By NICHOLE GOLDEN | Published December 26, 2019
CUMMING—In November, the month in which Catholics traditionally pray for the dead, parishioners of Good Shepherd Church attended the dedication of the parish’s columbarium.
Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, diocesan administrator, dedicated and blessed the columbarium at the Cumming church on Saturday, Nov. 9.
A columbarium is an arrangement of niches in the wall of a structure in which urns containing cremated remains are placed for permanent memorial. The Catholic Church has permitted cremation since the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith lifted the prohibition on cremation in 1963.
On the day of the dedication, more than 15 families had inurnments for their loved ones at the columbarium. Bishop Konzen and Father Diosmar Natad, pastor, celebrated Mass, followed by the inurnments of the faithful departed and a reception.
Father Natad said that the serene setting of the columbarium brings peace to the families.
“After Mass, they can go and pray for their loved ones. It’s like a prayer garden. There’s a water fountain,” he said.
There was some talk among parishioners about a columbarium project before Father Natad’s assignment to the parish more than three and a half years ago. He revisited the project conducting a “survey from the pews” of how many parishioners would be interested in niches.
The response was overwhelming, and the parish broke ground on the self-funded columbarium project in January.
The initial completion date was August, but there were a few delays.
“God puts everything together,” said Father Natad about the timing. “Everyone is really happy.”
Good Shepherd’s facilities manager, Joe Donnelly, designed the columbarium and garden, which is adjacent to the Stations of the Cross on the parish grounds.
“We’re lucky, and we’re proud of Joe Donnelly,” said Father Natad.
At the outset, more than 90 parishioners pledged $1,000 for niche reservations, and additional donations were secured.
The contractor was Moeller Purcell Construction Company. The construction costs were approximately $1 million. According to Dennis Kelly, senior project manager with Catholic Construction Services, the Phase I installation included some 300 niches and accompanying garden in front.
“The design allows for the number of niches to be more than doubled over time as availability and demand dictates,” said Kelly in an email.
Parishioner Donna Baray decided to have her late husband’s urn placed in the columbarium.
“I felt like it was going to be closure,” said Baray.
Her husband of 21 years, Jaime, died unexpectedly in 2008.
“When my husband died I was kind of in ‘la-la land,’” she said.
She looked at traditional cemeteries but felt they were “not anywhere I wanted to end up.” In the 11 years since his death, Baray had not been able to decide on a final resting place.
Baray, who entered the church in 2006, said the parish columbarium and garden is a “God-send.”
Jaime was an architect and Baray felt he would’ve appreciated the design aesthetic and functionality of the columbarium.
Baray knows that the memorial will be properly maintained and secure. The Archdiocese of Atlanta issues the protocols for columbaria spaces and memorial gardens. Good Shepherd’s columbarium is for parishioners and their relatives.
The dedication and inurnment also allowed her to connect with other grieving families. One parishioner, who was placing her son’s urn in the columbarium, held Baray’s hand throughout the entire November service.
“That church has been pretty important in my life,” said Baray. “I just think it’s a great thing for the church.”