Columbarium FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

May Catholics be cremated? 

Yes.  In May 1963, the Vatican's Holy Office (now the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith) lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation.  This permission was incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 (Canon # 1176), as well as into the Order of Christian Funerals.  It then became standard practice to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body and then take the body to the crematorium.  The bishops of the United States and Holy See have now authorized the celebration of a Catholic funeral liturgy with the cremated remains when the body is cremated before the funeral.

What is a columbarium?

A Columbarium is a group of niches, typically within a wall of brick, stone, granite, marble or other materials, that contains the cremated remains of the departed in a “worthy vessel”.  At Saint Peter’s, the columbarium is located under the colonnade directly behind the altar.  It is comprised of two walls, each of which will contain 48 niches.  The plans provide for a future third wall when the need arises.  Each niche can accommodate up to two urns.

Why have a Columbarium?

The Church property has traditionally been the natural repository and final resting place of deceased members of the Christian community.  Burial within the church itself or in the adjacent churchyard was once common practice.  The amount of land necessary for a burial ground is no longer available to most churches and a myriad of laws and regulations make it extremely difficult to establish a burial site.  In recent years, cremation with interment of the cremated remains, rather than burial, has become more common.  In addition, many people are turning to cremation as an economical, dignified way to address the rising cost of funerals.  In this way, the remains of the deceased can remain at the church that played such an important part in their lives.  

Who can be interred?

The Columbarium is reserved for the use of current parishioners of Saint Peter’s Catholic Church and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Mission Church, their immediate families as defined in the Columbarium Rules and Regulations and current or prior Clergy of St. Peter’s.  Non-Catholic family members are welcomed. Only human remains may be interred.

How are arrangements for cremation and interment made?

A visit to the Church should be made to discuss the pending funeral and inurnment.  The parish office will assist in arranging the funeral rites and confirm the inscription to be engraved on the memorial plaque. Arrangements for cremation are made through a Funeral Home.  The Funeral Home will deliver the urn with the cremains to the family for the final services.

Is there a funeral/committal service?

Yes, traditional services continue as usual in the Church, and include the committal service at the Columbarium. The burial service is as prescribed by the Pastor, in consultation with the family, and in accordance with the regulations of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

May a particular niche be chosen?

Yes, niches will be offered on a “first come, first served” basis and may be chosen from those available at the time of purchase.

Who is paying for the Columbarium?

The Columbarium is funded and maintained solely by the sale of the niches. No money is drawn from Church funds. The only exception to this will be the initial construction cost, which will be taken from the overall fund raising program.  That amount, when established, will be repaid to the parish from columbarium sales.

What is the cost of inurnment in St. Peter’s Columbarium?

Each of the Columbarium’s two walls will contain 48 niches in a six across and eight down configuration.  Prices for the individual niches will vary by row as follows:

            Top two rows:                 Single - $2,300                Double - $2,800

            Bottom two rows:            Single - $2,300                Double - $2,800

            Middle four rows:            Single - $2,600                Double - $3,100 


 The purchase amount allows for sufficient capital to cover costs, maintenance, landscaping and provide an endowment for perpetual care. There are no additional costs.

How do I reserve a niche?

Arrangements for a niche can be made through the church office or by contacting a member of the Columbarium Advisory Committee.  They will provide the Certificate of Right of Inurnment and accept full payment for the selected niche.

How are the niches marked?

The name and dates of birth and death of the person(s) interned in the niche will be engraved in a uniform style on the memorial plaque covering the niche.  All engraving will be arranged through St. Peter’s after receipt of the completed Authorization for Inscription form and payment in full for the cost of the inscription.

May I decorate the area near my niche?

The Columbarium is designed in a manner to be beautiful and serene.  Additional decorations are not permitted in the area.

What about care and permanency?

The Columbarium will have perpetual care with trust funding established through the sale of the niches. The Pastor and a committee of Parish members oversee the care. The Columbarium is the property of the Archbishop of Atlanta, and the Office of the Archbishop assures permanent care.

Who administers the activity of the Columbarium?

The Columbarium Advisory Committee consists of five lay members of the parish who report directly to the Pastor. The Committee is responsible for Columbarium management and finances.  Members of the Committee will serve for a period of one year after completion of construction of the Columbarium.  After that time, the responsibility for advising the Pastor on matters related to Columbarium policies will pass to the Finance Council.  A person designated by the Pastor will be responsible for overseeing the everyday operations of the Columbarium.

Do I need to ask permission to be cremated?

No, but if you have questions regarding cremation you may wish to discuss them with the Pastor.  Also, do not forget to address your wish to be cremated with your family. Put your directive in writing in the form of a pre-needs planning document or a legal document, such as a will or a living trust.

May I scatter the ashes?

No. "The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased is not the reverent disposition that the Church requires." (Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix II #417)

What funeral rites are celebrated when a person is cremated?

All the usual rites that are celebrated with a body present may also be celebrated in the presence of cremated remains. The United States' bishops have written new prayers and have printed them as an appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals. During the liturgies, the cremated remains are treated with the same dignity and respect as the body.

What length of time is there between death, cremation and the Funeral Mass?

The answer to this question depends on various factors, just as in the case of funerals with the body. The place of death, the location of the Funeral Home, scheduling a time for cremation, the schedule at the parish church, and other circumstances impact the timing.

What happens at the Funeral Mass with cremated remains?

Significant attention should be given to the primary symbols of the Catholic funeral liturgy, as stated in the Order of Christian Funerals and its commentaries. The paschal candle and sprinkling with holy water are primary symbols of baptism and should be used during the Funeral Mass. However, the pall is not used. Photos and other mementos may be used at the vigil, but are not appropriate for the Mass.  During the Mass, the cremated remains are treated with the same dignity and respect as the body. They are to be sealed in a "worthy vessel." They may be carried in procession and/or placed on a table in the ossuary and placed where the coffin would be with the Easter candle nearby. The body is always laid to rest with solemnity and dignity. So too, the Order of Christian Funerals provides for the interment of cremated remains (Order of Christian Funerals, #428).