October 31, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON – Like a wedding or a baptism, a funeral is a rite of passage by which we recognize an important event in our lives.

The funeral declares a death has occurred and one of its main purposes is to pray for the repose of the soul of the deceased.

But dying can be expensive and whether you choose burial or cremation, the bill for a funeral can run to thousands of dollars.

“Cost would depend on each individual funeral home but it could be anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000 to get everything done; others could be double or triple that,” says Evan Strong, president of Evan J. Strong Funeral Homes in Calgary.

“So the lowest cost is kind of relative to an individual and what they choose to do and probably the particular funeral home they are dealing with.”

In accord with Catholic teaching, the funeral service for a Catholic consists of bringing the body of the deceased to the Church, the celebration there of Mass, followed by interment, preferably in the consecrated ground of a Catholic cemetery.

While the Catholic Church accepts cremation, the body of the deceased must be present in the Church at a Mass of Christian Burial, which means cremation must be delayed until after the funeral Mass.

But there are other options that still meet Church guidelines and can significantly reduce funeral costs. Cremation is clearly cheaper than being buried in a casket.

“Archbishop (Thomas) Collins actually liked to have the actual body brought to church because in a funeral Mass the body should be present,” pointed out Gerry Connelly of Connelly-McKinley Funeral Home. “However, different priests (now) sort of allow pretty well what most families want.”

“I think most people would have the casket present at the Mass followed by burial or cremation,” noted Strong. “But many funeral homes have options for families so that they don’t have to buy caskets, but they can just use one – kind of a rental option.”

The least expensive option is to have a memorial Mass without the body, says Connelly. Here you avoid embalming fees and the cost of a casket.

THE TRADITIONAL WAY

Surprisingly, not everyone goes for the least expensive option, Connelly said. “Most people have sort of pre-determined what they want; a lot of people buy custom. By their religion, certain ethnic groups usually do things very similarly; they follow tradition.”

But if families want to keep costs down “we will do whatever we can to help them keep the cost down and give them good advice,” Connelly said.

People could save money by using their own vehicle to transport the body to church and by avoiding expenses like guest books and memorial cards. “We would deduct all of that from the cost of the professional services and that saves them money too.”

Strong said funeral homes generally offer cremation as part of a package that includes professional services such as going to the hospital or nursing home or the hospice where the person died, bringing them back to the funeral home, coordinating the details of the Mass, registering the person’s death and providing all the necessary documents.

“The actual cremation fee at our firm is $500 but if you are looking at the actual cremation service, that’s about $2,000 for everything,” he said.

At Connelly-McKinley this option costs around $1,800. Most funeral homes include a cremation urn in their package.

Connelly lamented that funeral homes often get blamed for expensive funerals.

However, people don’t realize the funeral home is also charging clients for services outside its purview such as obituaries, which can go for $300 a day, church fees, cemetery costs, he said.

“The funeral home gets the blame for all of that and really a couple of thousand dollars sometimes out of a funeral service may have nothing to do with the funeral home.”

Cremation is allowed, but “as Catholics we don’t believe that grandma should be on the shelf at home” or that ashes should be scattered, said Deacon Paul Croteau, director of Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries.

The burial of urns is generally cheaper than burial of coffins. “In some places we now can put a casket and two cremated remains on top of it,” Croteau pointed out.

“You don’t have to buy a full-size grave when you are buried if there is cremation,” noted Denise Rivest, also of Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries. “Sometimes you can use your parents’ grave and a cremation grave is much less than a full size grave. And even a cremation spot in the mausoleum is less than a spot for a casket.”

A cremation spot for one person at Holy Cross Cemetery goes for $730. Add to this, the opening and closing fees plus the cost of a marker and the spot would cost close to $2,000.

In the mausoleum, the cost of a cremation spot for one person ranges from $1,563 to $4,380. That depends on where you are in the mausoleum. On the top level, it would be less expensive.

“So it varies on location and it varies on whether you have a granite front or a glass front and a marker,” Rivest explained.

Burying a casket at Holy Cross would cost about $4,500, including a grave, opening and closing fees and a marker. Crypts are quite expensive. A single crypt in the mausoleum ranges from $9,710 to $23,570.

Many cultural groups still prefer to be buried in a casket but cremation is certainly on the increase, Rivest said.

She said people aged 70 and older are still doing the casket burial. “But the ones under 70 are looking more toward cremation. It’s definitely something that’s more acceptable now than it was before.”

Connelly lamented that funeral homes often get blamed for expensive funerals.

However, people don’t realize the funeral home is also charging clients for services outside its purview such as obituaries, which can go for $300 a day, church fees, cemetery costs, he said.

“The funeral home gets the blame for all of that and really a couple of thousand dollars sometimes out of a funeral service may have nothing to do with the funeral home.”

Cremation is allowed, but “as Catholics we don’t believe that grandma should be on the shelf at home” or that ashes should be scattered, said Deacon Paul Croteau, director of Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries.

BURIAL URNS

The burial of urns is generally cheaper than burial of coffins. “In some places we now can put a casket and two cremated remains on top of it,” Croteau pointed out.

“You don’t have to buy a full-size grave when you are buried if there is cremation,” noted Denise Rivest, also of Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries. “Sometimes you can use your parents’ grave and a cremation grave is much less than a full size grave. And even a cremation spot in the mausoleum is less than a spot for a casket.”

A cremation spot for one person at Holy Cross Cemetery goes for $730. Add to this, the opening and closing fees plus the cost of a marker and the spot would cost close to $2,000.

In the mausoleum, the cost of a cremation spot for one person ranges from $1,563 to $4,380. That depends on where you are in the mausoleum. On the top level, it would be less expensive.

“So it varies on location and it varies on whether you have a granite front or a glass front and a marker,” Rivest explained.

Burying a casket at Holy Cross would cost about $4,500, including a grave, opening and closing fees and a marker. Crypts are quite expensive. A single crypt in the mausoleum ranges from $9,710 to $23,570.

Many cultural groups still prefer to be buried in a casket but cremation is certainly on the increase, Rivest said.

She said people aged 70 and older are still doing the casket burial. “But the ones under 70 are looking more toward cremation. It’s definitely something that’s more acceptable now than it was before.”