Visiting cemeteries on All Souls Day remains a tradition for local Catholics

By Daniel P. Smith | Contributor
Sunday, November 4, 2012

During her childhood in Poland and into her adult years in the Chicago area, Barbara Kozub has spent every All Souls Day visiting cemeteries in a day marked by reflection and prayer.

And this Nov. 2 was to be no different, as Kozub planned to venture to Chicago area cemeteries with her husband and two daughters in tow to continue the faithful tradition so much a part of her Catholic heritage.

“We will attend Mass and go to the gravesites of family to pray for their souls and remember their lives,” said Kozub, a parishioner at St. Constance, 5843 W. Strong St.

The annual ritual, one particularly engrained in Polish and Hispanic cultures, will play out throughout the archdiocese on All Souls Day, as Catholic cemeteries throughout the area will host Masses and welcome visitors committed to remembering the lives of the departed.

Celebrated on Nov. 2, All Souls Day traces its roots to the earliest days of the Catholic Church, wherein the names of deceased parishioners were posted on church doors to prompt community remembrance in prayer.

While All Saints Day on Nov. 1 recognizes those members of the church believed to be in heaven, All Souls Day inspires devotions to the faithful individuals who have passed into the afterlife as well as the souls still believed to be in purgatory and in need of prayers to reach heaven.

Indeed, remembrance is a central tenant of Catholic faith, said Deacon Glenn Tylutki, outreach coordinator of cemetery services for Catholic Cemeteries. In fact, he points to the eucharistic words of Jesus — “Do this in remembrance of me” — as proof.

“As part of our Catholic faith, we truly believe that life has changed, but not ended,” Tylutki said.

Visiting cemeteries

Tylutki said people visit cemeteries throughout the year to not only reconnect and pray for those who have left this earth, but also to be reminded of their own faith. All Souls Day, he said, serves as an annual push to respect life’s continuum and the faithful ideal that we will all someday be reunited.

“Part of our Catholic faith is continuing traditions and passing on traditions,” Tylutki said. “Visiting a cemetery physically, mentally and spiritually shows our humanness. It reminds us not only who we are presently, but what we will someday become.”

Tylutki added that being in the presence of those who have gone before us serves as a powerful reminder of the faith and love that binds us together.

“As we look upon gravesites, the physical remains of those who have left us, we see that a relationship that began on earth is now a divine, everlasting one,” Tylutki said.

Yet more, visiting gravesites often sparks important — even intergenerational — conversations and memories of those who have passed into the afterlife.

“On All Souls Day, we are reminded that the spiritual heritage we have today is because of others who gave it to us,” Tylutki said.

Continuing a tradition

Last year, Father Gene Dwyer, pastor at St. Thecla, 6725 W. Devon Ave., led a group of about five dozen parishioners to St. Adalbert Cemetery in northwest suburban Niles. The group processed around the cemetery with incense and holy water, stopping frequently to pray.

This year, Dwyer will again lead a group to St. Adalbert’s.

“Part of our liturgical life is praying for the souls of the deceased on Nov. 2,” Dwyer said. “As Catholics, we believe in the resurrection and in praying for the holy souls in purgatory. This has always been an important part of our Catholic tradition.”

With her father buried in Poland, Kozub said the All Souls Day tradition of visiting gravesites offers peace, particularly knowing that members of her family in Poland will visit her father’s gravesite and pray for his soul.

“It’s very comforting to know that people are lighting a candle in memory of him,” she said.

And in instilling this tradition in her two daughters — ages 8 and 12 — Kozub also said it’s reassuring to know that someone will pray for her and other loved ones on All Souls Day following her departure from this earth.

“I would like my daughters to honor, remember and pray,” she said. “It’s something we’ve passed from generation to generation as the good and noble thing to do for other people.”