Students Bring Life to Local Cemetery by Building Birdhouses
Teens Learn Value of Remembrance and Cemeteries
Many teens spend summer days lounging in front of a computer or by a pool, but for 40 youths in the Archdiocese of Newark, visiting a local Catholic cemetery this summer to build and install birdhouses is part of a weeklong community service program.
Students from Bergen, Union, and Passaic counties recently visited Saint Gertrude Cemetery and Mausoleum in Colonia, New Jersey, to build and mount birdhouses in hopes of attracting more wildlife to the cemetery, and to learn about the significance of Catholic cemeteries. Their visit was hosted by Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark and was part of a weeklong work camp program with the archdiocese’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, during which students spend a week performing various community services such as painting churches and serving food at soup kitchens. A new teen group visited and toured Saint Gertrude Cemetery daily to learn about the ministry as a Corporal Work of Mercy and burial and remembrance in the Catholic faith.
“The program aims to educate students about the value of cemeteries and to demonstrate that they are positive, uplifting places where one can reflect, pray, and remember a departed loved one,” said Andrew P. Schafer, Executive Director of Catholic Cemeteries. “Building birdhouses is a good activity for the teens and fits nicely with the park-like setting of our cemeteries. The birdhouses are symbolic since birds bring life and nature to the cemetery and help visitors during the healing process when mourning a loss. It is a beautiful representation of the cycle of nature and life.”
Students also were offered an opportunity to personalize their birdhouses in memory of a departed loved one to help make the project more special and meaningful. Names of departed loved ones were collected from teens early in the day, and miniature memorialization name plaques were provided later for placement on the birdhouses.
“This has proven to be a great interactive program that can help a younger generation understand loss and remembrance in our faith, demystify the cemetery, and provide a memorial opportunity,” added Schafer. “Many teens have returned with parents or grandparents to visit and see the completed birdhouses and say a prayer for a departed loved one.”
Catholic Cemeteries has hosted the birdhouse-building program since 2013. It was recognized with a First Place award by the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association for best in personalization of an event in the cemetery and funeral service profession.
To learn more about preparing for a Catholic funeral, pre-arranging a cemetery memorialization, or about Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark, visit www.CatholicJourney.org.