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Feature Articles

First Green Burial Takes Place at Motherhouse Cemetery

The Sisters of Charity long-standing commitment to preserving and protecting the Earth can now continue even after a Sister’s death. On Tuesday, July 22, S. Mary Pat Wagner was the first Sister of Charity of Cincinnati to have a green burial. Sister died on Sunday, July 20 and was buried in a simple ceremony in the Motherhouse cemetery 48 hours later.

Two years ago, the Leadership Council of the Sisters of Charity approved the option to choose a more earth friendly type of burial. “Green” or natural burial involves returning the body to its natural cycle of life. In doing so, individuals are buried in a simple shroud without embalming and without a concrete grave liner.

According to a June 21, 2012, article in the National Catholic Reporter, “Green Burials Offer Ecological, Ancient Way to Say Goodbye to Loved Ones,” a natural burial carries a lower ecological footprint. Vault-less burials and simpler material from renewable materials create much less embodied energy. And unlike cremation, which releases some greenhouse gasses in the incineration process, green burials release little to no greenhouse gas. And the nutrients that are in our bodies are recycled back to the Earth.

Having the Sisters’ Mount St. Joseph cemetery on Motherhouse property enabled the Community to look more closely at and to choose this environmentally friendly type of burial as an option. Sisters Joyce Richter and Winnie Brubach organized the proposal. They prepared discussion materials on all Sisters of Charity burial options for use in small group discussions. S. Joyce reflected on today’s green burial:

“Today’s celebration of the life of S. Mary Patricia Wagner was so extremely beautiful, prayerful and touching. This first green burial of our Community was truly a memorable experience as many Sisters prayed and sang on this warm sunny morning. Natural (green) burial is a way of honoring the sacredness of Earth and participating in the natural cycle of life and death.

“Having spent several years exploring the possibility and writing up the proposal for green burial, it was a wonderful moment to see this possibility come to pass!”