constructed as the need is forecast so the number of niches available at any one time will    be limited.

 Who is paying for the Columbarium?

The Good Shepherd columbarium is funded solely by the sale of the niches.  No money is being drawn from Church funds.

What is the cost of inurnment in the Good Shepherd Columbarium?

The current cost of a Good Shepherd double occupancy varies between $2,500 & $2,700  and includes two urns.  This price also includes the cost of engraving of the stone.

A funeral home must be contracted for “direct cremation” if inurnment is planned at the columbarium.  This includes services of the funeral home staff, removal of the remains from home or hospital and cremation of the remains.  The costs for these services are separate from the Columbarium and are negotiated with the funeral home.  There are also fees for the death notice and copies of the death certificate.

What happens when all of the niches are sold out?

The columbarium is designed in such a way that it can be expanded very easily.  The first phase includes a hexagonal wall that can accommodate 440 niches to be installed in niche sections as the need arises.  When that wall is forecast to be full, the plan is to replicate the hexagonal wall, in sections, to accommodate an additional 440 niches.

What about care and permanency?

The columbarium will have perpetual care funded by the sale of the niches.

Who administers the activity of the Columbarium?

A Columbarium Board has been formed.  This Board will report directly to the Pastor.

How do I reserve a niche?

See the designated person at Good Shepherd Church who will help you fill out the Right of Inurnment certificate and pay the appropriate amount.

How do I make my wishes known?

Do talk with your family about your desire to be cremated.   You can make those wishes known in the form of a legal document such as your will, living trust or in documents designed to help plan and prepare your funeral. 

What funeral rites are celebrated when a person is cremated?

All the usual rites that are celebrated with a body present may also be celebrated in the presence of cremated remains. The United States' Bishops have written new prayers and have printed them as an appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals.  During the liturgies, the cremated remains are treated with the same dignity and respect as the body.

What length of time is there between death, cremation and the funeral Mass?

The answer to this question depends on various factors, just as in the case of funerals with the body.  The place of death, the location of the crematory, scheduling a time for cremation, the schedule at the parish, and other circumstances impact the timing. 

What happens at the Funeral Mass with cremated remains?

Significant attention should be given to the primary symbols of the Catholic funeral liturgy, as stated in the Order of Christian Funerals and its commentaries.  The paschal candle and sprinkling with holy water are primary symbols of baptism and should be used during the funeral Mass.  However, the pall is not used.  During the Mass, the cremains are treated with the same dignity and respect as the body.  They are to be sealed in a "worthy vessel."  They may be carried in procession and/or placed on a table where the coffin normally would be with the Easter candle nearby.

The body is always laid to rest with solemnity and dignity.  So too, the Order of Christian Funerals provides for the interment of cremated remains (Order of Christian Funerals, #428).

May my ashes be scattered? 

No. "The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased is not the reverent disposition that the Church requires." (Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix II)

Canon Law on Cremation

Can. 117 S 1 - Christ's faithful who have died are to be given a Church funeral according to the norms of law.

S2 - Church funerals are to be celebrated according to the norms of the liturgical books.  In these funeral rites the Church prays for the spiritual support of the dead, it honors their bodies, and at the same time it brings to the living the comfort of hope.

S3 - The Church earnestly recommends that the pious customs of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless it is chosen for reasons that are contrary to Christian teaching.

A common practice is the entombment of the cremated remains in a "columbarium".  It is an arrangement of niches, either in a mausoleum, a room or wall into which an urn or other worthy vessel is placed for permanent memorial.