Catholic cemeteries in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties are reopening to the public starting today with limited visiting hours and restrictions based on public health guidelines.
A May 8 announcement from Catholic Cemeteries & Mortuaries of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles stated that its 11 locations will be open for visitation on Sundays from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., and on Monday through Saturday from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Brian McMahon, Director of Community Outreach for the Cemeteries and Mortuaries, told Angelus that the limited reopening came after talks with public health officials in the three counties where Archdiocesan cemeteries and mortuaries are located.
“We have been in continued communication with local public health officials throughout this pandemic,” explained McMahon. “We made the unprecedented decision to close for visitations to ensure the safety and well-being of our patrons and staff during the pandemic.
“We will be following recommendations from public health officials as we resume visitations with certain accommodations to keep visitors safe while they visit their loved ones.”
According to the new policy, the number of cars entering a cemetery at any given time may be limited to prevent crowding. McMahon said the issue could arise this Sunday, since the reopening coincides with Mother’s Day weekend, typically one of the busiest times of the year for cemetery visits.
“We expect that we will have a high number of visitors which may result in longer wait times for entering cemetery grounds due to limited capacity,” said McMahon. “Patrons are encouraged to consider visiting on other days to allow for appropriate social distancing.
“Our cemeteries personnel will be doing all we can to ensure the safety of our patrons and hope that we can count on everyone’s cooperation and understanding as we do all we can to welcome patrons back safely.”
McMahon noted that some may not be able to visit their departed loved one on Mother’s Day, which is why the Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries of the Archdiocese are presenting a special livestreamed Mother’s Day rosary to honor the memories of mothers who have passed planned for Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We understand that some may still not be able to visit their loved ones on this special day due to limited capacity, or because they may be in a high-risk group. We hope that this special rosary and prayer service will provide a moving tribute to all mothers and unite us in prayer with our loved ones.”
Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries will also continue to livestream a weekly Memorial Mass on Tuesday’s at 11 a.m. to celebrate the lives of those who have died during the pandemic.
McMahon said that the limited Monday - Saturday visitation hours are to avoid interference with gravesite services, which happen earlier in the day and will continue to be limited to ten visitors practicing social distancing.
“Not having visitations during the hours that burials are taking place provides for more spacing among patrons during visits at the cemeteries,” explained McMahon. “It is in the best interest for the safety of our patrons and our staff.”
“Government and public health orders still do not allow for funeral Masses so we are doing all we can to maintain the sanctity of gravesite burials for the families who are burying their loved ones during these difficult times, while also ensuring their safety.”
Under the new changes to the temporary policies during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, group visits are limited to ten people and 30 minutes per visit. Visitors must wear face coverings at all times and maintain six feet of social distance from each other during visits, the announcement said.
Archdiocesan cemeteries and mortuaries closed to the public on March 21, when the Archdiocese announced that they would temporarily close for regular visitation, in accordance with guidance from public health and government officials.
Other restrictions will remain in effect, including the two-family member limit on visitors making in-person funeral or burial arrangements.
“We pray for your comfort, health, and understanding during these difficult times,” read a May 8 message addressed to Cemeteries and Mortuaries patrons. “Your Cemeteries and Mortuaries management are reviewing the situation daily and are committed to a return to normal operations as soon as possible.”