St. Bede renovates cemetery as ‘vision of heavenly homeland’

PERU — As Catholics around the world gather in churches and cemeteries this weekend to remember the saints and all the faithful departed, the monks at St. Bede Abbey have only to visit their newly expanded and renovated cemetery to catch a glimpse of the “heavenly homeland.”

The project took years of planning and work and was completed over the summer, according to Abbot Claude Peifer, OSB. He blessed and rededicated the cemetery on Oct. 13 after a Mass in the abbey church and a procession to the final resting place of 98 of the Benedictine community’s abbots, monks, priests and employees.

“The cemetery is the repository of the people who went before us, the people on whose shoulders we stand,” Abbot Claude told The Catholic Post. “They were the founders of our community and the people who made us who we are.”

He said it was important to the religious community that it be a place of beauty, quiet and prayer — “a vision of the heavenly homeland.”

Not only is the cemetery a place to remember those who have gone before them, Abbot Claude explained, but where the earthly journey of each monk will end.

“We know we will be there, too,” he said simply.

There has been a cemetery at St. Bede almost from its beginning, Abbot Claude said.

Abbot Claude said they started to talk about making the cemetery larger in the 1970s, when it became clear that they were going to run out of space before too long. The back fence was removed to allow for expansion to the east, with burials beyond the fence line beginning in about 1990.

The expansion has doubled the size of the cemetery, Abbot Claude told The Post.

Another notable improvement is that the grave markers, which had rested on the ground before, now sit on concrete slabs so they won’t shift, Abbot Claude said.

While the conceptual plan for the St. Bede Abbey cemetery renovation was drawn up about 16 years ago, there were some unavoidable delays along the way. Abbot Claude said he was pleased that time had finally favored them.

“It was important to have this place finished and that it be beautiful and prayerful,” he said.

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