Meditate much on death, that you may not be too attached to this life. — St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
At this time of year, when the sky turns gray, the air makes you shiver, and the earth is slowing its step in that continual dance toward the slumber of winter, it is easy to see cemeteries as a macabre reminder of our own eternal march toward the end. But cemeteries are also a place to remember, a place to celebrate what was and, by the hope of faith, to remind ourselves that a final resting place doesn’t mean the end of our eternal souls.
More than 43,000 of Wheeling’s former residents are buried at Mt. Calvary Cemetery. They were the stonemasons who built the Suspension Bridge, miners who diligently worked to keep the lights on in cities far away, soldiers and sailors who left the comfort of these hills to protect her with their lives, and grandparents whose legacies quietly play in the background of our lives. Each plot tells a story, and each makes up the backbone of the place we call home.
“The bishops are laid to rest here. We have various veterans. A lot of people are heroes to someone in their particular family,” said Deacon Doug Breiding, director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. “For me personally, they’re all important.”
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston currently has 60 Catholic cemeteries. In Ohio County, Mt. Calvary is one of three. Established in 1872, the cemetery was first populated by graves that had been moved from Rock Point Road. Mt. Calvary has 200 total acres, 85 of which are currently developed, and is the final resting place of many area priests, nuns and Marist brothers.
“It’s a place people would be encouraged to come to prayerfully reflect from the busyness of life,” Deacon Breiding said. “It’s an oasis to come in, having some respect for the place and the people that are out here while you’re here, and pull off from the busyness of your life for a moment.”
Among the most notable landmarks at the cemetery are The Priest’s Circle, where many local priests have been laid to rest, a large marker in honor of the victims of the Benwood Mine Disaster and the Bishops’ Chapel, where Mass is held on the first Friday of each Month.
On Friday, Nov. 2, Catholics will celebrate All Souls Day. Though not a Holy Day of Obligation, it’s a chance to remember family and friends who have died.
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“All Souls is a matter of having a day set aside to have a family reunion with the Church,” Deacon Breiding said. “It’s primarily a matter of connecting and remembering our loved ones that have gone before us. In a broader sense, remembering those marked with a sign of faith that we don’t know but that we’re still connected to. We all are going to rely on God’s mercy and compassion in eternity.”
For Catholics and non-Catholics alike, Deacon Breiding said All Souls can be celebrated in a way that honors those we’ve known and those who most need our compassion.
“Going to Mass as is always a great way just to remember all your family members, all your loved ones, all your friends. Visit their grave on the anniversary of their death and especially on a special day such as All Souls,” he said. “We should also remember those that have no one to pray for them. We have homeless that are buried here that no one visits or comes to the service. Even if it’s a short prayer, it means something.”
For those who have lost a loved one recently and are still dealing with the process of grief, Deacon Breiding said the cemetery has a number of resources that can help.
“We have pamphlets for those who are having difficulty in bereavement. We have a complete collection of Care Notes from Saint Meinrad Archabbey,” he said. “There is a bereavement gathering that Mt. Calvary sponsors at St. Alphonsus on the last Monday of the month at 6 p.m. If anyone wants to come, they’re welcome.”
Mt. Calvary is located at 1685 National Road in Wheeling. First Friday Mass is held on the first Friday of each month at 5:30 p.m.
• Cassie Bendel was born in Wheeling and raised in Bellaire. A graduate of St. Vincent College, she began her writing career as a reporter with The Times Leader and the Steubenville Herald-Star before writing content for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a national faith-based consulting company. After more than a decade in Pennsylvania, she recently moved back to the Ohio Valley with her husband and two sons.
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