In light of the decision by the NSW Government to exclude faith and charitable groups from cemetery management, Catholic Outlook is republishing this article from March 2019 about Holy Cross Parish, Granville, coming together to farewell a complete stranger, enacting one of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy.
We petition the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Property Minister Melinda Pavey, to reverse the decision to exclude religious groups from cemetery management.
Sign the petition asking the NSW Government to reverse a decision to exclude faith and charitable groups from cemetery management here – saveourgraves.com.au
Christopher Baker died alone.
He had no friends and no family to attend his funeral.
His one request when he passed away was to have his funeral performed in a Catholic Church.
Little did Christopher know that he would be farewelled by the generous parishioners of Holy Cross Parish, Granville.
The funeral, held at Holy Trinity church on 19 March 2019, was meant to be held with just a priest.
Local funeral directors who were commissioned to carry out the funeral told parish priest Fr Andrew Bass that Christopher, who was not a parishioner, didn’t have any family or friends.
They also told Fr Andrew that Christopher had died alone in a nursing home outside of the Diocese of Parramatta.
That’s when Fr Andrew made an appeal to the parish.
“Fr Andrew decided to put the request out to parishioners during the weekend Masses and on our Facebook page,” Holy Cross Parish Business and Projects Manager John Portelli said.
The appeal, posted on Holy Cross Parish’s Facebook page, read “it is a beautiful part of our catholic [sic] faith that we pray for those who have died and are assured that they will in turn pray for us.”
The community responded positively to the post, “with over 100 reactions to the post, and over 50 comments from people sending prayers,” according to John.
“Sending prayers. Rest In Peace. I can’t be there but I will pause for 5 minutes and bid him [eternal] life with the lord,” Jamilla Gourley commented on the Facebook post.
“Dear Lord, receive his soul and present him to God the Most High,” Mary-Ann Laoulach also commented.
Fr Andrew encouraged parishioners to embrace Christopher as a response to the Corporal Works of Mercy.
The Corporal Works of Mercy are based off Christ’s teachings (Mt 25: 31-46) and are a model for Christians on how to treat others. They are “charitable actions by which we help our neighbours in their bodily needs,” according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
As well as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, burying the dead is a work of mercy. The USCCB explain that “through our thoughts and prayers during these [difficult] times, we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn.”
When the day of the funeral arrived, over 40 parishioners including representatives from Delany College, turned up to pray for the repose of Christopher’s soul.
“It was beautiful. It was so nice to see so many people turn up to the funeral,” John said.
If a similar request were to be made to the parish, John believed that the parish would be happy to help out again.
“Our community is good at doing things like this. When an appeal is made, it is often taken on by parishioners with a similar response.
“Our faith recommends that we say prayers for the deceased, so it was special that the parish came together for someone they didn’t even know.
“I’d like to thank the parishioners for their support and their act of charity, and its importance during this season of Lent,” John said.
In his word of thanks in the parish bulletin, Fr Andrew commented that the funeral directors were overwhelmed by the generous response by parishioners.
“[They] said that it is a testament to the ‘tight knit community’ that we have in Granville,” Fr Andrew said.
“It is a mark of a parish that deeply cares for others and seeks to make known the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in a very generous and heartfelt way. Thank you.”
The seven Corporal Works of Mercy are:
- Feed the hungry.
- Give drink to the thirsty.
- Shelter the homeless.
- Visit the sick.
- Visit the prisoners.
- Bury the dead.
- Give alms to the poor.
This story won the ‘Best News Story’ category at the 2019 Australasian Catholic Press Association (ACPA) Awards.