Why Select A Mortuary Before You Need One?

By Paul Larson

MILLBRAE – I recently attended a family funeral in Southern California. The burial took place at a long established Catholic Cemetery which later decided to build a Mortuary facility on their property. I knew from past experience that this cemetery was well maintained and had a good reputation. The immediate family had other loved-ones buried at the cemetery and wished to return this time too. With the knowledge that this cemetery had a Mortuary on the grounds they trusted it to be convenient and decided to have this facility handle the funeral arrangements.

Prior to the funeral I had some phone contact with the Mortuary staff and saw nothing out of the ordinary. But soon after I spoke to family members who relayed troubling details such as higher than average costs, questionable service and other apprehensions that raised a “red-flag”. I listened carefully taking into consideration that funerals and arrangements may be conducted differently in Southern California (as compared to here on the Peninsula). Later though I discovered that these concerns and others were all valid as I experienced them myself during the funeral. Coming from the background of owning a family run and community supportive funeral home I was embarrassed at what I saw as a production line process with little compassion or time to care for the families this Mortuary is supposed to be serving.

I wondered how the Catholic Church could allow this Mortuary to operate in such a manner? Well, I did some research and discovered that the “Archdiocese of Los Angeles” has mortuaries located on a number of their cemetery properties, but does not operate them. According to the “Funeral Consumers Alliance of Southern California” the Archdiocese has an arrangement with “Stewart Enterprises” which is a New Orleans based mortuary corporation. “Stewart Enterprises” runs a website called “Catholic Mortuaries.com” giving a misleading impression to many that the Catholic Church operates these facilities.

When patronizing one of these mortuaries on Catholic cemetery grounds most families assume that they will be receiving a level of comfort as they would from their local church or parish priest. None of this was evident during my experience of extremely high costs (compared to what was received) and the dis-interested service provided by the mortuary staff. I don’t see this as a failing of the Catholic cemetery, but of those in charge of running this mortuary.

The point I’m trying to make is to do your homework and shop for a Funeral establishment you are comfortable with. Just because a Mortuary is located on cemetery property doesn’t mean they are your only choice or that they offer fair costs or give better quality of service. You have the right to select what ever funeral hom you wish to conduct the arrangements. Talk to various funeral directors, and ask friends and families who they would recommend.

If you ever wish to discuss cremation, funeral matters or want to make pre-planning arrangements please feel free to call me and my staff at the CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS in Millbrae at (650) 588-5116 and we will be happy to guide you in a fair and helpful manner. For more info you may also visit us on the internet at: www.chapelofthehighlands.com.