August 9, 2019

Likely last burial section opens at Oakland cemetery

By Carrie McClish
The Catholic Voice – Staff writer

Oakland’s St. Mary’s Cemetery marked a milestone June 24 when the newest, and most likely the last, burial section was blessed.

Staff members of the Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, which operates cemeteries, mausoleums and funeral centers in the Diocese of Oakland, marked the occasion by bringing an altar, crucifix and candles to the site for the late morning blessing service presided by Rev. Paul Coleman, parochial administrator at St. Monica Parish in Moraga.

The new St. Joseph section, which adds about 200 spaces for new burials in the 156-year old cemetery, is located near the back of the cemetery, which is at 4529 Howe St. This section of the cemetery had previously been used as a disposal site, said Eric Karleskind, who works in sales and interment services at the Cathedral of Christ the Light Mausoleum in Oakland. Over several months the area had been cleared out and vaults and a retaining wall were installed.

Now this section has the distinction of commanding views of Oakland and, on a clear day, the San Francisco skyline. The views are spectacular, Karleskind said.

In operation since 1863, St. Mary Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Oakland, said Heather Gloster, CFCS director of funerals and cemeteries. “Several generations of Catholic people have relatives here and they have wished for a long time that they could be buried closer to their families,” she noted.

“A lot of them chose to be cremated and go in the grave of a grandmother or mother, but there was really a want to whole body ground burial so the Holy Spirit guided us to a new location here,” Gloster said.

“The burial section should last us 5 to 7 more years and then we will be out of space for full body ground, but we have many crypts available and cremation spaces,” Kloster said. “We also have many families with spaces left in their own graves for cremation burials.”

The first burial in the new section occurred the previous week, Karleskind said. A young man, who died in 2008, had been in a nearby grave and was moved to the new section at the request of the man’s family.

The first burial in the 52-acre cemetery was Mary Reily, a native of Ireland, who was born in 1833 and died in 1863 at age 30.

A little more than 100,000 people are buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Gloster said. Included in this number are several Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who arrived in Oakland from Canada more than 150 years ago and went on to establish schools and convents in the East Bay as well as the first group of Sisters of the Presentation, including Mother Mary Teresa Comerford, which settled in Berkeley where they established a convent and Presentation High School.

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