SEATTLE – With no Masses celebrated and no flags provided for individual graves, Memorial Day will be very different this year for people visiting the four Associated Catholic Cemeteries — Calvary in Seattle, Gethsemane in Federal Way, Holyrood in Shoreline and St. Patrick in Kent.
“Frankly, it’s a pinnacle of our year,” ACC president Richard Peterson said of the three-day Memorial Day weekend, which this year is May 23–25. “We have traditionally thousands of people coming through.”
This will be the first time in his 44 years of working at the archdiocesan cemeteries that Memorial Day will not be fully observed, Peterson noted.
Although the cemeteries will be open to visitors from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. all three days, no cemetery staff will be on hand to provide assistance, he said. Considering COVID-19 restrictions and concerns, “I felt that we could not ensure safe social distancing” for the cemetery staff and visitors, he added.
Visitors at Gethsemane Cemetery in Federal Way are greeted by a banner announcing changes for Memorial Day weekend. Photo: Jean Parietti
In normal times, nine Masses would have been celebrated at the four cemeteries over the weekend, including liturgies in English, Filipino, Vietnamese and Korean, plus an “Irish-flavored Mass” at St. Patrick Cemetery that traditionally includes bagpipes, Peterson said. As many as 500 people attend each Mass, in limited space that doesn’t allow for social distancing, he said.
“None of us feel good about this,” he said, but the decision was made “in the context of the archbishop’s call to us a church that what we’re doing now, we’re doing for the common good, so we can stop the spread of this virus.”
Visitors can bring their own flags
Small flags to place on graves won’t be supplied by Associated Catholic Cemeteries this Memorial Day weekend because of COVID-19. Photo: Jean Parietti
Visitors will be greeted by large flags at the entrance of each cemetery to honor veterans who gave their lives in service to the country, Peterson said. Although individual flags won’t be provided, visitors are welcome to bring and place their own small flags on graves of loved ones, he said.
Everyone visiting should observe social distancing, as reminded by signs throughout the cemeteries. In addition:
- Cemetery offices and restrooms will be closed to the public.
- Mausoleums will remain locked, but accessible to those who have card keys.
- Group gatherings and picnics are not permitted.
Although staff won’t be on hand to assist those looking for the resting place of a family member or friend, ACC has a “locate a loved one” app that visitors can download and use to search by the deceased’s name. The app is a work in progress, Peterson said, noting there are nearly 90,000 people buried in the ACC cemeteries, and full functionality isn’t there yet for very old sections of Calvary and Holyrood.
Directions for downloading and using the app are posted on the ACC website and on the office door at each cemetery, and flyers are available outside the offices.
For more information about visiting the cemeteries during COVID-19, visit the ACC website.