Columbarium at St. Thomas More & Catholic Teaching on Cremation

The growing practice of cremation makes it possible for our church to restore the churchyard burial tradition. The columbarium provides a unique and economical choice for members of St. Thomas More parish to securely house the remains of loved ones in a setting close to familiar surroundings where they worship and perhaps were baptized and married. To the living, it provides a garden spot for visitation, remembrance and prayer for the deceased.

The Catholic Church’s directives provide for cremation as an option to traditional earth or crypt interment. Our parish is offering dedicated church grounds in which to inurn the sacred remains of its members. Our columbarium is located on the walkway to the church behind the Pastoral Office.  

Columbarium spaces (niches) may be purchased for present or future use.

How to Purchase a Niche

Read an Article on the Catholic Teachings of Cremation

1. What is a columbarium?

A columbarium is a structure with spaces called niches to house urns containing the cremated remains of the dead. The word is derived from the Latin word columba which means the dwelling place of a dove. This name may have been chosen because of the resemblance of the burial niches to dovecotes, or because the dove also is a symbol of the Holy Spirit whose presence is associated with the resting place of the faithful departed.

2.  What is the cost of a niche?

The cost of a niche is $2000 for either one or two persons. Each niche holds 2 urns. The owner of the niche has the right to name up to 2 family members who will have the right to be inurned in the niche. The urns will be provided at the time of cremation at no additional cost. The only other cost associated with the columbarium is the cost of engraving the niche’s granite front. Currently, this cost is $125. No engraving is performed until an eligible family member has died.

3.  Can I provide my own urn?

No. Only urns provided by St. Thomas More may be used. If you are moving the cremated remains of a family member to our columbarium, the cremated remains must first be transferred to our urn. Contact the STM Columbarium Coordinator for more information. The STM urn is polished brass. See the picture below:

4.  What is the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding cremation?

In 1963, the Catholic Church approved cremation for Catholics. According to the Church, cremated remains should be buried or entombed and receive the Rite of Committal in accordance with the teaching of the Corporal Works of Mercy.The Church teaches that the scattering of the remains, keeping them at home, or dividing them are not reverent dispositions. Either the cremated remains or the body may be present for a funeral mass. The Church prefers that the body be present but it is not required. If no remains are present, only a memorial mass would be appropriate. The Rite of Committal is performed at the columbarium following the mass when the cremated remains are present or at a later date if the cremated remains are not present at the mass. View an article on the Church's teachings on cremations.

5.  Who is eligible to purchase a columbarium niche?

Only current, active, contributing, registered members of St. Thomas More may purchase a niche. 

6.  If my spouse or other family members are not Catholic, are they eligible for inurnment in the columbarium?

Yes.

7.  How is “eligible family members” defined?

Eligible family members are limited to the spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, and siblings of the purchaser.

8.   What is inurnment? Interment? 

Inurnment describes the placement of a person’s ashes in a niche in a columbarium after cremation. Interment refers to the placement of a person’s body in a casket in the ground or in a mausoleum.

9.  Can memorabilia be placed in the niche with the urn?

Small items such as a rosary may be placed with the urn as space allows.

10.  May the cremated remains of my pet be placed in the niche?

No.

11.  May I place flowers on the columbarium from time to time?

No. Flowers may be placed only at the time of inurnment. This policy was established to keep the area free of the clutter that results from dead/dying flowers.

12.  How were the columbarium policies established?

Before the columbarium was built in 2006, a committee of parishioners was formed. The members were the Pastor, the Business Manager and individuals who were interested in purchasing niches. Many other church columbaria and their policies were reviewed. A key objective of the policies was to make the ongoing management and maintenance of the columbarium as simple as possible while providing an affordable service to the parish. An attorney provided final review to assure that the rights of the Church and parishioners were protected. A perpetual maintenance fund was established to provide for initial construction, ongoing operational costs, future maintenance and possible expansion. This fund is self-sustaining from funds received solely from the sale of niches.

13.  How do I make arrangements for cremation?

Arrangements for cremation are made through a funeral home or other places that provide cremation services such as the Neptune Society.

14.  How do I make arrangements for the funeral?

Your first contact should be with the STM Liturgy Director, who will set up a meeting time with the family that will also include the STM Music Director.

15.  How do I purchase a niche?

See:  “How to Purchase a Niche”.

16.  What happens if I move out of the Austin area after I purchase a niche?

Niches may be re-purchased by STM for the original purchase price less 15% as long as the niche has not been engraved. There is no refund for engraved niches. 

17.  Are there other columbarium policy details that I can review?

Yes. All of the policies are defined in the Policy Governing Eligibility and Use of the Columbarium and Memorial Garden.

How to Purchase a Niche

If you did not find the answers to your questions in the columbarium “Frequently Asked Questions”, please contact the Columbarium Coordinator, Mike Gesch. 

If you are ready to purchase a niche,please contact Deacon Mike Gesch at the link above or call at 512-431-3117 to set up a meeting time at the Pastoral Office. Please bring a check made out to St. Thomas More Church for $2000. You will select a niche and sign the contract documents. Make sure you have the birth date/year for each individual named to be eligible to use the niche. Copies of all documents will be made for your records.

If you are purchasing a niche for a family member who has died, you will also fill out an Inscription Order Form to define how you want the niche front engraved. A check for $125 made out to SW Monument will be required for the engraving.

St. Thomas More Columbarium

Catholic Teachings on Cremation

For many families, cremation has become the preferred method of burial for their loved ones. Our Columbarium provides a dignified, prayer-filled place to inter family members. This article will outline the Church’s teachings on cremation for Catholic funerals. Our hope is that it reduces confusion and helps in the process of experiencing the grace of God as a family moves through a painful and grief-filled moment in their lives.

Does the Church have a preference for either cremation or burial of the body of the deceased?

The Catholic Church has some guidelines for cremation, based on the traditions of the Church. The Church does have a preference for burial or entombment of the complete body, and also has a clear desire that the body be present at a Funeral.  Therefore, the Church presents three options for a cremation:

Option one is to have the full body present at the Funeral Mass and have the cremation follow, with interment after the ashes have been returned in a suitable Urn.

Option two is to have the cremation occur, and have the body present in the form of the Ashes in a suitable urn at the Funeral Mass. This option allows us to have the funeral at St. Thomas More and then process to the Columbarium for the interment. 

Option three is to have a Memorial Mass without the body present, either as the full body or as ashes, and inter at a later date.

Whatever the choice, St. Thomas More’s goal is to support the family through the Sacrament of the Funeral Mass and a dignified interment.

What should become of the cremated remains following the funeral?

The principle that the Church uses as its guide is that “The cremated remains of a body be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come.” ("Cremation and the Order of Christian Funerals." USCCB: Cremation and the Order of Christian Funerals. Web. 6 Feb. 2015.)

One result of this principle is that the Church prefers that burial or entombment occur within a reasonable amount of time, since the human body has an eternal destiny in any form.

The Church therefore requires the deceased body be treated with prayerful reverence and great dignity in recognition of its glorious future.  

The Church also has guidelines in terms of disposition of the ashes: “The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains on the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.” (Ibid.)

The church treats the entombment of cremains in the same timely manner as a body. This is why the church does not support remains as being scattered, kept at home or divided into other vessels among family members, as these practices would desecrate a body in a casket. The Church will however allow for burial at sea, providing that the cremated remains of the body are buried in heavy container and not scattered.

These burial practices are based on our Christian foundational beliefs in eternal life, both body and soul, in Jesus Christ among the Communion of Saints. It has been said that funerals are more for the living. Having a full body present at funerals and burials allows those of us grieving to "recall the deceased’s personal story of faith, the past relationships, and the continued spiritual presence of the deceased person” OCF Reflections p.11 The full body is the last place of physical encounter with our loved one and is helpful in our mourning process.

Talk to your priest, family and friends

Please know decisions about cremation and the funeral are different for every family and we here at St Thomas More want to support what is best for each of you and your loved ones.In making these funeral and possibly cremation decisions, talk with a priest, your family and friends.Pray for the gifts of wisdom, faith, hope and love.

St. Thomas More offer the service of pre-planning funerals.We select readings and music, and store the plan in our vault in the Administration building with the other Church records.If you would like to take advantage of this, please call the Church office to make an appointment.

Our Columbarium has niches available for those registered in the Parish.These hold two urns. If you are interested, also call the Church office.

Funerals are an important part of our parish life, and are an opportunity to experience God’s mercy and love in the midst of pain and grief. Our hope is that we can help you through the process, and that God can bless us all as we bring our loved ones home.

Visit our FAQ Page on our Columbarium for more detailed information.