By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
WEST BRANDYWINE – All Souls Cemetery, Chester County’s first diocesan cemetery, was officially blessed and dedicated by Cardinal Justin Rigali at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2 – appropriately, All Souls Day, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.
Beneath a cloud-scattered sky stood a 40-foot stately granite cross, which Cardinal Rigali blessed with holy water as sunshine broke through.
“God of all consolation,” the Cardinal prayed, “Grant this cemetery, placed under the sign of the cross, may, by the power of your blessing, be a place of rest and hope.
“May the bodies buried here sleep in your peace, to rise immortal at the coming of your Son. May this place be a comfort to the living, a sign of their hope for unending life.
“May prayers be offered here continually in supplication for those who sleep in Christ and in constant praise of Your mercy.”
Located at 3215 Manor Road, the first phase of the cemetery is being developed on 25 acres of a total 185-acre parcel along Route 82 between Hibernia Road and Culbertson Run Road.
Population projections indicate the first phase, which costs $3.25 million, will provide sufficient burial space for at least the next 50 years, according to Robert E. Whomsley, director of the archdiocesan Catholic Cemeteries Office.
Approximately one-half mile from the cemetery are two new Catholic facilities: Pope John Paul II Regional Catholic Elementary School and St. Peter Church. The parcel containing the cemetery, school and parish totals 500 acres.
All Souls Cemetery has a different physical lay out than most of the older diocesan cemeteries. Instead of rows upon rows of headstones, graves will be grouped in clusters amid trees or shrubbery in a park-like setting, Whomsley said.
The concept behind the setting is to afford family and friends a more prayerful and reflective cemetery visit.
Up to 25,000 graves will be available in the first phase, including areas dedicated to the burial of cremated remains. An above-ground mausoleum may be incorporated into a future phase, according to Whomsley.
The cemetery’s entrance is built from stone from a local quarry. The administrative office building fits in with the rural nature of the area.
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 full or are near capacity, according to Whomsley.
For all the work that led to the cemetery’s opening, Whomsley acknowledged the support of Cardinal Rigali and the Catholic Cemeteries Commission, in particular its chairman, Glenn J. Masakowski, the archdiocesan Secretary for Temporal Services and Chief Financial Officer.
Christopher Cohen, a member of Nativity B.V.M. Parish in Media, is the cemetery’s superintendent. The cemetery’s foreman is Kevin Baker, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Drexel Hill.
With the addition of All Souls Cemetery, the Archdiocese has 13 diocesan cemeteries – two of which are reserved for future use – and 50 parish cemeteries.
For more information about All Souls Cemetery, call 484-288-6140. For more information about Catholic cemeteries across the Archdiocese, call 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.