FAQ for Funerals

What do I do when a loved one is sick and is dying?

  1. Contact the office of the loved one’s parish church and ask to speak to a priest.
  2. If you use Hospice they will often contact the parish and request the sacraments for the sick and dying.
  3. Don’t wait until death is imminent before contacting the parish priest. Parish priests are most interested in being there for a family in the time of final illness, death and grief.

What do I do when a loved one dies?

  1. Contact a local funeral home of your choice. The funeral home will establish initial contact with the parish church.
  2. The priest will assist a family in making appropriate liturgical arrangements such as scripture readings and musical selections.
  3. If you don’t already have cemetery accommodations, contact Catholic Cemeteries.

What is the proper rite of Christian burial?

  1. Viewing at the funeral home or parish church
  2. Mass of Christian Burial at the deceased’s parish church
  3. Committal services at the cemetery (For Catholics, burial in the sacred ground of a Catholic cemetery is the preferred place of burial.)

Who can receive the Rite of Christian Burial?

Catholics may receive the rites of Christian burial within the Eucharistic gathering. Members of other Christian faith traditions usually receive the funeral rites of their own Church; however, they may also receive the rite of Christian burial in the Catholic Church but outside of the Mass. A Christian burial service, commendation, and committal at the graveside may be offered for them.

What are the options for a viewing?

You can schedule a viewing the evening before the burial and/or before the Mass of Christian Burial. The viewing is usually held in a funeral home, however, in many instances the parish priest may authorize a viewing in the parish church.

Why have a viewing?

It provides a sense of closure and allows family members who were not present at the time of death a time to express their last farewell. It also allows extended family and friends an opportunity to express their support and condolences.

What about a eulogy for the deceased?

Below are the diocesan liturgical guidelines for eulogies.

    1.  In the Diocese of Wilmington, it is recommended that the Vigil (Wake) is the most appropriate time for members of the family and friends to share memories of the deceased of to pay tribute to the deceased through vocal remembrances, photographs, favorite songs, etc.
    2. The reception after the burial is another appropriate time for the remembrances because there is less of an emotional burden and the context is looking toward the future in a more positive manner.
    3. If a family member wishes to express appreciation or say something in remembrance at Mass, the following are to be observed:
a. Only one family member or friend is to speak.
b. The words to be shared must be in writing and approved in advance by the celebrant.
c. Because of the intensity of emotions at the time of a funeral, the person who will speak is to be brief, that is, no more than five minutes.
d. This faith-remembrance is to take place after the Prayer after Communion or prior to the Collect.
e. Because this is not part of the Liturgy of the Word, this remembrance is not to take place at the ambo, but at another appropriate place of the celebrant’s choosing.

My deceased family member was not an actively practicing Catholic, can we still have a Mass of Christian burial?

Yes, the Church encourages active and inactive Catholics to take full advantage of the rite of Christian burial.

Is cremation allowed in the Catholic Church?

Yes. Although the Church now permits cremation, burial of the body is still preferred. The physical presence of the body reflects the values affirmed in these rites. After the final commendation at the end of the Mass of Christian Burial, the body is transported to the crematorium for cremation. Through a dispensation granted by the Church, cremated remains may also be present in church for the Mass of Christian Burial, provided that the motives for cremation are not contrary to Church teaching. The priest arranging Mass must be informed of the family’s request to allow the cremated remains to be present in order to obtain the permission that is required. Typically, having the cremated remains present for Mass is an exception to be made on an individual basis and is not considered the norm.

Cremated human remains are always to be treated with respect and placed in a worthy vessel. Once burial rites have been held and the cremation has occurred, the cremated remains are to be brought to the cemetery for final disposition. Scattering cremated remains or keeping them at home is not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.