Remembering those who gave so much

Elsa Reed of St. James Parish in Novi cleans the graves of diocesan priests at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield during the St. John Vianney day of service Aug. 4. Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

Volunteers clean gravesites of priests, religious at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

Southfield — On a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, parishioners from across the Archdiocese of Detroit honored those who brought light to people’s lives through a simple act of love.

In commemoration of the Aug. 4 feast of St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests, parishioners were invited to clean, decorate and pray at the tombs of Detroit’s deceased clergy and religious at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield.

Sherry Ossy, family service advisor for Holy Sepulchre, told The Michigan Catholic the inaugural event included cleaning graces of sisters, priests and deceased archbishops.

“We’re really excited to spend this time with the parishes,” Ossy said. “We’re an extension of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and this is wonderful opportunity for families and parishioners to do a Christian service project.”

Work included pulling weeds, trimming grass and scrubbing the facades of headstones, some dating back to the 19th century.

“With St. John Vianney the patron of clergy, we felt this would be the perfect day to have the Holy Spirit come down upon us as we care for the deceased clergy and pray of the priesthood and continued vocations,” Ossy said.

Sandra Nissan of St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills also volunteered in memory of her sister, who died in 2013 and is buried at Holy Sepulchre.

“I came out to the cemetery today because these people matter, and just because they’re gone doesn’t mean they’re forgotten,” Nissan said. “When I visit my sister’s gave, I don’t want it to be messy and have stuff overgrown.”

Vickie Rutkowski of St. Alphonsus-St. Clement Parish in Dearborn was cleaning the graves where the Felician Sisters are buried and noted how many years of service the women gave to the area.

“I say some prayers when I’m working, cleaning a headstone or pulling out weeks,” Rutkowski said. “I think about how these people gave a whole lot of their lives. You think of all the years of service, all the classes taught, all the Masses celebrated, and it’s really humbling.”