By Anthony Barich
It has been a tradition for centuries for people to desire to be buried nears the church they spent much of their lives, but when Bishop Donald Sproxton blessed Infant Jesus parish’s new columbarium and prayer garden, it was especially appropriate.
The word columbarium comes from the Latin word ‘columba’ meaning ‘dove’. More fully, it means a place where doves find rest at night and from the heat of the day. In sacred Scripture the dove is symbolic of peace. In the Song of Songs, the ‘cooling of the turtledove’ indicates the beginning of spring and new life.
It is appropriate that Infant Jesus parish in Morley have a columbarium and prayer garden, as the parish has been run since 1956 by the Carmelite Friars, an Order that finds its origins and charism in contemplative prayer and founded by St Teresa of Avila in 1562 in Spain. Six years later, St John of the Cross started the first house of the Discalced Carmelite Friars.
The word ‘Carmel’ means ‘Garden of God’, according to Fr Paul Maunder, Prior of the Carmelite Friars’ Archdiocesan House adjacent to Infant Jesus Church.
A columbarium is a wall or series of walls in which the ashes of the cremated faithful are placed after death. Morley’s eight columbarium walls are named after St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and St Paul (in homage to Morley’s original patron saint when located Walter Road under its first parish priest Fr George O’Leary).
Its five other walls are named after St Therese of Lisieux, a fond saint of the parish that hosted her relics; St Francis of Assisi as there are many Italians in the parish; Australia’s first Blessed, Josephite foundress Mary MacKillop; St Vincent de Paul as the Society is strong in Morley; and St Joseph, who has always been honoured in the Carmelite Order. He is also patron saint of the dying.
The columbarium includes a shimmering cross, with rays of the Resurrection glory. “By this cross Christ the Son of God conquered sin and death,” Bishop Sproxton said in blessing the columbarium and garden of prayer and spiritual recollection.
Four parishioners are already set to be interned in the columbarium, while plaques will appear in the rose garden for the deceased from other areas who wish to be interned there.
Bishop Sproxton said the old tradition of parishes having columbariums is growing in the Archdiocese of Perth, with Lockridge and Bayswater also having one.
“It is hoped that those who come here will find inner peace in precious moments of solitude and inner communion with God and the saints,” the bishop said.
In his blessing, Bishop Sproxton said: “May this memorial garden be a place of prayer for the dead and comfort for the living.”