Remembering all souls for All Souls
You could drive past and barely give them a thought.
They’re the little pioneer and other cemeteries that lie scattered throughout the wide reaches of the Canberra & Goulburn Archdiocese.
In this week of the Solemnity of All Souls, few would realise that management of at least 20 local Catholic cemeteries lies with the Archdiocese.
One is the Catholic cemetery at Collector, a half hour’s drive north of Canberra.
The earliest burials date to the 1850s and, not surprisingly, Irish names are in abundance. There’s Michael McGrath of Tipperary, who died at Collector in 1874 aged 65, and Ellen Cronin, originally from County Cork, who died in the bushranger era aged 40.
There’s the Reardons, the Poidevins, the Davorens and many other pioneering families including children who died of afflictions and accidents common to the age.
At the Gundaroo Catholic Pioneer Cemetery south of Collector, the rains have been generous and the grasses prolific, obscuring more than 45 burials that records show lie behind the entrance portico.
Mrs Mary Hughes was the first to be buried there in 1857 with burials continuing at least to the mid-20th century.
Several inscriptions on headstones hint at great family bereavements such as Bridget Donnelly who died in 1857 aged 57 “leaving an affectionate husband and five children to bewail her loss”.
There’s also tiny Charlie Rolfe who died in 1893 aged 3, just one of many heartbreaking stories of loss in those years that remain undiscovered at Gundaroo.
Archbishop Christopher Prowse said on All Soul’s Day we should not only remember our families and friends who have died.
“We [should also] pray for anybody who has died who has got nobody to pray for them,” he said.
“That’s a great act of charity.”
An act of charity, too, to remember all those souls who have gone before us, wherever they may lie.