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Fort Wayne's Catholic cemetery plans $2.5 million funeral home, crematory

Would be the first of its kind east of the Mississippi

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 12:01 am

A project believed to be the first of its kind in the eastern United States is expected to increase choices – and lower prices – for people arranging funerals in the Fort Wayne area.

The Catholic Cemetery, which was established in 1873 by Bishop Joseph Dwenger, has asked the city's Board of Zoning Appeals for permission to build a $2.5 million, 13,615-square-foot funeral home and crematory on its 175-acre campus at 3500 Lake Avenue near White Oak Drive.

Sean McBride, communications director for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, which owns the property, said the project is in response to an opportunity presented by the area's relatively high cost of funeral services. Local funerals average between $12,000 and $14,000, “But if you go to South Bend or Indianapolis, the average is $7,000 or $8,000, (excluding burial),” McBride said. “We hope to bring down the cost of funerals (in Fort Wayne).”

It was just last year that D.O. McComb & Sons opened its 11,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art cremation center at 2307 W. Main St., near Lindenwood Cemetery. McComb's holdings include Mongovan & Sons Memorial Chapel at 2114 S. Calhoun St., long popular among Catholics.

“This project should be welcome by consumers. Among competitors, not so much,” McBride said. The new facility would not be restricted to Catholics but would provide “overtly Christian funerals,” he added.

But McComb President Dave McComb challenged McBride's numbers, saying his company often provides services costing less than $7,000 to low-income families, including those on Medicaid or township assistance.

“Mungovan's has been here for generations, and people choose (funeral homes) based on family heritage or because they know a member of the staff,” McComb said, adding that his company intends to continue serving Catholics and other religious customers.

Cremation was generally considered unacceptable among Catholics, but the church in 1963 issued a statement permitting the practice so long as cremation was not chosen as a sign of disrespect for the body or as a rejection of the faith and resurrection. Several other local funeral providers also operate crematories, McComb said.

If the BZA approves the project next month, ground could be broken in the spring and construction completed before the end of the year. The new facility would create about six jobs, McBride said.

According to the Catholic Cemetery Association's BZA application, this would be the first Catholic funeral home on the grounds of a Catholic cemetery east of the Mississippi River.