By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
WEST BRANDYWINE – Work is progressing on the Chester County vicariate’s first diocesan cemetery, scheduled to open in the near future at 3215 Manor Road.
The first phase of All Souls Cemetery is being developed on 25 acres of a total 185-acre tract along Pennsylvania Route 82 between Hibernia Road and Culbertson Run Road.
Approximately one-half mile from the cemetery are two new archdiocesan structures: Pope John Paul II Regional Catholic Elementary School and St. Peter Church. The parcel containing the cemetery, school and parish totals 500 acres, which the Archdiocese purchased in the early 1960s.
Population projections indicate the cemetery’s first phase, which costs $3.25 million, will provide sufficient burial space for at least the next 50 years, said Robert E. Whomsley, director of the archdiocesan Catholic Cemeteries Office.
All Souls Cemetery has a different physical plant than most of the older diocesan cemeteries. Instead of rows upon rows of headstones, picture a rural, relaxed, park-like setting, where graves are grouped in clusters amid trees or shrubbery, Whomsley said.
The concept behind the setting is to afford family and friends a more prayerful and reflective cemetery visit.
Although in-ground burials only are planned for the cemetery’s first phase – including areas dedicated to the burial of cremated remains – mausoleums may be incorporated into a future phase, Whomsley said.
Up to 25,000 graves will be available in the first phase. Cemetery plots will not be available for sale until the cemetery opens.
Construction is complete on the administrative office building, whose style fits in with farmhouses in the area.
The cemetery’s entrance is currently under construction. “It will be very impressive,” Whomsley said of the structure that will showcase stone from a local quarry and a tubular steel fence.
Whomsley acknowledged the support of Cardinal Justin Rigali, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Cistone and Glenn J. Masakowski, the Archdiocese’s secretary for Temporal Services and chief financial officer who chairs the Catholic Cemeteries Commission. Without them, Whomsley said, the cemetery could not become a reality.
Although any Catholic in the Archdiocese may be buried at All Souls, the cemetery will primarily serve the Catholic population in the western suburbs, particularly the parishes in and around West Chester, Downingtown and Coatesville, as well as parishes along the Route 30 corridor.
The need for a diocesan cemetery in Chester County has been critical for some time, as many parish cemeteries are completely filled or near capacity, according to Whomsley.
Currently, those in that area who choose to bury loved ones in a diocesan cemetery must travel to SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Marple Township, Delaware County, or to Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, Montgomery County.
“The Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia carry out the sacred duty of providing a dignified Christian burial for all of our beloved faithful departed,” Whomsley said.
“Mindful of our obligation to comfort the sorrowful, we are committed to providing Christian compassion and counsel to those left behind in mourning and sorrow,” he added.
“Answering our call to spread the Good News, we proclaim through our words and actions our hope in the resurrection and our belief in our Lord’s promise of eternal life.”
The Archdiocese also has long-range plans to develop Holy Saviour Cemetery, another diocesan cemetery, on a 300-acre tract in Penn Township, Chester County, approximately 15 miles south of All Souls Cemtery.
For more information, contact the Catholic Cemeteries Office at (215) 895-3450.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.