Remains of Passionist priests moved from St. Paul of the Cross, reburied at Holy Sepulchre

From left to right, Bethany Emery, John Santeiu III, Laurie Allen, Mary Hall, Jim Alexander and Bob Hojnacki stand with a Celtic Cross marking the site where 25 Passionist priests were recently reburied at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield. The priests' remains were moved from St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center in Detroit as a result of a joint effort between Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services, Santieu Funeral Homes and the Passionist Fathers. (Photo by Melissa Moon | Detroit Catholic)

Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services facilitates transition free of charge for Detroit-based religious order

SOUTHFIELD — Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services and the Passionists Fathers have teamed up to give 25 Passionists buried in Detroit a more permanent resting place.

In July, the remains of 26 Passionists were moved from the community’s grounds at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center, 23333 Schoolcraft in Detroit, and 25 were reinterned at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery at 25800 W 10 Mile in Southfield. One Passionist’s remains were claimed by his family to be buried in another state.

“The Passionists reached out to us almost two years ago, and we decided to help them out,” Bob Hojnacki, director of cemetery services for the Archdiocese of Detroit, told Detroit Catholic

Holy Sepulchre didn't charge the Passionist Fathers for the move. 

“We don’t charge for any priest in the Catholic Church, either for burial or disinterment,” Hojnacki said, adding Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services also has programs to help families in financial need bury loved ones. “This is why we are here: to be the final resting place, to be entrusted with the care of the remains of people who dedicated their lives to God.”

Hojnacki said it was a lengthy process working with Wayne County to gather death certificates. The whole project, which was completed with the help of Santeiu Funeral Homes, took about a year and a half.

The disinterment and removal of the remains of the Passionists, who lived at the Passionist monastery from 1930 to 1995, was sparked when the current owners of the property adjacent to St. Paul of the Cross began looking to sell.

“We sold what used to be a big residence for the Passionists across the parking lot from the retreat center, where the guys lived between 1930 and 1995,” said Fr. Phil Paxton, CP, local superior for the Passionists. “To get to where the guys were buried, you had to go through the adjoining property. We had an agreement with those who bought the property, but they are looking to sell, and we weren’t sure what the future would be. So we thought it would be prudent to move them to a more permanent location.”

It took a week for cemetery staff to disinter the remains at St. Paul of the Cross, transport them to Holy Sepulchre and reinter them in the clergy section of the cemetery.

“When a person is in the ground, you have to take the memorial off, the markers, and document the remains with the markers to make sure you had the right marker to go back to the correct burial,” Hojnacki said. “Our grounds staff came in to dig up the vault, replace the vault fit — it was in poor condition; some of the vaults were 50 years old — move the vaults if they were in good shape and physically drive it over to the cemetery, where the hole is pre-dug.”

All the Passionists’ remains are buried together at Holy Sepulchre, with the Celtic Cross that was at St. Paul of the Cross prominently marking the site. Fr. Paxton said there are plans for further markings to indicate where the Passionists are buried.

“I think the people who come (to visit the cemetery) have relationship with the men who are buried here, so they may want to visit their gives,” Fr. Paxton said. “This is a way to help them do that and is a way to honor the memory of the guys buried here.”