Fifty teens from the area visited Maryrest Cemetery and Mausoleum in Mahwah, New Jersey, to build, paint and mount birdhouses as part of a weeklong community service program sponsored by Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark and the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
Students from Bergen and Union counties in New Jersey and Montgomery County in Pennsylvania, participated in the annual program in hopes of attracting more wildlife to the park-like cemetery, as well as to gain an understanding of Catholic cemeteries and their significance in remembering loved ones.
“This is a wonderful program we look forward to each year when we strive to educate students about the importance of a cemetery in our faith and demonstrate what an uplifting place it can be where one can reflect, pray and remember a deceased loved one,” said Andrew P. Schafer, Executive Director of Catholic Cemeteries.
The teens’ visit was part of a weeklong camp program through the Archdiocese of Newark during which students perform community services, such as painting a church or school and serving food at a soup kitchen. In the case of Maryrest, each day, a different group of teens visited the cemetery to learn more about its importance to the Catholic faith and the meaning of the religious symbols and scriptural expressions located throughout the beautiful mausoleum and cemetery.
“The activity of building birdhouses is symbolic since birds bring life and nature to the cemetery and help visitors during the healing process when they’re mourning a loss. It’s a beautiful representation of the cycle of nature and life,” added Schafer.
While constructing their birdhouses, students were offered an opportunity to personalize them in memory of a deceased loved one with a miniature memorialization plaque to help make the project more meaningful.
Catholic Cemeteries has hosted the birdhouse program since 2013 and was recognized with a First Place Award in 2015 for Best in Personalization of an event (“Keeping It Personal”) by the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association.
To learn more about preparing for a Catholic funeral, pre-planning cemetery arrangements or about Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark, visit www.CatholicJourney.org.