We spoke with Phil Slattery, a community liaison officer, about the new developments at Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria.
1. When did you start work with Catholic Cemeteries and what services do you provide to the community?
I began working with Catholic Cemeteries & Crematoria in 2010 at Rookwood Cemetery. My first role was in sales. Each day people would come along into the cemetery and want to purchase a burial site for someone who had passed away in their family or they would buy in advance for the future. They would purchase one of the many in-ground burial sites available (lawn grave, monumental lawn grave or monumental section grave) or an above-ground crypt. Other sales would include niches for cremated remains or ashes. This role was followed by Mission Director and currently I am the Community Relations Officer.
2. What makes you passionate about your work?
One of my strongest passions in my life is my faith – to practise it and also to use my teaching background which provides opportunities to teach or renew aspects of the faith to people who come to the cemetery for support and to prepare for funeral services. Our faith is about the purpose of life and life after death.
3. What upcoming events are taking place at Catholic Cemeteries in the next few months?
Community events are at the heart of what we do at Catholic Cemeteries. We have the Stations of the Cross in Lent, which follows Christ’s last moments before he died on the Cross. We use the granite stone stations which are erected in the Way of the Cross Memorial Garden in Rookwood. A prayer a day around the feast of Pentecost will be held again this year. It was very popular last year as people spent time in personal and communal prayer, rosary, Benediction and Mass. We also celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and All Souls Day with Masses.
4. How are these events received by the local community?
The local community are very supportive of our events, and they are attended not only by the families who have someone buried at Rookwood Cemetery, but also by local community groups and schools. Most events have an opportunity for some morning tea and a cuppa once it is finished. Some parishes advertise these events in their weekly bulletins and in The Catholic Weekly. We also advertise on the public billboards at Rookwood Cemetery and on our website.
5. What new events have you planned for this year?
As new developments are completed, they are celebrated by the local community. In March, new crypts were opened at Rookwood. The San Antonia Garden Crypts were blessed by Bishop Brady. Other events for this year include Mother’s Day and Father’s Day at Liverpool Cemetery.
6. Do you hold a monthly Mass for the deceased?
Yes, we hold a monthly Mass for the deceased on the first Tuesday of every month. It is held in the Mausoleum of the Resurrection Chapel at 9.30am. Following each Mass we also have a morning tea. Each month there will be in excess of 200 people attending. People are encouraged to bring along a photo of their loved one for the particular month they are being remembered and photos are placed in front of the altar. Each month we remember people buried in particular areas of the cemetery, such as St John of God. We also remember those buried in other cemeteries, such as Liverpool, Field of Mars and Kemp Creek.
7. How do you deal with the mission element of your role at Catholic Cemeteries?
Our mission is to facilitate respectful burial, cremation or immurement of the faithful and the broader community in areas such as Liverpool. Our staff works very hard to make the entire service a special and prayerful event, depending on the family’s individual requirements. Both customer service and cemetery service staff is professional and caring in their dealings with families during the often difficult time of a funeral.
8. What do you hope to achieve in your role as Community Liaison Officer?
In my role as community liaison I hope to reach out to groups in the community. I am available to visit aged care homes and speak to families at monthly meetings to promote the services available at our cemeteries. I also work on contacting local communities that have synergy with our cemeteries and am available to parish council about “Preparing for a Catholic funeral”.
9. What changes have you seen during your four years at Catholic Cemeteries?
During my time at Catholic Cemeteries I have seen extensive buildings and monuments erected to further help and support the Catholic community. Some of these include the construction of the St Pedre Pio Garden Mausoleum and Chapel at Liverpool, construction of a more user-friendly car park at Rookwood Cemetery, the erection of a statue of Mary, a memorial for unborn children, the construction of the new Way of the Cross outdoor pavilion and chapel, refurbishment of the Sacred Heart Chapel and outdoor cover area, development of new burial areas such as St Rafqa, St Mary Mackillop Monumental area and outdoor areas to offer places of quiet time and prayer.
10. What do you think the future holds for Catholic Cemeteries?
The future is to continue our many options for families with in-ground burials, above ground burials and cremations. We will also continue to develop opportunities for local communities to come to the cemeteries for the memorial services, family gatherings, tours and open days. Further development at Liverpool and Kemps Creek will also take place.
For further information on upcoming events or to book Phil in to come and talk to your community group, contact the Rookwood office on (02) 9649 6423.