What does the Catholic Church say about Columbariums?

On October 22, 2016 Pope Francis released an official guideline on how we care for the ashes of the deceased. The Vatican document says: “The ashes of the deceased must be laid in a sacred place such as in a Cemetery or a Columbarium.”  The document goes on to state: “It is not permitted to keep the ashes in a home or to scatter them in the air, on land, at sea or in any other way nor may the ashes be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewellery and other objects.” In short, the Vatican says YES to cremation but NO to scattering of ashes anywhere.  Following the release of the Vatican Guideline, we at St Mary’s Parish have undertaken to build a Columbarium in the Church grounds.

It has been the view for centuries that one’s mortal remains ought to lie at peace in the grounds of one’s church. As Catholics, we believe we are born into the Church, we receive the Sacraments of the Church and at our death we are farewelled by the Church.

Fr George Kallarackal Joseph, the current Parish Priest of St Mary’s, Maryborough, saw this as a worthwhile project for the Fraser  Coast  community and, with the support of parishioners, instigated plans to make the Columbarium a reality.   

Volunteer Parishioners Dennis O’Connor and Frank Burkett took on the Co-ordinator roles and dedicated a lot of hours to ensuring that the work proceeded as close to schedule as possible despite some delays due to the pandemic. They worked closely with Landscape Artist Debbie Laporte from the Sunshine Coast who designed the layout in keeping with the ambience of the Heritage listed Church and surroundings.  Both local and interstate professional tradespeople and businesses were employed to bring the project to fruition. The Parish is indebted to both Dennis and Frank for their attention to detail and their organisation of the whole construction.


The Grotto which was built in the 1950’s by Stonemasons Neville Caines and Bert Pilling has been enhanced to complement the Columbarium for interment of ashes and a Memorial Wall for plaques to be placed in memory of loved ones. Mr Pilling’s son John, who is also a Stonemason, undertook the work on the Grotto.

The Columbarium consists of 5 Walls which will accommodate a total of 396 niches. These have been named in honour of St Joseph, St Patrick, Venerable Catherine MacAuley, Blessed Edmund Rice and Mary MacKillop. To date 24 niches have been reserved by parishioners.  51 plaques have been purchased for mounting on the rear of the Grotto (pictured) some of which have been reserved for the future.  There is space for a total of 120.  (see Photo Album site ) 

For information regarding purchase of Niches and/or Memorial Plaques, please contact the Parish office on 41213701 Tuesday – Friday  8.30 – 2.30.

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