On All Souls’ Day, the cremains of a woman who died 14 years ago were put in their final resting place at Meadow View Cemetery in southwest Louisville thanks to Catholic Charities’ Indigent Burial Program.
Program director Matthew Whisman said being able to give Joanna Cisell — whose ashes were found at a nursing home that was shut down several months ago — a proper burial “surrounded by love” is why the program exists.
“I don’t know Joanna’s story, but to be able to give closure on her life (while being) surrounded by love, that’s why we do this,” he said.
Celebrating Mass in the Rome War Cemetery Nov. 2, Pope Francis said the feast of All Souls is a reminder of remembrance and hope.
“We pray to the Lord for our dead, for all, for everyone: that the Lord will receive them all,” he said. “And we also pray that the Lord will have mercy on us and give us hope: hope that we can go forward and find them all together with him when he calls us.”
Hope was also central to a Mass celebrated on All Souls’ Day at Calvary Cemetery in the Highlands. Standing in for Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, Father Jeffrey P. Shooner, vicar general, said, “There’s no other place we should be … as we commemorate the faithful departed.”
The Mass was celebrated outdoors under a tent and a cold breeze in the priest section of Calvary. Nearby, Father Shooner noted, lies the grave of Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly who ordained him in 2004, and down the hill from where he spoke is the burial site of his stepfather, whose grave he visits every other week or so.
Reflecting on his memories of them, he noted that we reunite with the faithful departed at the celebration of the Eucharist.
“We know that Jesus … is the resurrection and the life,” he said. “He doesn’t keep our loved ones from dying, but journeys with us in the midst of that loss and keeps us united in the hope that he will come again in glory and that we will be with our loved ones in his love,” Father Shooner said.
Back in southwest Louisville at Meadow View Cemetery, St. Xavier High School teacher Ben Kresse noted that God knows all of his children deeply, and when they die and leave their physical bodies, he celebrates them coming back home.
Kresse, who has been assisting with indigent burials in Louisville for 17 years, said it’s humbling to be part of the program.
“Louisville is a compassionate city, and we believe in the dignity of all people,” he said during the burial service for Cisell.
The Indigent Burial Program aims to provide a funeral service for people who can’t afford a funeral and burial.
Cissel died in 2009 when she was in her late 50s, Whisman said. “We don’t know why she was there, who she belonged to.”
The program, funded by the city, will provide burial for people of any faith.
“Death affects everyone,” Whisman said. “We make it dignified. It’s a very humbling experience. We’ve buried doctors, the homeless, felons who got out of prison a week ago. They all get the same service.”
Since Catholic Charities began facilitating the program in 2021, more than 600 burial services have taken place.
Contributing to this story was Marnie McAllister, editor.