Pioneer Catholic Cemetery blessing set after renaming, landscaping

MARQUETTE — A memorial blessing at the renamed Pioneer Catholic Cemetery, at Pioneer Road and Division Street in Marquette, is set for 3 p.m. Eastern time Saturday.

Marquette Bishop John Doerfler will preside over the short liturgy.

Due to limited parking, a bus will be provided for attendees. It will leave 2:15 p.m. from St. Peter Cathedral, 311 Baraga Ave., and 2:30 p.m. from St. Michael Parish, 401 W. Kaye Ave. It is expected to return around 3:45 p.m.

Commonly known as Old Catholic Cemetery, the grounds were used by pioneers in the area from the mid-1800s until space ran out about 1908. It recently has been renamed in their honor.

As the old cemetery began to run out of space, Catholic burials began taking place across town at Holy Cross Cemetery on Wright Street. With maintenance focused on the new cemetery, the old cemetery became overgrown with vegetation. It wasn’t until the middle of the last century that cemeteries began to fund perpetual care endowments for permanent upkeep of cemeteries.

A small group of people called Friends of Holy Cross Cemetery began working three years ago to transform the cemetery into a beautiful, park-like wooded setting. Neil Newcomb, who became cemeteries director for the Diocese of Marquette in 2013, formed the group to support Catholic cemeteries in Marquette.

With the active cemetery being well maintained, the Friends turned their focus to the old cemetery. A plan was drawn up to form a clearing in the middle of the cemetery, surrounded by what Newcomb calls “cathedral-like” old-growth trees.

Now complete, the cemetery has a winding crushed gravel path leading from Pioneer Road toward a 6-foot-tall monument honoring those buried there. Benches on either side of the monument allow visitors a place for rest and reflection. Newcomb said the idea was to transform this into a “safe place to pray in a memorial park setting.”

Landscaping with native plants enhance the beauty of the area without requiring much maintenance. Stations of the Cross from the closed Marygrove Retreat Center have been installed. Newcomb said the 5.7 acres will be maintained by Holy Cross staff with help from volunteers.

A considerable amount of volunteer and pro-bono work went into the project. Holy Cross staff also took on additional work in revitalizing the cemetery. Expenses were covered by donations and some cemetery funds.

Anyone with questions about the old cemetery project or who wants to support the work can contact Newcomb at 906-225-0191 or nnewcomb@dioceseofmarquette.org.


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