Catholic Cemeteries provides safe home for human remains

Deacon Paul Croteau

Deacon Paul Croteau

January 26, 2015
LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

People who have buried or cremated relatives and loved ones in Edmonton's Catholic Cemeteries need not worry.

Fires at Hainstock's Funeral Home and Crematorium in south Edmonton on Jan. 9 and 10 prompted families to express concerns about the safety of the remains of their loved ones.

Deacon Paul Croteau, director of Catholic Cemeteries, would not comment on the Hainstock fires.

But families, he said, should not worry about the safety of their loved ones' remains at Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries.

VERY HIGH STANDARD

"Our Catholic cemeteries and columbarium are built to a very high standard and are not your typical office building."

The Alberta Building Code, he said, requires that every columbarium and mausoleum be built of non-combustible materials and have a roof, a floor and walls made substantially of masonry or concrete.

"I can assure our families that we meet or exceed this standard," he said. "The mausoleum was built with materials that are non-flammable, there are partitions and it is 100 per cent granite and concrete and glass because we want it to be protected."

There is also a spiritual component to this exacting construction.

"It's all about the reverence of the body and reverence of the ashes or the remains," Croteau said. "That is why we firmly believe that, be it at home or a funeral home, ashes should not be left in a temporary area."

It's important that they be kept in a permanent resting place where they are safe and relatives can visit, he said.

News stories occasionally tell of a relative's anguish when an urn with a loved one's ashes is stolen from their home.

"That is why we believe it should be kept in a safe dedicated place," Croteau explained. "It is not just about safety. It is also about reverence. It allows people to grieve properly rather than in a home."

Croteau said Catholic Cemeteries' mausoleum suffered a flood five or six years ago. "But the only place that was affected was the office because the water couldn't get into the other parts."

NO WOOD FRAME

As a result, some offices became a columbarium area, which is built to a higher standard with construction costs at $700 per square metre, he said. "Yes, we have drywall, but behind it we have concrete. We don't have frame."

The cemeteries' director has been asked by people if all would be safe if a tornado hit.

"I cannot comment on every natural disaster," Croteau said. "But we are held to a higher building standard than anyone else."

Croteau said mausoleums hold full-size caskets. "If you took all the granite off the walls, behind that granite you would see a honeycomb of concrete. Each casket is entombed in concrete."

REVERENCE FOR REMAINS

"We use building materials that are non-flammable and we use specialized builders. Not just anybody builds a columbarium or mausoleum.

"The Church," he said, "believes in the reverence of the remains of the body, the creation of God.

"That's why the archbishop has cemeteries – for the people of God to have a permanent place of reverence for their loved ones where they can come and be with their loved ones and share their stories."