Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

The diocesan Office of Cemeteries, which assists parishes with cemetery operations, has been reconfigured and renamed. As of Jan. 1, 2020, it will become the Office of Cemetery and Funeral Services. Deacon Ed Handel, who has been employed by Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services (CFCS) and directed the Office of Cemeteries for the last three years, will direct the new office.

A statement from the diocesan Office of Finance noted, “In looking at the budget for fiscal year 2019-20, it became evident that the cost of the management contracts with CFCS could not be financially supported by the size of the diocesan regional cemeteries. The growth of diocesan regional cemeteries, while a long-term goal, is requiring more time than anticipated, and the revenue projections do not justify the ongoing management and administrative oversight by CFCS.” 

According to Deacon Handel, the office will continue its emphasis on “sound fiscal management” of the cemeteries and the benefits of pre-planning funerals and burials.

“We’ll have closer oversight of parish cemeteries and columbaria. We’ll look at their financial stability,” he said, adding that the office will continue to implement best practices and processes in cemetery management. Sixty-three parishes have cemeteries and/or columbaria. One has a mausoleum. 

Deacon Handel will continue advocating for pre-planning of funerals among Catholics.

“Most of us know someone who has died and has not made funeral plans,” he said. “Then the family has to make a $10,000-$15,000 decision at a very emotional time. With pre-planning, the family doesn’t have to worry.”  

The Office of Cemeteries manages regional cemeteries in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Roanoke. This year, Deacon Handel has worked with St. Matthew, Virginia Beach, in relocating its columbarium to another location on parish property, and he is working with St. Peter the Apostle, Lake Gaston, on the development of a cemetery, which he hopes will be completed by spring.

“We’re also in the process of studying the development of a cemetery in Virginia Beach,” he said.

Deacon Handel, who serves at St. Olaf, Williamsburg, is assisted by Deacon Bill Westerman from St. Bede, Williamsburg. Both do parish visits in which they meet with people to discuss the benefits of pre-planning, as well as to explain Catholic teaching regarding funerals and burials. 

Editor’s note: For further information about Catholic funerals and cemeteries, contact Deacon Handel at 757-229-0851 or ehandel@richmonddio cese.org.