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Diocese scraps planned $2.5 million funeral home and cremation center

Services better left to the private sector, church says

Monday, May 13, 2013 - 12:01 am

Local Catholic officials have pulled the plug on a $2.5 million project touted just four months ago as the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River.

In February the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals had approved the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s application to build a 13,615-square-foot funeral home and crematorium on the 175-acre campus of Catholic Cemetery at 3500 Lake Ave.

Diocese spokesman Sean McBride said at the time the project was a response to the relatively high cost of funerals in the area, which he said averaged between $12,000 and $14,000. The new facility was expected to offer similar services for thousands of dollars less and “should be welcomed by consumers. Among competitors, not so much,” he added.

In response to an inquiry from The News-Sentinel, however, the Diocese on Friday released a statement confirming that the project has been dropped.

“In the course of study of this proposal from the Catholic Cemetery Association, Bishop Rhoades; upon the recommendation of the Diocesan Finance Council, decided not to move forward with the project due to other priorities at this time,” the statement read. The Diocese also said it believed that “it would be better to leave the establishment and operation of a funeral home to the private sector. The Diocesan Finance Council also questioned the appropriateness of this project in light of the church’s mission.”

D.O McComb & Sons, which also owns Mungovan & Sons Memorial Chapel on South Calhoun St., long popular among Catholics, last year opened an 11,000-square-foot cremation center at 2307 W. Main St. McComb President David McComb told The News-Sentinel in January that he questioned the Diocese’s projected savings but said his company intended to continue serving Catholics.

The Diocese's funeral home and cremation center would not have been limited to Catholics but would have provided “overtly Christian” services, McBride said at the time. The facility would have created six jobs.