At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of Baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end, nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 4)

Our parish community at St. Bernadette stands ready to help in the planning and the celebration of Catholic funeral rites. Whether you are making your own arrangements or need to make arrangements for a loved one, we are happy to help during this important moment. Please contact the Parish Office at 919-552-8758 for assistance.

We also encourage you to look at these resources to help understand the structure of a Catholic funeral and also to honor the body of every Christian disciple through appropriate treatment during the time of dying and burial.

Working together with our Director of Music and Funerals, you’ll be asked to make selections for the Liturgy of the Word.  This includes 2 Readings and 1 Gospel from a listing provided by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Director will also assist you in selecting the music with some of the choices below.

The Catholic Funeral Rite

1. Who may have a Roman Catholic funeral?

All baptized Catholics are entitled to a Roman Catholic funeral as are catechumens (adults
preparing for baptism in the Church) and children who die prior to baptism.

2. What is a Roman Catholic funeral like?

There are three parts to a Roman Catholic funeral:
1. Vigil for the Deceased (Wake or calling hours)

2. Funeral liturgy (Mass or service of the Word)

3. The Rite of Committal

3. What happens during the Vigil (Wake)?

Family and friends come together, most often in the presence of the body and typically at a funeral home, or sometimes, at the church.

During this time a priest, deacon or lay person will lead a brief prayer service with scripture
readings, intercessions and the opportunity for family and friends to reflect on the life of the deceased. The rosary or other prayers may be recited.

4. Is a funeral Mass different than a “regular” Mass?

The funeral Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist that includes some additional elements:
1. Covering the casket with a pall (white cloth) which signifies baptism in Christ.
2. Sprinkling the casket with holy water, which also is a remembrance of baptism .
3. Liturgy of the Mass in accordance with the Order of Christian Funerals.

A Service of the Word, (rather than Mass), may be celebrated under special circumstances, such as when no priest is available to celebrate Mass, when there is no body or
remains present (for instance, because of burial elsewhere) or when the majority of those
participating are not Roman Catholic. Please speak with one of the parish priests if you are considering this option.

5.  What is the Rite of Committal? 

This is a very brief service consisting of prayer and perhaps a short reading from Scripture that takes place graveside or at the columbarium.  An honor guard may be included for military veterans.

6. Who should I contact to take funeral arrangements at St. Bernadette?

Please call the Parish Office at 919-552-8758 or stop in the main office anytime during office hours.

Cremation and the Catholic Church

1. Does the Catholic Church allow cremation?

Yes. In May 1963, the Vatican lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation.

It then became standard practice to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body and take the body to the crematorium. Most recently, the bishops of the United States and the Holy See have authorized the celebration of a Catholic funeral liturgy with the cremated remains when the body is cremated before the funeral.

2.  When should cremation take place?

The church strongly prefers that cremation take place after the full funeral liturgy with the body. The presence of the body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person and better expresses the dignity of the human person that the Church affirms in its rites. However, in some circumstances it may not be possible to have the body present. In those unusual situations, a full funeral liturgy may be conducted with the cremated remains present.

3.  What funeral rites are celebrated when a person is cremated?

The funeral is filled with signs and symbols of the light of Christ entering even the darkness of death. Significant attention should be given to the primary symbols of the Catholic funeral liturgy, as stated in the Order of Christian Funerals and its commentaries. The Paschal candle and sprinkling with holy water are primary symbols of baptism and should be used during the Funeral Mass. However, the pall is not used to cover cremated remains.

During the Mass, the cremated remains should be treated with the same dignity and respect as the body. They are to be sealed in a worthy vessel. They may be carried in procession and/OT placed on a table in front of the altar where the coffin normally would be with the Easter Candle nearby.

4. Can I scatter the ashes? May I keep the ashes on my mantle?

The dignity of the human person does not leave the body at death. The body has served the living person as a temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore must be reverenced after death.

The cremated remains must be buried (interred) in a cemetery or columbarium as soon as possible after cremation. The remains should never be kept in the home, scattered or handled in an undignified manner. They may not be mixed with other remains, divided between plots, or inserted into other containers or jewelry.

5. To whom should I speak about columbarium arrangements at St. Bernadette?

Please call the Parish Office at 919-552-8758 or stop in the main office anytime during office hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many readings do I need to choose?

Three,  first reading, second reading, Gospel

Can I choose readings other than what is suggested?

Yes, at the discretion of the presiding priest.

How many songs do I need to choose?

Four.  Entrance, Offertory, Communion, recessional

When should I arrive at the church for the funeral Mass?

About 45 minutes to an hour is usually appropriate.

Are flowers permitted in the church?

Some flowers are permitted in the sanctuary. There is room for excess flowers in the gathering area

Who do I talk to about purchasing a columbarium niche.

Please contact the Parish Office at 919-552-8758

What are the prices of a columbarium niche.

Single niche; $3000         Double Niche;  $3700

Will the presiding priest come to the cemetery for committal prayers?

Yes, but this must be arranged prior to the funeral to accommodate the priest’s schedule.