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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why choose a Catholic Cemetery?
  2. Who can be buried in a Catholic Cemetery?
  3. Can an organ donor be buried in a Catholic Cemetery?
  4. What is meant by pre-need arrangements or preplanning?
  5. What choices are available for in ground burials? Are there other alternatives?
  6. What are burial vaults and grave liners? Are they required?
  7. What is a mausoleum?
  8. What is a columbarium?
  9. Who owns the ground where a burial lot exists?
  10. To whom does a burial lot pass after the purchaser dies?
  11. Can the purchaser sell their lot to someone else?
  12. Can the purchaser return a burial lot that has been purchased?
  13. What is “perpetual care”?
  14. Does “perpetual care” include care of the memorial or headstone?
  15. What type of monument or marker is permitted on a gravesite?
  16. Should monuments, vaults, urns, and other items be purchased from the Catholic Cemetery or from outside sources?
  17. What types of decorations are permitted on gravesites?
  18. Why are there restrictions on cemetery lots?

1. Why choose a Catholic Cemetery? 

As people of faith, our burial places share an important meaning for us, since they are sacred places. Death, as seen through the eyes of a Christian, is not the end; it is simply a natural passageway to everlasting life. Burial in a Catholic cemetery is a statement of continued belief in that everlasting life, even in death.

2. Who can be buried in a Catholic Cemetery? 

In addition to those practicing Catholics, those who have fallen away from the Catholic faith or those who have joined another Christian faith may be buried in a Catholic cemetery. Non-Catholic spouses and family members of Catholics may also be buried in a Catholic cemetery. Cemetery management, in its sole discretion, shall apply the rules and norms of the Roman Catholic Church in determining whether or not a non-Catholic may be buried in a Catholic cemetery.

3. Can an organ donor be buried in a Catholic Cemetery? 

Yes. The donation of a body or specific organs for medical research or organ banks is appropriate and should be arranged in advance. Subsequent burial or cremation of the remains must take place.

4. What is meant by pre-need arrangements or preplanning? 

Because the time of death is often traumatic, with emotional and financial strain, it is advisable to select a burial lot and other necessary items in advance. Thoughtful planning and financial prudence will help avoid hasty selections made at the time of need. All lots and crypts must be paid in full before burial or entombment can occur. Consult your parish cemetery office for further details.

5. What choices are available for in ground burials? Are there other alternatives?

Most common are single graves or multiple grave lots, which consist of two or more graves. Some cemeteries have lawn crypts available. Lawn crypts offer in ground burial in pre-constructed vaults that allow for one or two caskets. In addition to in ground burials, some cemeteries offer entombment in mausoleums as well as placement of cremated remains in a niche in a columbarium, or placement of an urn in a mausoleum space. Consult your parish cemetery office for specific options available.

6. What are burial vaults and grave liners? Are they required? 

These are the outer containers into which a casket or urn is placed. Burial vaults are designed to protect the casket or urn, and can be made of a variety of materials but most typically are made of concrete. A grave liner is a light weight version of a vault. Catholic cemeteries require that a vault or grave liner be used for all in ground interments to insure that the ground at the burial site does not sink, as sinking will not only be unsightly but can cause shifting or damage to monuments.

7. What is a mausoleum? 

A mausoleum is a building designed to provide above-ground entombment. Spaces within the mausoleum, known as crypts, can typically hold one or two caskets. Following a casket entombment, the crypt is sealed and a solid front is attached. Lettering can then be applied to the front of the niche for permanent memorialization. Niches are smaller spaces within the mausoleum to accommodate urns containing cremated remains. Some cemeteries have community mausoleums as well as private family mausoleums. Consult your parish cemetery office for options available.

8. What is a columbarium? 

A columbarium is a structure for above ground entombment, which is designed to hold cremation urns. It can be a free standing structure, or incorporated as a part of a mausoleum. Following an urn entombment, a niche front is attached. Lettering can then applied to the front of the niche for permanent memorialization. Consult your parish cemetery office for options available.

9. Who owns the land where a burial lot exists? 

The cemetery sells an easement or license to an individual authorizing the exclusive and permanent right of use of a specific grave lot, crypt or niche. The cemetery sells only the right to use the designated space for interment purposes. Ownership of the physical land or structure remains with the cemetery.

10. To whom does a burial lot pass after the purchaser dies? 

Upon the death of the registered owner, interment rights automatically descend to direct blood heirs equally, unless rights are specifically assigned to a particular heir in a will or other binding document. The spouse of the original purchaser always has the right of burial ahead of other heirs.

11. Can the purchaser sell their lot to someone else? 

The use of a lot is for the lot holder or lot holder’s relatives for interment purposes only and not for resale or profit. When permitted, a person who is not a member of the lot holder’s family may be interred in the lot, but in no case shall a lot holder have any right to sell, transfer, or exchange any right or interest in the lot without the written permission of cemetery management. Consult your parish cemetery office for specific details.

12. Can the purchaser  return a burial lot that has been purchased?

An unoccupied lot may be surrendered and the full original purchase price will be refunded, less a service fee. If a lot is being purchased on a time payment plan, and it is returned, the sum paid to date is refunded, less a service fee. Management is under no obligation to purchase a lot offered for sale by a lot holder. Consult you parish cemetery office for specific details.

13. What is “perpetual care”? 

More appropriately defined as endowed care, these funds are used for the continued maintenance and care of lots, roads, buildings and features in the cemetery. A portion of each lot, crypt or niche purchase price is placed in a care fund. The interest earned by the funds on deposit is used to offset the annual general care expenses.

14. Does “perpetual care”  include care of the memorial or headstone?

Maintenance, repair or replacement of any memorial placed or erected upon a lot is the sole responsibility of the lot holder. The cost to repair damaged memorials may be covered by the lot holder’s homeowner’s insurance policy. Cemetery management rese rves the right to remove a memorial if its condition threatens the safety of staff or visitors.

15. What type of  monument or marker is permitted on a gravesite?

The memorial is intended to memorialize the person interred or entombed in the grave or crypt. Cemetery management reserves the right at all times to approve and prescribe the kind, size, design, symbolism, quality and material of memorials, inscriptions, monuments, or markers placed in the cemetery. The type of memorial permitted can depend on the location of the lot in the cemetery. Consult your parish cemetery office for specific details.

16. Should monuments, vaults, urns, and other items be purchased directly from the Catholic Cemetery or from other vendors?

You are always free to obtain these items from the source of your own choosing, provided they conform to the specifications outlined in the cemetery Rules & Regulations. However, when items are purchased through your cemetery, part of the cost of those items will go to help provide for the regular maintenance of the cemetery. When you purchase items directly through the cemetery, you will also be assured that they are appropriate in size, design and style for the grave, crypt or niche that you have, as prescribed by cemetery management. Consult your parish cemetery office for availability and details on purchasing items.

17. What types of decorations are permitted on gravesites? 

Cemetery management reserves the right to regulate the method of decorations of lots so that uniform beauty is maintained. Cemetery staff are responsible for the maintenance of the grounds of the cemetery, including grass cutting, planting, and repair of landscape. Typically, temporary displays of flowers and plants may be placed next to a monument or marker. Cemetery staff may remove these displays regularly as they age and deteriorate. Consult your parish cemetery office for specific decoration guidelines.

18. Why are there restrictions on cemetery lots? 

Monuments and other items must conform to the rules that govern different areas of the cemetery, and these may vary by cemetery. These rules are not arbitrary, but have been carefully designed to enhance the overall character and beauty of each section of the cemetery as well as preserve its integrity for many years into the future. In addition, some restrictions are necessary to allow for the proper maintenance of cemetery grounds. While the Diocese of Manchester has adopted its Cemetery Rules and Regulations as the basic standard of application in all Catholic cemeteries in the diocese, consult your parish cemetery office for specific restrictions and governing policies.

Diocese of Manchester
The Catholic Church in New Hampshire

153 Ash Street, Box 310
Manchester, NH 03105-0310
(603) 669-3100
Fax: (603) 669-0377

© Diocese of Manchester