Catholic News Service photo
Sextons transfer the unclaimed remains of 33 people into the mausoleum crypt in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
Catholic News Service photo
Sextons transfer the unclaimed remains of 33 people into the mausoleum crypt in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
STURGEON BAY, Wis. — The prayers recited late last month at St. Joseph Cemetery were identical to any other Catholic funeral rite. But this service, led by Father Carl Schmitt, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish, was different.

The funeral service was for the unclaimed cremated remains of 33 people. Many of the remains had been at the funeral homes for decades, said the spokesmen at the homes.

“A lot (of the remains) were just unclaimed and for a number of reasons,” said Father Schmitt following the service. “The funeral homes did their diligence in trying to find family members first.”

As the priest said during the service, no one in attendance knew who the deceased were but everyone understood it was a way to “give them back to God.”

According to Todd Huehns of Huehns Funeral Home, giving the cremated remains a dignified resting place was the main reason he contacted St. Joseph Cemetery earlier this year.

“Once (efforts to find relatives were) exhausted, we contacted Father Carl and asked if we could proceed” with interment at the cemetery, Huehns told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

“Father Carl said he would take care of contacting the cemetery board and find out if they could help. They provided at no cost the space in the mausoleum and said it was all part of their ministry for these souls; that they needed to be somewhere.”