This Glossary provides definitions and short discussions of words connected to the philosophy and operation of cemeteries, Catholic cemeteries and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries in particular. Included are terms associated with Catholic liturgy, funeral homes and hospices.

The definitions of the words and terms in this Glossary are by no means comprehensive or complete, nor necessarily normative or binding. Use them as part of a more thorough exploration of these meanings. Do not rely on these definitions as anything more than first and quick treatments of the topics. Further consultation with our cemetery offices, attorneys, accountants, physicians, nurses, funeral directors and other providers is necessary to obtain proper, particular and nuanced advice.





























Anointing of the Sick
The Roman Catholic sacrament of healing and hope given to those at the beginning of or in the midst of an illness or sudden condition causing fear and insecurity from disease or weakness. It is best celebrated in a small gathering of family or friends, perhaps prior to a hospitalization, whether in the parish church or in a health care setting. It can be repeated at any significant change in condition. A priest or bishop, not a deacon or other pastoral minister, is the minister of the sacrament, using the signs of laying on of hands and anointing with the Oil of the Sick with the traditional sacramental words. Those clearly dead are not anointed, but certainly prayed for. Once called Extreme Unction before Vatican Council II, it is often referred to generally as the Last Rites often implies this sacrament alone, but does not adequately describe the Church’s full ministry to the dying, which is centered on the frequent reception of Communion. See Viaticum.

A term never used in connection with Roman Catholic funerals or cemeteries. Apportionment is dividing up cremated remains into portions for separate disposition. For example, dividing the cremated remains of an individual into three portions—in an urn in a columbarium, scattered in a favorite place and placed in a locket. The Catholic Church believes the integrity of the human person requires unified disposition. As a body would never be apportioned, neither should cremated remains. See also Scattering Grounds.

An instrument (left) used for sprinkling baptismal or holy water as part of rituals and devotions as a sign of blessing & remembrance of Baptism. Also called an aspergill (pronounced ás-per-jíl) or sprinkler.

The funeral services, interment rights, cemetery services and products required at the time of death. See Pre-Need.

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Baptismal Water
Blessed water used to pour over or immerse a person during the Rite of Baptism. Easter Water is blessed at the Easter Vigil. Holy Water is usually used interchangeably with this term.

The lower, flat part of a multi-piece upright, raised granite monument that rests upon the concrete foundation. The upper, upright part is called the die or tablet.

The act of grieving loss. See Grief and Mourning.

Bevel marker
A type of raised granite marker that has a gradual slope, rising from front to back with either a two- or six-inch differential. Pictured right: Two-inch bevel.

A stand on which a coffin is placed.

Blessed Ground
Catholic cemeteries are blessed or consecrated for the sacred purpose of burying the dead and caring for those burial places. In times past, the unbaptized and those who died by suicide were buried in separate adjoining land because they could not be buried in consecrated ground. Now we believe God alone should judge for God alone knows each person's heart of hearts. Since a Catholic cemetery is already blessed, there is no need to bless an individual grave at the time of committal, instead a prayer of invocation is offered there prior to each burial.

A designated area of platted cemetery land. It is a descriptive unit comprising part of a grave location description along with section, lot, row and grave.

Bronze marker
A sturdy alloy of copper, zinc, lead and tin that can be formed with lettering, numerals and emblems in a memorial of one piece. Pictured left: Bronze single flush marker.

The placement of human remains in a burial space, that is, full-body interment in a grave, full-body entombment in a crypt or inurnment of an urn of cremated remains in a niche.

Burial at sea
The permanent, proper and reverent placement of the human remains at sea, whether cremated or full-body, in an urn, coffin or other container. Burial of cremated remains at sea requires placement in an urn, rather than scattering across the surface of the water. Burial in inland lakes, streams and rivers is not permissible by law in every instance.

Burial Order / Permit Form [Milwaukee policy]
A form signed by the Responsible Party in arranging for a burial authorizing the Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to use an exact burial space for a designated deceased person.

Burial Rights [Milwaukee policy]
An easement sold by the cemetery authorizing the permanent use of specific burial space [grave, crypt or niche] for placement of human remains. The cemetery sells only the right to use the designated space for burial purposes. Ownership of the physical property remains with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Burial Rights Assignment Form [Milwaukee policy]
A written means for the original owner of burial rights (spouses exercise joint ownership) or the direct descendant/s to assign unused burial space by exact location to a designated individual within one of the eight cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Burial Service Fee [Milwaukee policy]
The cost of placing human remains in a grave, crypt or niches in an Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemetery. Often referred to as Opening & Closing, it is a source of income to support the on-going overhead for operation, development, maintenance and improvement costs, It is not solely a charge for the isolated act of opening and closing a burial place.

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Care Funds
The money collected from the sale of each grave, crypt or niche that is invested in a special fund, the earnings of which are used for the future care expenditures. Earnings may be used for the upkeep, repair and preservation of those portions of cemetery property in which burial rights have been sold. Also covers the maintenance and replacement of buildings, fences and fixtures, overhead and maintenance of machinery and equipment, compensation of employees, and maintaining necessary records of ownership and burials. In addition, care also includes lawns and gardening, road maintenance, water line and drain repair and replacement of machinery, tools and equipment, compensation of employees, performing such work, insurance premiums, reasonable payments for employees’ pension and other benefit plans, and the cost of maintaining necessary records of burial rights sold, transfers and burials. These provisions are defined in specific church, state or local laws and ordinances. Sometimes also called endowed care, trusted care or perpetual care. This is no longer a separate or annual cost. Care Funds may differ from cemetery to cemetery and from state to state. Note: Care does not include maintenance, preservation, or repair of grave memorials, which remain the private property of the lot owner.

A rectangular receptacle of wood, metal or plastic (left) into which a dead human body is placed for burial. It is usually ornamented and lined with fabric. Sometimes referred to as coffin, especially if more than four-sided. There is also a pressboard or fiberboard container the size of a casket usually used for immediate or direct cremations.


A person whose primary occupation involves the administration, operation, maintenance or marketing of a cemetery or group of cemeteries.

A tract of land designated or intended for the interment of human remains; a cemetery is also the facilities and personnel involved with the burial and memorialization of the dead and the care of the living. The English word is derived from the Greek word koimeterion, literally meaning a sleeping place or dormitory.

An empty tomb or memorial erected in memory of a person buried elsewhere.

Certificate of Burial Rights [Milwaukee policy]
The document by which the Cemetery conveys a right of interment, entombment or inurnment for burial space. It is in effect a receipt for full payment and describes location of and extent of easement rights for burial.

A place of Roman Catholic worship in a cemetery (that is, apart from a parish church) where Committal Rites can take place for daily burials and where regular Memorial Masses are held. Masses for the Lord’s Day are not celebrated here. A Mass of Christian Burial (Funeral Mass) can be held in one of our chapels only with the permission of the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Charitable Burials [Milwaukee policy]
Grave space and/or burial service provided by the Catholic Cemeteries to the poor and needy. Sometimes offered in conjunction with county government.

Church truck
A collapsible, wheeled catafalque (left) used for moving a casket on hard, level surfaces at funeral homes, churches or cemeteries.

See Casket.

A structure or arrangement of niches, either inside or outside with solid (granite or marble) or glass fronts, for in inurnment of cremated remains. Some niches are designed to accommodate two cremation urns. See Niche. Pictured right: Interior Columbarium with glass and marble fronts.

The act of mixing the cremated remains of two individuals together. Despite all the cultural and popular impulses to do this, the Roman Catholic Church does not see commingling as an acceptable practice. To be together forever does not require commingling, just as full-body burials are never done in the same casket. This parallels disapproval of scattering and apportionment.

Committal Rite
The prayer service that concludes the Order of Christian Funerals, following the Vigil and the Mass of Christian Burial. It completes a journey that began at birth and a journey that began at the deathbed. Also called the Rite of Committal, it takes place at the cemetery at the place of burial (grave, crypt or niche) or in a chapel.

Companion Urn
A larger cremation urn (left) that can accommodate the cremated remains of two persons. The commingling of cremated remains is not part of the Roman Catholic tradition for inurnment; a separation inside the container must be maintained. See Commingling.

See Medical Examiner.

A shortened, elided version of cremated remains.

Cremated Remains
The bone fragments (six to eight pounds for an average adult) that are left after the cremation process. Cremation does not result in ashes as much as small bone fragments which can subsequently be pulverized into a coarse powder.

The reduction, through extreme heat and evaporation, of the human body to its basic elements. Cremation is a means of preparing the human body for disposition and memorialization. State governments consider cremation to be final disposition of a human person, but the Roman Catholic Church does not.

Cremation Vault
A cube-shaped, concrete container used to hold a cremation urn placed in the ground.

Crematorium / Crematory
An establishment containing a furnace (called a retort) used for the cremation of human remains. A crematory may be owned by or deal directly only with funeral homes, or may have open access to the public.

A dry, vented, above-ground full-body space made of concrete in a mausoleum, either interior (chapel or corridor) or exterior (mall, court or patio), used for the entombment of human remains. Pictured left: Inside corridor "True Companion" crypts. Pictured to right: "Deluxe Companion" crypt with fronts removed showing two side-by-side openings.

Types of Crypts

  • Single crypt for one full-body burial or two cremated remains.
  • "True Companion" crypt with a single front opening into a double crypt for two full-body burials placed one behind the other. Also usable for cremations, up to two cremations per full-body space.
  • "Deluxe Companion" crypt for a double front opening into two single side-by-side crypts.
  • "Abbey" crypt for two up to four full-body burials. The "abbey" is a poured concrete chamber below floor level. These crypts are always at the first, or "A" level, of crypts. An "abbey" can be single- or double-deep.
  • There are also couch crypts and sarcophagus crypts providing more prominent placement and unique decorations.

A crypt purchase includes lettering of names and dates of birth and death.
Memorialization is optional and extra, subject to design standards for crypt fronts.

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Death Certificate
A certified legal paper signed by the attending physician showing the cause of death and other vital statistical data pertaining to the deceased. A death certificate is not given to the cemetery at the time of burial.

Death Notice
The paragraph in the classified section of a newspaper publicizing the death of a person and giving those details of the funeral service the survivors wish to have published. Most such notices list the names of the relatives of the deceased. Newspapers charge for this notice based on length and addition of a photograph. See Obituary.

Deed [Milwaukee policy]
A word never used in Catholic cemetery terminology. The term implies legal ownership of land or property. In all instances, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee continues to own and maintain all burial grounds, structures and buildings. A certificate is issued instead indicating full payment of purchase price and control of burial right over the burial space.

The part of a multi-piece monument that sets atop the base on which the inscription is usually placed. It may also be called the tablet. See Base for illustration.

Direct Burial
The transfer of a body from the place of death to the funeral home. The body is casketed and then delivered directly to the burial site without public viewing or services. This practice is discouraged in Catholic parishes and cemeteries according to the preference and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.

Direct Cremation
The transfer of a body from the place of death to the funeral home. It is placed in a container and delivered directly to a crematory without public viewing. Services may or may not be held afterward. This practice is discouraged in Catholic parishes and cemeteries by the preference and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.

The removal of human remains from a crypt for the purpose of burial in another location.

The removal of human remains from the ground for the purpose of burial in another location.

Disposition, Final
See Final Disposition.

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A contract agreement between the cemetery and the person who is purchasing the burial rights to a grave, crypt or niche.

Easter Candle
See Paschal Candle.

A bronze symbol, insignia or image (left) that can be affixed to a crypt or niche front, or cast directly into a bronze marker. Emblems are considered memorialization.

The placement of the body in a casket above ground in a mausoleum crypt.

A verse or quotation on a memorial commemorating a deceased person. Formerly a full funeral oration or speech spoken over the tomb. From the Latin word epitaphium.

Eternal Light
Memorialization of a crypt of niche by means of a permanently burning electric lamp (left) that is lit at the time of burial.

A tribute or commendation of the character or services of a person who has died. Within the Roman Catholic Tradition, as much as there may be a desire to eulogize, a homily is the best expression within the liturgical rituals, rather than a eulogy. See Homily.


To dig up buried human remains; to remove from the place of burial. See Disinterment.

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Final Date
After a death, the date of death may need to be mounted in bronze numerals and letters or sandblasted on a crypt or niche, on a marker or monument. A small bronze plate may be permanently attached to a bronze grave marker. The format of the final or death date may vary, but ought to match exactly that of the date of birth.

Final Disposition
The final resting place for the body or for cremated remains.
Choices include:

  •  burial of the body in the earth or a mausoleum crypt.
  •  burial, scattering or deposit of cremated remains in an urn for placement in a niche or taking home.
  •  donation of the body to a research facility.
  •  burial at sea (not permitted in the Great Lakes).

The Roman Catholic Church does not view disposition outside of a cemetery as the reverent, permanent, marked disposition that a person should receive.

An artificial or natural arrangement of flowers and greens that is placed in a vase at a grave, crypt or niche.

Flush marker
A grave marker that is level with the surrounding ground; certain parts of a cemetery may be restricted to such markers; in every instance a flush marker can be placed where a raised marker is permitted, but not vice versa. The Catholic Cemeteries categorize and price graves by this sort of permanent marker. Pictured left: Single flush marker.


A memorial stone placed at the foot area of a grave. Very often a footstone is placed on an individual grave when a large family monument marks the entire lot.

A concrete base or footing installed under a monument or marker or under a flush marker for long-term stability.

The closure plate (made of granite, marble, bronze) for a crypt; for a niche it is made of granite, marble, bronze or glass. On the front the deceased person is memorialized with name and years of birth and death. Further memorialization may be possible; it is optional and an extra cost. Behind the decorated front described above is a functional sealing front caulked into the niche or crypt opening. Also called a shutter. See Crypt for a photograph of a front.

The organized, purposeful, time-limited, group-centered response to death. Generally includes official rites and other ceremonies with the body present, to commemorate the death that occurred and the life that has been lived.

Funeral Director
A professional who prepares for the burial or other disposition of dead human bodies, supervises such burial or disposition, maintains a funeral establishment for such purposes, counsels with survivors. Often used interchangeably with mortician or undertaker.

Funeral Home
A building used for the purpose of embalming, arranging and conducting funerals. Often used interchangeably with mortuary.

Funeral Mass
See Mass of Christian Burial.

(The) Funeral Rule
A rule of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that requires funeral directors to give you, if you ask in person, an itemized General Price List and, if you ask over the phone, prices over the phone. The Rule also requires funeral directors to give you other information about their goods and services. Enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1982.

Funeral Service

  • The profession which deals with the handling of dead human bodies and arrangements with survivors for their final disposition.
  • The religious or other rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the dead human body.

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A designated space in a cemetery used for the in-ground burial of human remains OR the excavation in the earth for the purpose of burial. A standard single grave will accommodate a vault with external dimensions not exceeding 36-inches wide x 96-inches long. Sometimes called a plot.

Grave Liner
An unsealed concrete receptacle of two or more pieces in which the casket is placed at the time of burial (left). Also called a grave box. In addition to protecting the casket, the liner will prevent the ground above from sinking. Although not required by State law, it is generally required by cemeteries for long-term good order. See Vault for outer burial containers made of other materials.


Grave Marker or Grave Memorial
A method of identifying the occupant of a particular grave. Permanent grave markers are usually of bronze or granite. Other materials (marble or limestone, for example) have proved less durable in wintry climates. A memorial gives such data as the name of the individual, date and place of birth, date and place of death.

Graveside Service
A service or rite, conducted at the place of interment, commemorating the deceased with the body present. Within the Roman Catholic Tradition, this service is called the Committal Rite.

See Grave marker.

The normal, natural and necessary inner experience of loss. The space God gives us to feel feelings of loss and separation. A deep sense of sorrow. See Bereavement and Mourning.

Grief Education
The study of grief and loss and its many variables towards the goal of better understanding for ourselves and greater support for others.

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A memorial stone placed at the head area of a grave. Unless already marked with a monument, a grave is ordinarily marked with a memorial at the head of the grave.

Holy Water
See Baptismal Water

A preached reflection by a priest or deacon on the Scripture readings with application of the texts to the daily lives of the assembled community. See Eulogy.

A service, staffed by professionals and volunteers, dedicated to the compassionate care of and holistic support to the terminally ill and their families. Hospice care may be offer in an institutional setting or at home.

Hospice Care
Service for terminally ill patients and their families. Generally includes pain relief and support services, physician and nursing services coordination, in-home care, therapy, and counseling. To be eligible for hospice an individual must be diagnosed as terminally ill (i.e. life expectancy of six months or less without intervention).

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In State
The custom of availing the deceased for viewing by relatives and friends prior to or after the funeral service.

An aromatic substance which is obtained from certain resinous trees in Eastern and tropical countries, especially from those of the terebinth family. It is largely employed for purposes of religious worship. When sprinkled upon a glowing coal inside a censer or thurible, it burns freely and emits an abundant white smoke of very fragrant odor. Various spices are sometimes mixed with the resin to increase its fragrance.

Infant Memorial Garden [Milwaukee policy]
A special section of a cemetery where unborn or newborn infants are buried together.

Inner Burial Container
See Casket.

To bury a dead body or cremated remains in the earth or above ground.

The act of burial.

Interment space
A grave, a crypt or a niche purchased only with the written approval of the Cemetery and subject to the Rules and Regulations of the Cemetery now or hereafter adopted by the Cemetery. Interment spaces are intended for the use of Catholics and their families.

Interment Service
Those services involved in preparing the interment site for use. Generally includes such items as opening and closing the burial site, staffing and administration, establishment and maintenance of permanent burial records and the use of necessary equipment, facilities and accessories.

The placement of cremated remains in a grave, crypt or niche, usually after being placed in an urn.

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Last Rites
An ambiguous term for services offered to the sick, injured or dying connoting that death is near, if not inevitable. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is usually implied, formerly called Extreme Unction.

Lawn Crypt
A pre-placed enclosed chamber, usually constructed of reinforced concrete, poured in place or set as a pre-cast unity, either single or double depth, located in grave spaces.

The memorialization of a crypt or niche with bronze letters and numerals or with the same accomplished through sandblasting. For crypts and niches, the name and years of birth and death are displayed, according to styles and arrangements approved by the Catholic Cemeteries. See Crypt for a photograph of bronze lettering.

The darkening with paint of the inside of a sandblasted character on a granite memorial to give more eye appeal and visibility (left).


Living Will
A document that specifies medical responses to presenting situations, usually centering on use of resuscitation and use of life support will that gives instructions to relatives regarding the care of one's body should they become terminally ill and unable to make rational decisions. Authorized by state law, this document directs that life not be artificially prolonged under the circumstance of incurable conditions certified to be terminal by two physicians. The document may include personalized instructions; e.g., specifying that artificial nutrition and hydration are to be construed as life-sustaining procedures. Two witnesses must sign the document. See Power of Attorney for Health Care.

A group of two or more adjacent graves purchased by an owner as burial space in a cemetery. Sometimes called a plot.

Lowering Device
A mechanism used for lowering the casket into the grave (right). Apparatus is placed over the open grave which has two or more straps which support the casket over the opening. Upon release of the mechanism, the straps unwind from a cylinder and slowly lower the casket into the grave.

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A permanent, one-piece granite or bronze grave memorial that is installed flush with the ground or raised above the ground indicating the name(s) of the deceased and date(s) of birth and death as a means of marking a burial place.

Mass of Christian Burial
The celebration of the Eucharist in the presence of a body or cremated remains. A Mass of Christian Burial can be celebrated any day except solemnities that are days of obligation, Holy Thursday, the Easter Triduum and Sundays of Advent, Lent and the Easter Seasons. Also called a Funeral Mass.


A public or private building especially designed to receive entombments. A permanent above ground resting place for the dead. Named after King Masolus of Caria, whose tomb became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There are family mausoleums constructed and owned by individual families for their members only. There are community mausoleums constructed, owned and operated by cemeteries for any who would desire entombment there. Pictured left: Chapel of Hope Mausoleum at Saint Adalbert Cemetery, Milwaukee.

Medical Examiner
A government official, usually appointed, sometimes a medical doctor, who has a thorough medical knowledge and whose function is to perform an autopsy on bodies dead from violence, suicide, crime, etc., and to investigate circumstances of death, especially when sudden, unnatural or mysterious. An older, roughly equivalent, term is Coroner.

A grave marker (monument, monolith, tombstone, headstone, footstone) memorializing a loved one. It identifies a grave or lot, also the inscription identifying a crypt or niche.



Memorial Park
A cemetery which has adopted a park-like style and abolished the use of upright grave memorials.

Memorial Service
A funeral involving rites and ceremonies and commemoration without the body present, perhaps expressing a traditional religious belief or an alternative spirituality.

The honored tradition of placing a permanent, personalized marker or inscription at the place of burial. Minimally the person’s name and dates of life ought to be recorded there. There are endless other optional and beautiful ways of paying tribute to the life of a person which can be chosen depending on the regulations of the cemetery and the resources of the family. Vases, benches, emblems, symbols, granite etchings done by diamond tip or laser and photo ceramics are the most common features of memorialization. See Crypt for memorialization examples.

Ministry of Consolation
The ministry of consolation is the offering of a personal and caring presence, on behalf of the Church Community, to a family that is experiencing the death of a loved one. The ministry is a companionship along the way. This companionship is based on compassion and service. When any member of the Body of Christ dies, the entire community is called to the ministry of consolation — dignified burial of the dead and consoling service of the living.
At the Catholic Cemeteries, this ministry is paramount. Christian consolation is rooted in our belief in the death and resurrection of Christ. We face the reality of death; we admit the anguish of grief and trust that Christ has power over sin and death. Death is not a finality; there is life in the Risen Lord (Order of Christian Funerals, paragraph 8). It is the unique work we do and extends the ministry of Christ the the ministry of parish communities to those who died and those who grieve the loss of those who died.

A large, vertical stone grave marker having neither a base nor cap. Pictured left: Single monolith.

An upright memorial consisting of two or more pieces, usually a base and a die. Pictured right: Double monument.




A place to where bodies found dead are removed and exposed pending identification by relatives.

The external expression of grief — grief gone public. The outward expression of sorrow manifested in dress, actions, and performance of routine activities. See Bereavement and Grief.

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A shelf-like space in a mausoleum or columbarium structure used for the inurnment of cremated remains. Urns are placed in these niches as a final resting place for cremated remains. Niches come in different sizes and front materials. Urns should be sized to fit inside the typical niche. Pictured: Interior of "Deluxe Companion "double outside niche


Normal Post-Traumatic Stress (NPTS)
A collection of experiences (nightmares, flashbacks, etc.) which normally can follow the event of trauma; so named by some grief educators. Usually called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Soon to be termed Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).

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A brief notice of the death of a person, particularly a newspaper notice, which usually lists the name of the deceased, the age, and a more detailed and lengthy biographical sketch than a Death Notice. Newspapers may or may not charge for publishing obituaries. See Death Notice.

Order of Christian Funerals
The ritual book issued by the Vatican for the universal Church in 1989 containing the texts of readings and prayer and indicating the moments of prayer and the ritual actions and gestures for the funeral liturgies of the dead. With an eye to ministering to the living, the Order call for three major liturgical prayers: 1. The Vigil; 2. The Mass of Christian Burial; and 3. The Committal Rite. There are also minor liturgical prayers such as Gathering in the Presence of the Body and Transfer of the Body. See Vigil, Mass of Christian Burial and Committal Rite.

A container or receptacle, such as an urn or vault, for holding the bones of the dead.

Outer Burial Container
See Grave Liner and Vault.

Owner [Milwaukee policy]
The person or persons:
to whom the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries has conveyed the exclusive right of interment.
who have acquired such right by transfer in accordance with the rules and regulations.
who hold such right by inheritance.
Archdiocesan Catholic Cemeteries are not selling real estate. Actually, a purchaser is acquiring rights to burial space, assuming complete control over all immediate and future burial decisions. The space is continuously owned and maintained by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, providing firm, long-term stability. Contracts, supporting paperwork and policy establish ownership and control of these rights, even through changing generations of family. See Easement and Burial Rights.

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A large cloth, white or gold that completely covers the casket during the Mass of Christian Burial. It represents the baptismal robe that is placed on a person during the ceremony of Baptism. It reminds us that all are equal in the eyes of God, so the focus is not on the type of casket. An American Flag can drape a casket before or after the Mass of Christian Burial, but it cannot replaced it during the Mass. Pictured left: Pall draped over casket.

A selected group of family or friends whose duty it is to carry the casket at necessary times. There may also be another group of friends or members of a religious, social or fraternal organization who act as an escort or honor guard for the deceased. These are honorary pallbearers; they do not carry the casket.

Paschal Candle
A very large candle, first lit at the Easter Vigil that burns near a pall-covered casket during the Mass of Christian Burial (left). It represents the Light of the Risen Christ who has overcome darkness and death by His Resurrection. It is to be made of wax and replaced with a new one every Easter. Sometimes called the Easter Candle.

Paschal Mystery
The term Paschal Mystery is used often by the Church, especially in liturgical texts and in magisterial explanations of Jesus Christ’s salvific mission. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The Paschal mystery of Christ’s cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God’s saving plan was accomplished ‘once for all’ by the redemptive death of His Son Jesus Christ (paragraph 571).

Photo ceramic
An photographic image (either color or black-and-white) embedded in wet porcelain then baked and glazed to permanently preserve the clarity and quality of the photograph. In a bronze frame, it can be mounted on a crypt or niche front or on a grave memorial. A photo ceramic comes in two sizes — portrait and cameo. Inside a glass front niche, a photo ceramic can be placed on a bronze easel. It is memorialization and is extra in cost and optional. Pictured left: photo ceramic and its bronze frame.

A specific area of ground in a cemetery owned by a family or individual. A plot usually contains two or more graves. The Catholic Cemeteries use the term Lot instead.

Potter's Field
A cemetery or part there of for paupers. The term comes from the Passion narrative in Matthew's gospel (27:7). The Catholic Cemeteries offer charitable burials for the poor, but do not restrict these burials to only one part of our cemeteries.

Power of Attorney for Health Care
A document allowing others to make health care decisions when one is not able to. Authorized by state law, this document allows you to designate another person (known as your attorney-in-fact) to have powers, which you specify in the document. It can be limited to health care decisions, or for general financial management, health and medical care, emergencies, etc. It can be revoked by the principal at any time while the principal remains competent. It becomes irrevocable upon the disability or incompetence of the principal. It must be notarized. The power of attorney ceases upon the death of the person signing the document. See Living Will.

Pre-arranged Funeral
Funeral arrangements completed by an individual prior to death.

Pre-arranged Funeral Trust
A method by which an individual can pre-pay funeral expenses. The Trust may cover actual costs or may need supplementation at the time of death.

Pre-Born Children [Milwaukee policy]
Children who die before birth under 350 grams in weight and less than 20 weeks in gestation. The cemeteries bring these children to Holy Cross about eight times per year from several Milwaukee area hospitals. This charitable burial service places the children in a common burial vault and common grave in the Infant Memorial Garden (Block 17, Section F). Medical terminology for these children is Products of Conception (POCs). Pre-Born program.

Same as prearrangement defined above, except that the funding for the funeral is paid in advance either through a trust or burial insurance.

The selection and payment of interment rights, cemetery services and products before the time of death.

Pre-need consumer
An individual who arranges for funeral goods, funeral services, burial site goods, or burial site services prior to the death of that individual or another individual, and who funds those goods or services through prepayment to a funeral provider or through purchase of an insurance policy.

Pre-Payment for Burial Services [Milwaukee policy]
A payment before the time of need for interment, entombment or inurnment. The accompanying form identifies the person to be buried and the exact location of the burial. Upon pre-payment, no further price increases are applicable for that service.

Planning a funeral in advance of the death, usually consisting of a list of your preferences for funeral and cemetery arrangements, including burial space, services and merchandise. Used interchangeably with prearranging.

Preparation of the body
Embalming of the body or such items of care as washing, disinfecting, shaving, positioning of features, restorative procedures, care of hair, application of cosmetics, dressing, and casketing by funeral home personnel.

Professional services
The basic services of the funeral director or mortician and staff that are furnished by the funeral provider in arranging final disposition. The services include, but are not limited to, conducting the arrangement conference; planning visitations and the funeral, memorial service, or graveside service; arranging for final disposition by securing, preparing, and filing necessary permits and documents; and placing obituary notices.

Purchase Agreement [Milwaukee policy]
The written document between the cemetery and a purchaser pursuant to which the cemetery agrees to sell and the purchaser agrees to buy Interment Rights in the cemetery.

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Raised Marker
Any marker or memorial that is not flush with the surrounding ground. The Catholic Cemeteries classify graves by this distinction.

In grief education, the process of learning to live with our losses.

A part of the body of a saint, or some item connected with a saint, the object of particular veneration. From the Latin word relicquiae meaning remains.

A container for the preservation of the relics of a saint.

A designated area of platted cemetery land. It is one descriptive unit that that may be part a grave location description along with block, section, lot, row and grave.

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A stone coffin with lid, usually made of limestone, that was used for a short time until the body was reduced to bones, then reused. It is a Greek word meaning flesh eating.

To remove cremated remains from an urn or other container and allow them to fall to the ground or into water. There is no memorialization, no guarantee of future access, no record. In addition, the cremated remains may not be ashes or powder at all, but large bone fragments. Scattering cremated remains in certain locations is against civil law.

Scattering Grounds
The area within a non-Catholic cemetery that is set aside for scattering of cremated human remains. A Catholic cemetery never has a scattering area because the Catholic Church holds that one person's cremated remains should be kept in tact and integral in a unified disposition. Just as a human body is not separated for burial, nor should cremated remains be scattered.

A chamber or cave that is used for human burial. The burial place of Jesus is called the Holy Sepulcher.

A common finishing style for the tops of granite markers and monuments. With the flat or oval tops, the serpentine a gentle, stylized arching feature.

Slant Marker
A raised, granite marker that generally comes out of the ground 16-inches with a steep slope to the front face. Pictured left: Double slant marker

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The upright part of a one-piece memorial, a monolith; or a two-piece memorial, a monument. Also called Die.

Temporary Grave Cross [Milwaukee policy]
A means of marking a new grave prior to the permanent grave memorial being installed. The Catholic Cemeteries allow a cross up to 18-inches tall.

The study of death and dying.

A burial place that is used for receiving human remains.

Official reassignment of burial rights ownership from the original owner(s) to new owners by issuing a certificate through the auspices of the cemetery.

Transit Permit
A legal paper issued by the local government authorizing removal of a body to a cemetery for interment. Some cities also require an additional permit if the deceased is to be cremated. In Wisconsin, this is entitled: Report For Final Disposition of a Human Corpse and Out-of-State Burial Transit Permit. Cemeteries do not receive a copy of the death certificate ordinarily.

An abnormal event causing profound feelings of fear, anger, and devastation.

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Unconsecrated ground

Generally obsolete term, along with Mortician, used to describe a modern Funeral Director.

A container into which cremated remains are placed and kept (left); may be made of various materials, including wood, marble or metal. In general, there are no laws or regulations governing the size, shape or materials used for urns. However, size may be a factor with regards to final disposition in a cremation burial vault or in a niche. Glass front niches may require certain designs or materials for long-term durability and appearance harmony.

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A metal (bronze or aluminum) holder for natural or artificial floral arrangements installed at a grave or mounted to a crypt or niche front. It continues the long tradition of associating flowers with burial places. It is a form of memorialization.

A two-piece receptacle for additional protection of the casket upon earth burial. A vault is a sealed container. Vaults (also known as outer burial containers) are made of concrete, fiberglass, stainless steel, polypropylene or copper. See Grave Liner for a plainer, unsealed outer burial container. Pictured left: Painted, textured, sealing burial vault.

Vault cart
The wheeled device that carries a casket placed inside the outer burial container or vault to the grave. It lowers that complete unit into the grave when the Committal Service has not has been conducted at the graveside. It is usually motorized and self-propelled; it straddles the open grave and places casket inside of vault in grave. Pictured right: Self-propelled vault cart.

Veteran’s Marker
The marker provided by the U.S. Government, upon written application, for marking a veteran’s death after death. The marker is given in tribute for the service of the veteran, but there is a foundation fee for the marker payable to the cemetery where it will be installed. Pictured left: Standard bronze veteran's marker; also available in granite.

Veteran's Medallion


The reception of the Eucharist by someone who is dying. The Eucharist can be received daily and does not require the direct involvement of a priest. It is the best spiritual support for dying Catholics, assuming, of course, that the Anointing of the Sick has already been celebrated. Literally, viaticum means your food for the journey or your provision on the way to Eternal Life.

A Roman Catholic liturgical service held on the eve of the funeral service consisting of Scripture, a short homily, Intercessions, remembrance and prayers. See also Visitation or Wake.

A scheduled time, during which a body is present in an open or closed casket, when family and friends pay their respects, usually in private in a special room within the funeral home. Also referred to as a viewing, calling hours, family hour or wake. It is also ceremony where family and friends may visit survivors and pay respects to the deceased prior to burial. Usually held at a funeral home, with the casket open or closed based on personal wishes.

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A watch kept over the deceased, sometimes lasting the entire night preceding the funeral. When the wake was held in the home or place of death, someone was to be with the body until the burial was completed. Now this ritual usually takes place in a funeral home or church. There was a practical purpose once: to assure that the dead was truly dead — preventing burial of the living.

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A Tradition of Comforting Concern

Mailing Address
Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries
7301 West Nash Street
Milwaukee WI 53216


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