I wanted to let everyone know that I will be providing weekly communication about topics relating to the impact of the coronavirus to our work in Catholic cemeteries and funeral services around the United States. This message and others will be posted here on Mission Central. We will also be asking that each cemetery director put out a weekly communication to all of their staff so each of you has relevant information about the impact in your diocesan cemeteries and in the local community.
I realize that this can be a very unsettling time for everyone. The shock that comes from stopping physical contact with one another, is very jarring. Almost hourly we hear new news stories and it changes our perception of how the coronavirus is impacting our lives. I think the most important thing for each of us is to take stock of the blessings in our lives, appreciate those that we get to share our time with and to ask God to assist us as we serve those who we come in contact each day.
One of the dangers of the pandemic is that we feel cut-off, isolated, or fearful. I want to personally assure everyone that we will continue to communicate, to the best of our ability, how we should conduct our work during this time of crisis. We will continue to serve families in a safe, compassionate, and respectful manner. Please remind yourselves that families are looking to the God for answers. Our core purpose is sharing our faith that God is here with us in our journey together through life’s struggles.
Your faith and service to others will help each person you come in contact, both emotionally and spiritually.
Personal Safety and Precautions
We will continue to send out updated information on health and safety procedures as it relates to your personal safety and our responsibilities to provide a safe environment for families that arrange meetings and attend services.
On Monday March 16th, we will be sending out a set of recommended cemetery practices and precautionary measures to each diocese for their review. It has come to our attention that many dioceses have not put forward guidelines, especially as it relates to our cemeteries and for funeral services. We will use these additional cemetery practices and safety procedures as a guide until we are able to get clarification from the diocese. Please realize that the dioceses are dealing with a great many issues related to parishes, schools, chancery departments, and other organizations. We want to provide each of our cemetery directors with guidelines that they can communicate to you and use as a fallback in cases where there are not clear answers.
Travel, Work Environment, Meetings
As a precaution, we are suspending all travel by plane until April 13th. Those that can travel by car may still continue to do so.
We are encouraging each cemetery director to evaluate the work environment and the meeting areas where families make arrangements, to make sure that all precautions be taken to maintain a clean and sanitary environment. We are encouraging everyone to use technology where ever possible to reduce the amount of meeting time required for face to face meetings. For instance, Zoom meetings, Facetime, Google Duo, and other video technologies can be used to facilitate making arrangements with families in a personal manner. If those technologies can be used to reduce the amount of administrative time required to meet, it may help to provide families with a sense of personal connection in planning their services.
We are also encouraging that each cemetery and funeral location reduce staff to required levels and allow employees to work remotely where appropriate. This should be done in consultation with the policies of each diocese, but we believe health and safety decisions should rest with the cemetery director as the first priority in making daily decisions.
Please also understand that some of these guidelines may change over the coming weeks as new information comes available.
Lastly, we realize that many of our employees with be having new challenges in their personal lives as many will have school-aged children sent home or family issues that prevent them from being able to work. Please communicate with your supervisor and keep them updated as to your situation. There may be times where we ask staff to step in to help in situations where other employees have been adversely impacted. For those of you who can make these extra efforts, thank you!
I realize that I can’t provide the type of clarity which answers every question that may be coming up. This is why we will have a weekly communication. What I do hope is that each of us is able to pitch in where they can to help support the families that we serve, but just as importantly supporting each other and helping those around us to adjust to a new environment.
With continued prayers, blessings, and gratitude,