Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington

About Us

History of the Catholic Cemeteries
of the Archdiocese of Washington

“Christ’s Resurrection...if we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution...is the greatest ‘mutation’, absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history.”
— Pope Benedict XVI, April 15, 2006

The first Catholic cemetery was established with the first burial of the first disciple of Jesus Christ after the event of his Resurrection from the dead. That very first burial would have been very different from all burials in the past, since those first believers had been witnesses of something radically new in human history: a Man who had died, rose again, and seen by his friends, with the promise that they could experience this same destiny.

With this hope and memory, early believers gathered to celebrate Mass, receive Christ in the Eucharist and await his Second Coming. They buried their dead close by in anticipation of the whole community’s resurrection of the body in Christ. This is why the earliest word for Catholic cemeteries can be translated as “dormitories” of rest.

As the good news about the Risen Christ was witnessed to around the world, the Christian community recreated the original experience again and again. The burial of the dead was close to the place where the faithful gathered to celebrate the Mass. In America, the earliest Catholic cemeteries were in the land surrounding the first chapels of the New World, many of them in Southern Maryland.

As the Church in what now is the Archdiocese of Washington grew, parish Churches such as historic St. Ignatius Church, Port Tobacco, Maryland; St. Joseph’s, Pomfret, Maryland; St. John’s, Forest Glen, Maryland; St. Mary’s, Rockville, Maryland; and many others, buried their dead nearby. In 1858, Mount Olivet cemetery was established in heart of Washington, D.C., becoming the first central Catholic cemetery in the area to serve many parish communities.

As land values and other costs rose, the Archdiocese implemented a plan to provide additional centralized cemeteries for the burial needs of parishes in the growing suburban areas: Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Lower Montgomery County, Maryland; Resurrection Cemetery in Prince George’s County, Maryland and St. Mary’s Queen of Peace Cemetery in Southern Maryland. These cemeteries were operated by the Archdiocese and independent of each other. Each cemetery had its own management and operating structure, its own accounting department, and its own operating policies. While this loosely knit plan was an improvement over past practices, it too left room for improvement.

In 1978, the Archdiocese developed and implemented a formal management plan to further modernize the operation of Archdiocesan cemeteries. The plan called for Archdiocesan cemeteries to be consolidated into one organization, and so, the Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington, Inc. was formed and incorporated. In 2003, All Souls Cemetery was developed to serve the growing Catholic communities in Upper Montgomery County, Maryland.

The Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington, Inc., presently consists of five major cemeteries and two minor cemeteries which were former parish cemeteries:

The two minor cemeteries area:

  • St. John’s Cemetery, Forest Glen, Maryland
  • St. Mary’s Cemetery, Lincoln Road, Washington, D.C.

In addition to operating Archdiocesan cemeteries, CCAW, Inc. provides cemetery services to the various parishes throughout the Archdiocese. These services include administrative, operational, and marketing of the parish cemeteries located in these parishes.

 

History of Catholic Cemeteries