From ancient times, people have buried the dead with a marker to denote the name, date of birth and death. The practice gave families and even strangers, a connection to the life of the deceased and a way to document their passing.

As more and more people chose cremation, it became common practice to scatter ashes, and enterprising funeral businesses even capitalized by imbedding the ashes into mementos – even turning them into diamonds – or selling individual containers so ashes could be divided among family members.

Different faiths have directives on how to respectfully address human remains and cremains.

In line with the directives of the Catholic faith, Padre Marco Lopez, pastor of Holy Family Parish and St. Joseph’s Chapel here, arranged with a company to install a Columbarium in each of the two churches.

Each niche in the columbarium (there are 50 at St. Joseph’s) will hold four traditional size urns. So a family space is very possible. Niches in Arizona are priced from $2,500 and up. The cost to purchase a niche at St. Joseph’s is $1,200 USD and the niches are offered to people of all faiths.

The columbarium is affixed to the back wall of the church and a prayer for the departed will be part of the bilingual Mass offered every Sunday at 9 a.m. Father Marco said, “I celebrate Mass for every soul. We are all the children of God.”

Because of the beautiful artwork on the face of the niches, the plan is to place a directory on the side of the columbarium with brass plaques designating the number of the niche, the name, dates of birth and death of the deceased, and whatever tribute the family desires.

Although the Catholic Church holds to the preference that the body of the faithful departed be buried, a concession was made in 1963 to allow for cremation.

However, Vatican instructions, handed down by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, require that “the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery, church or … in an area which has been set aside for this purpose…”

The instructions further state that “the conservation of the ashes … in a domestic residence is not permitted … the ashes may not be divided among various family members and … it is not permitted to scatter the ashes … in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”

Padre Marco will begin accepting payment for the niches this month in the office at Holy Family Parish. For more information, to reserve or purchase a space, you can contact St. Joseph’s sexton, Bob Keller by phone at 928-706-6928, by e-mail at or at Mass.

To reach St. Joseph’s take the paved road past the Sandy Beach resorts and the dirt road past Wrecked at the Reef. As you wind toward Cholla Bay, the church is on the right and clearly marked.

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Padre Marco Lopez (center) thanks the installers of the new columbarium at St. Joseph’s Chapel in La Choya.