By Kathy Fanger
Parish Outreach Coordinator - Catholic Cemeteries
Annual Memorial Day Veterans’ Tributes and Masses were held at Gate of Heaven and Calvary Catholic Cemeteries on Monday, May 28.
Over 1,100 people gathered at both locations to remember veterans and loved ones interred there.
At Gate of Heaven Cemetery’s celebration, tall American flags waved from each side of the long entrance drive welcoming visitors. Earlier in the week, Girl Scouts placed flags on the graves of military veterans.
Boy Scouts from Troop 446, Sunnyvale, and Girl Scouts from Service Unit 8, Los Altos and Sunnyvale, helped to welcome visitors and pass out programs.
The day began with a Veterans’ Tribute from American Legion Post 558, Los Altos. A presentation about the meaning and history of Memorial Day was given by Post Commander Mike Bucini, followed by lowering the American flag at the Veteran’s Section. Buglers Scott Johnson and his father played TAPS.
Knights of Columbus Portola Assembly 49 led the procession of Auxiliary Bishop Thomas A. Daly and clergy to the lawn pavilion where over 800 visitors awaited the celebration of Mass.
Joining Bishop Daly were Fathers Christopher Bennett, Paolo Gobbo, Peter Luc Phan, and Deacons Brian McKenna and Lionel Mancilla.
Bishop Daly reminded the people of three things: First, Jesus said, “Remember, I am always with you.”
“For those who mourn the loss of their loved ones, take comfort that you are never alone,” the bishop said.
“Second, be grateful for all the people who have made a difference in your lives: family, teachers, coaches, all those who believe in you and offer you hope. You, too, are called to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Third, “For those who mourn the loss of their loved ones, take comfort that you are never alone,” he said.
A Memorial Day Veterans’ Tribute and Mass were also held at Calvary Cemetery in San Jose. Knights of Columbus, St. Joseph Assembly #2246 led the Veteran’s Tribute.
Msgr. Joseph Milani, joined by Father Steven Kim and Deacon John Vu, celebrated Mass for over 300 guests.
Msgr. Milani reminded the congregation that while their grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers, children and loved ones rest at the cemetery, they actually are enjoying a new life in the kingdom of heaven with Jesus.
“Life has changed, not ended, and we can look forward to one day being reunited with them and Our Lord,” he said.
Many volunteers help with Memorial Day events at the Catholic Cemeteries. They include the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the American Legion and Knights of Columbus, and Eucharistic ministers, lectors and choir members from local parishes.
Special thanks go to Suzanne Fitzgerald, liturgist from St. Simon Parish, Los Altos; Dan Morris, Director of Music and Liturgy from St. Joseph of Cupertino; pianist Lothar Bandermann, choirs from local parishes, the Schola Cantorum, Cantors Brian Yoshii and Rosie Dominguez, and musicians Michael Wright and Andrew Boyle.
Throughout the afternoon, family members and friends continued to visit their loved ones at the cemeteries.
Randi and Ralph Petrone of Sunnyvale spend every Memorial Day placing daisies, forget-me-nots and roses from their garden, on the graves of veterans who do not have any flowers.
This year, they decorated 35 graves at Gate of Heaven’s Veteran’s Section.
• History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, was announced May 5, 1868 by General John Logan and was first observed on May 30 that year.
Its purpose was to devote a day to intentionally remember and honor all those who have given their lives in service to their country. It is not to honor war, but to honor those who have died in wars.
Some rituals observed on this day include flying the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon and remembering at 3 pm to pause and think about the true meaning of the day.
“Taps” is often played during these ceremonies. Many people place flowers, flags and mementos on the graves of loved ones.
We pray for those who have died and we pray for all those men and women serving in the armed services around the world, past and present.
At Gate of Heaven’s Veteran’s Plaza, six monuments representing the five branches of military service and also those Missing in Action (MIAs) stand near the American Flag. On one monument, there is this prayer:
“Dear God, Shield us from the weapons of war and hatred and allow all people to live in tranquility and peace. May this place be a comfort for the living and a sign of hope for unending life. Amen.