356 Government St cemeteries@mobarch.org (251)434-1557

Catholic Cemetery of Mobile

Location Address:
1700 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., Mobile, AL 

Mailing Address:
356 Government St.
Mobile, Alabama 36602

Telephone: 251-479-5305
E-mail: tilmonb@mobarch.org

Director: Tilmon Brown

Catholic Cemetery of Mobile is a historic 150-acre cemetery located in Mobile, Alabama. It was established in 1848 by Michael Portier, a native of Montbrison, France and the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Mobile. The cemetery contains roughly 18,000 burials and has plots dedicated to various Roman Catholic religious institutes, including the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, Daughters of Charity, Little Sisters of the Poor, and Sisters of Mercy. The Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 3, 1991.

Prior to 2018, Catholic Cemetery of Mobile was owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Mobile. Today, under Catholic Cemeteries, Inc., the cemetery is active and burials take place on a regular basis. The Cemetery also contains an enclosed Mausoleum. In addition, burial plots are available for purchase.

Catholic Cemetery of Mobile has played a vital role in the Mobile area since the time of the French who founded Mobile. Burial in the consecrated ground of Catholic Cemetery, among fellow believers, is the final expression of our faith as Catholics.

Mobile’s Catholic Cemetery serves as a sanctuary where we seek solace and a symbolic reminder that death is not the end but a prelude to our resurrection and everlasting life.

For a great article from Mobile Bay Mag on the history of Catholic Cemetery and its original location in downtown Mobile, Click Here.

Final resting spot: Cremation guidelines

By ROB HERBST, The Catholic Week

Many Catholics understand the Church permits cremation, but many are also unaware there are rules regarding the choice.  

Since 1963, the Catholic Church has accepted cremation as an option but insists the bodies be treated with respect, laid to rest in a consecrated place and that the ashes should not be scattered.

“Most people have gotten the message it’s OK to cremate, but they’ve not gotten the message that there are rules that govern what to do with those remains,” said St. Vincent de Paul Parish Pastor Fr. Stephen Vrazel, who led a three-night series last year on Catholic traditions surrounding death.

“I’ve encountered people who still have their family members’ ashes in the home, which is not permissible. … I gently explain why we wouldn’t do that. And a lot of times people aren’t in a place to hear that message, so it’s another reason why it’s important for me to explain very clearly what the Church expects of us.”

As cremation has become a more common practice of laying a loved one to rest, Catholic Cemeteries, Inc. of the Archdiocese of Mobile is providing an option to meet the needs of Catholics. Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi recently blessed a new columbarium at the Catholic Cemetery of Mobile.

There are 176 available niches. A 95-niche columbarium is also in the works at St. Margaret Cemetery in downtown Montgomery.

In 1963 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an instruction permitting cremation as long as it was not done as a sign of rejection of the belief in the Resurrection of the body. In 2016, the Congregation released “Ad resurgendum cum Christo” (“To Rise With Christ”), an instruction “regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation,” which reiterated the Church’s teaching.

According to Fr. Vrazel, cremation had been forbidden because in past centuries it was tied to pagan cultures that denied the resurrection of the body “which is an integral part of our belief and integral part of our funeral liturgy. If you ever go to a Catholic funeral, notice how often there is reference to the hope in the resurrection of the body.”

While cremation is accepted, with standards, burial of the body is still preferred.

“It’s because the Church has a great respect for and a great reverence for the human body, even after the person has died – mainly because God creates the human person’s soul and body. It’s still God’s creation and we treat it with great respect. It’s very good to have the body in the Church for the funeral rites for us to be able to sprinkle it with Holy water, incense it and do honor and reverence to God’s creation.”

But if cremation is chosen, “The Catholic practice is you would treat cremated remains the same way you would treat noncremated remains,” Fr. Vrazel said.

This means keeping one’s ashes in an urn on a mantle is forbidden. So is scattering of ashes at a random location like the ocean.

Along with respecting the body and God’s creation, Fr. Vrazel said it’s important to have a place to mourn the deceased.

“That visit to a cemetery is very important,” Fr. Vrazel said.

“If you scatter somebody’s ashes over the Atlantic Ocean, where do you go in remembrance of that person? Yes, you could say you go to the beach, but it’s not focused, it’s not a locality, it’s not a place you go to visit that person. Just as we revere the remains of the saints, and we build churches over tombs of those we consider holiest in the Church, even for someone who is not a saint, it’s important for us to go and remember that person.”

Since 1963, the Catholic Church has accepted cremation as an option but insists the bodies be treated with respect, laid to rest in a consecrated place and that the ashes should not be scattered.

“Most people have gotten the message it’s OK to cremate, but they’ve not gotten the message that there are rules that govern what to do with those remains,” said St. Vincent de Paul Parish Pastor Fr. Stephen Vrazel, who led a three-night series last year on Catholic traditions surrounding death.

“I’ve encountered people who still have their family members’ ashes in the home, which is not permissible. … I gently explain why we wouldn’t do that. And a lot of times people aren’t in a place to hear that message, so it’s another reason why it’s important for me to explain very clearly what the Church expects of us.”

As cremation has become a more common practice of laying a loved one to rest, Catholic Cemeteries, Inc. of the Archdiocese of Mobile is providing an option to meet the needs of Catholics. Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi recently blessed a new columbarium at the Catholic Cemetery of Mobile.

There are 176 available niches. A 95-niche columbarium is also in the works at St. Margaret Cemetery in downtown Montgomery.

In 1963 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an instruction permitting cremation as long as it was not done as a sign of rejection of the belief in the Resurrection of the body. In 2016, the Congregation released “Ad resurgendum cum Christo” (“To Rise With Christ”), an instruction “regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation,” which reiterated the Church’s teaching.

According to Fr. Vrazel, cremation had been forbidden because in past centuries it was tied to pagan cultures that denied the resurrection of the body “which is an integral part of our belief and integral part of our funeral liturgy. If you ever go to a Catholic funeral, notice how often there is reference to the hope in the resurrection of the body.”

While cremation is accepted, with standards, burial of the body is still preferred.

“It’s because the Church has a great respect for and a great reverence for the human body, even after the person has died – mainly because God creates the human person’s soul and body. It’s still God’s creation and we treat it with great respect. It’s very good to have the body in the Church for the funeral rites for us to be able to sprinkle it with Holy water, incense it and do honor and reverence to God’s creation.”

But if cremation is chosen, “The Catholic practice is you would treat cremated remains the same way you would treat noncremated remains,” Fr. Vrazel said.

This means keeping one’s ashes in an urn on a mantle is forbidden. So is scattering of ashes at a random location like the ocean.

Along with respecting the body and God’s creation, Fr. Vrazel said it’s important to have a place to mourn the deceased.

“That visit to a cemetery is very important,” Fr. Vrazel said.

“If you scatter somebody’s ashes over the Atlantic Ocean, where do you go in remembrance of that person? Yes, you could say you go to the beach, but it’s not focused, it’s not a locality, it’s not a place you go to visit that person. Just as we revere the remains of the saints, and we build churches over tombs of those we consider holiest in the Church, even for someone who is not a saint, it’s important for us to go and remember that person.”

History

Catholic Cemetery was established by the Archdiocese of Mobile on December 18, 1848 when the first acreage was purchased north of Three Mile Creek by Bishop Michael Portier. It was founded to serve the needs of Mobile’s Roman Catholic citizens after the Catholic section of Church Street Graveyard was filled to capacity after various yellow fever epidemics struck the city in the 1830s. The 1848 sections cover 5 acres and features an unusual design consisting of three large concentric rings, instead of the more typical east-west configuration. The circular design surrounds a square plot dedicated to the Daughters of Charity, with a large marble monument in the center commemorating their sacrifices during a yellow fever outbreak in 1853. It was platted in this manner under the direction of Bishop Portier and was possibly executed by Claude Beroujon, who designed Mobile’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception a decade earlier. The vast majority of burials predate the American Civil War.
 
By January 1866 the older section of the cemetery was full, prompting Bishop John Quinlan to purchase an additional 15 acres adjacent to the existing area. The new section was planned with a grid configuration, with the grave plots oriented to a new central drive. This section contains the plots for the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of the Poor, and Sisters of Mercy. It also contains the graves of Father Ryan and Admiral Semmes, which made it an important Confederate pilgrimage site during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This area of the cemetery was expanded numerous times by land purchases in 1903, 1910, and 1921. In keeping with its main purpose as a religious burial ground, a permanent altar with a tall bronze Crucifixion scene was added in 1929 for the All Soul’s Day Mass and Rosary. The New Catholic Cemetery was opened to the rear of the older burials in 1948, greatly expanding the total acreage of the cemetery as a whole.

Notable Interments:
Timothy Meaher, a wealthy 19th century shipyard owner and shipper. He owned the infamous slave-ship Clotilde.
John L. Rapier, owner of the Mobile Register and postmaster of Mobile.
Father Abram Joseph Ryan, widely known as the “Poet-Priest of the Confederacy.”
Admiral Raphael Semmes, captain of the famous Civil War commerce raider CSS Alabama.