By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — This year’s Memorial Day Mass at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Davenport will be remembered as one of the best attended.
Organizers estimate about 300 people participated in the 8:30 a.m. Mass at which Bishop Martin Amos presided, four priests concelebrated and two deacons assisted. Also participating in the Mass were the Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Honor Guard, Boy Scout Troop 20 from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, Joe Seng on keyboard and a choir led by Ron Gunnare of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport.
Flags, chasubles and capes rippled in the wind as the Boy Scouts, clergy and Knights processed to the outdoor sanctuary in the Priests Circle of Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
They processed past rows of folding and lawn chairs that substituted for pews.
Before the Mass, the Boy Scouts led the congregation in the Pledge of Allegiance.
At the start of Mass, Bishop Amos observed that a Catholic cemetery is a reliquary (a container for religious relics) for the bones of saints. His homily focused on the meaning of remembrance, especially as it relates to the institution and celebration of the Eucharist.
It is “not only to remember what Jesus did in the past, but to call to mind at this Eucharist that the Lord is made present to us,” Bishop Amos said. “It is a memorial of Christ: his life, death, resurrection and intercession in the presence of the Father.”
The ritual calls the past into the present, and people are affected by that past in such a way that their future also is changed, he continued.
“When we sing the Litany of the Saints, it is not to just recall names from the past, but to make present those saints in Jesus Christ.”
The bishop recited a poem he’s had for years, but doesn’t know its origins. The words are especially meaningful to him in the context of Memorial Day:
“To the living, I am gone. To the sorrowful, I will not return. To the angry, I was cheated. But to the happy, I am at peace. And to the faithful, I have never left. I cannot speak, but I can listen. I cannot be seen, but I can be heard. So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea, remember me. As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty, remember me. Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, and your memories. Of the times we cried, the times we shared, the times we laughed. For if you always think of me, I will have never gone.”
Bishop Amos asked the gathering to remember those who made this nation what it is: those who fought for our freedom and sacrificed greatly and who continue to sacrifice for that freedom; the veterans who returned to a country that didn’t care; those who did not come home at all; those buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery; Knights of Columbus, priests, deacons, family and friends who have “preceded us marked with the sign of faith.”
Carter and Kaye LeBeau of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, dressed in patriotic colors and accessories, thought the Mass and the atmosphere in which it was celebrated was beautiful. Carter appreciated the bishop’s presence and his brief homily, which was an excellent remembrance for Memorial Day.
Bill and Sharon Bailey, members of St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, also appreciated the atmosphere and the setting. “This place is holy ground. I visit this cemetery often,” said Bill. He and his wife both have relatives and friends buried at Mt. Calvary.
Beth Laubenthal, whose husband Dan is a member of the Knights of Columbus, said it was neat to see so many people gathered early in the morning to remember those who have died. The couple’s son, Peter, 10, accompanied them to the special Mass.
Carey Sodawasser, assistant sexton at Mt. Calvary, was grateful for pleasant weather and the turnout. “It’s probably the biggest crowd I’ve seen for a Memorial Day Mass here.”