A Catholic Guide to Cremation

Due to the changes in Catholic Church teaching in funeral practices, this page has been prepared to answer common questions regarding the important elements of Church teaching concerning cremation. The responses are consistent with the U.S. Bishops' "Order of Christian Funerals" and "Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites" documents.

What Is Cremation?

Cremation (using fire and heat) is the process by which the body of the deceased is reduced to its basic elements. Cremation is permitted for Catholics as long as it is not chosen in denial of Christian teaching on the Resurrection and the sacredness of the human body.

Does the Church have a preference for either cremation or burial of the body of the deceased?

Although cremation is permitted, Catholic teaching continues to stress the preference for burial or entombment of the body of the deceased. This is done in imitation of the burial of Jesus' body.
"This is the Body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. Our identity and self-consciousness as a human person are expressed in the and through the body. . . Thus, the Churchs' reverence and care for the body grows out of areverence and concern for the person whom the Church now commends to the care of God."

What are the steps to be taken?

When cremation is chosen, the full course of the Order of Christian Funerals should still be celebrated, including the Vigil Service (wake), the Funeral Liturgy, and the Rite of Committal.

The preservation of this order allows the greater expression of our beliefs and values, especially, the sacredness of human life, the dignity of the individual person and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the firstborn of the dead. Through its funeral rites, the Church commends the dead to the merciful love of God and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins.

Should cremation occur before or after the funeral?

The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body be present during the Vigil and Funeral Mass, and that if cremation is to be used, it take place following the Rite of Final Commendation. The cremated human remains would then be interred during the Rite of Committal. However,
pastors may for a good reason permit the cremated remains to be present for the Funeral Liturgy.

What should become of the cremated remains following the funeral?

Church teaching insists that cremated remains must be given the same respect as the body, including the manner in which they are carried and the attention given to their
appropriate transport and placement.

The cremated remains of a body are to be buried or entombed, preferably in a Catholic cemetery, and using the rites provided by the Order of Christian Funerals. The following are not considered to be reverent dispositions that the Church requires: scattering cremated remains, dividing cremated remains and keeping cremated remain in the home.

The remains of a cremated body should be treated with the same respect given to the corporeal remains of a human body. This includes a worthy container to hold the
cremated remains.

What should I do if I have the cremated remains of the body of a loved on at home?

It has become somewhat common for family members or the spouse to say to a funeral director, "I want to keep the remains of my loved one at home with me for a while. I will decide later on what to do".

Initially, the treasured cremains of the body of a loved one in their gilded box, are placed on the mantel. They serve as the focus when praying and grieving.

Some years pass and they may be moved to a bookcase, a shelf or into a closet. Then the decision to move is made and questions arise as to what to do with the cremains of your loved one. Scatter his/her ashes at the lake or buried in the backyard? Neither option is right with the Catholic Church. These provide no place for
extended family to come when visiting or to grieve on memorial days, birthday, and wedding anniversaries, or on those days when you are just feeling low.

Please consider contacting Catholic Cemeteries Inc. for answers to these questions. We have burial lots overlooking the Fox River, EAA airfields, burial lots under trees or in full sun. We have Columbarium niches available at both Sacred Heart and Calvary cemeteries.

At Calvary, we have a Personal Columbarium Garden with seventy above ground spaces available and foundations in place and ready for your personal Columbarium monument. Monuments can be purchased from area monument dealers with spaces tucked inside of each monument for two to four cremains.

Burial within a Catholic Cemetery is the preferred model for all Catholics, both those very active in their respective churches and those who may not practice their faith as often. If it is your desire upon death, please tell loved ones what you want. Let them know your wishes
in advance so no misunderstanding denies you the benefits of your faith.

P1010643Columbarium at Sacred Heart Cemetery
P1010835Columbarium at Calvary Cemetery
P1010947Personal Columbarium Garden at Calvary Cemetery

If you are considering cremation, it is wise to discuss your choice with your family, your parish priest, and/or the Catholic Cemetery office.


Preface of Christian Death I, Roman Missal

Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

Contact Us

Jan Fendt
St. Jude the Apostle Church
1025 W. 5th Ave. Oshkosh, WI 54902