Sunday Commemoration of All Souls Presents Catholics with Unique Opportunity, Vicar General Says

By Colleen Rowan WHEELING— The commemoration of All Souls Day, Nov. 2, presents Catholics with a unique opportunity this year, said Very Rev. Jerome McKenna, CP, V.G. For the first time in many years, and many years to come, the commemoration falls on a Sunday and Masses and homilies that day will center on the commemoration of all souls. Father McKenna, who serves as director of cemeteries for the diocese, encourages the faithful to pray for deceased loved ones during Masses that day, pay personal reverence to them by visiting their graves and to visit Catholic cemeteries. “All Souls Day is a day that is given over to our thoughts and prayers for our dead and naturally we focus on those who have been buried over the ages in our cemeteries,” Father McKenna said. “That’s why we look upon cemeteries as places not just of sacredness because they bear the remains of people that have gone before us, but they’re places of prayer, they’re holy places that can bring us back in touch with the reality of our life.” Father McKenna joins with the National Catholic Cemetery Conference in calling attention to the Sunday commemoration of all souls to remind the faithful that all have an obligation to pray for the deceased—not just mourn their passing or merely recall their memory. This will also be a great occasion, Father McKenna said, for families to come together and visit the graves of grandparents, great-grandparents and other family members and loved ones. He also urges the faithful to visit Catholic cemeteries and to reflect on those who have found final rest within their gates. This, he said, will be a time to offer prayers and gratitude for those who sacrificed so much in their lifetimes—many of whom spent their lives building the foundation of the Catholic faith for future generations. “They’ve given us a great deal,” he noted, “and this gives us an opportunity to really reverence them in a very public way and not just within the walls of our church but to let the rest of society know we do have a reverence for the dead.” Prayers and gratitude can also be offered, he said, for the many service men and women who died while serving their country and for veterans. “They offered their lives for us,” Father McKenna said, noting that one cannot fail to notice the sea of American flags that adorn their graves. This will also be a great chance for evangelization, Father McKenna said, letting society know what Catholic beliefs are in regard to the dead and, for Catholics, a renewal of teaching and beliefs—why prayers are offered for the dead and that the faithful can pray to the dead for intercession. The commemoration of All Souls Day, Father McKenna said, also is a reminder of the mortality of human beings and of the gift of eternal life. “We live in a fast moving world (and) sometimes we tend to forget that there is something much bigger awaiting us and that all life is really meant to focus on that,” he said. “The end of this life is the beginning of the fullness of life with God. It’s important in the society and the culture that we live in to just stop and think about that, and this celebration gives us that opportunity.” Father McKenna invites the faithful to vespers that he will celebrate at the Bishop’s Chapel at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Wheeling on All Souls Day at 3 p.m.