Catholic Cemeteries of NE Kansas partner with funeral homes to offer valuable services

Less than a month ago Funeral Director Daily published this article that questioned if the days of funeral homes and cemeteries helping each other are over.  That article questioned the competitive nature of each entity that now sold products historically affiliated with the other entity as a way of “full service shopping” for death care consumers.

For instance, funeral homes are now, more than ever, actively selling monuments and cemeteries, now more than ever, sell burial vaults and urns.  Nobody denies a funeral home or cemetery’s right to do so in order to be as profitable as possible, but the article questioned whether the camaraderie of the entities had been thrown out for the sake of higher profits and, if in the long run, a competitive nature between those types of entities was good for the overall industry.

I believe each entity can do better when they cooperate to create a choice of permanent memorialization for death care consumers.  In that realm it was interesting for me to see this recent article from The Leaven that mentioned that the Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas along with funeral home partners had started to use what they call the “Catholic Circle of Protection” concept for funeral planning.

First of all, the Catholic Church does favor a concept of permanent memorialization for all members.  So, they have a vested interest in church members expressing those options.  According to the article, the “Catholic Circle of Protection” begins with the church and a plan for one’s vigil, mass, and committal.

From there the Catholic Cemeteries’ “Family Service Advisors” work with individuals and couples to make sure that the needs of those wishes are identified and pre-planned for.  That may entail purchasing cemetery space, columbarium space, monuments, interment costs and the like from the cemetery, but it may also include bringing funeral homes into the conversation to discuss and pre-plan those services also.

According to the article Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas partners with the following funeral homes to help consumers set-up their future services: “Porter Funeral Homes and Crematory (Kansas City, Kansas, and Lenexa);   Skradski Funeral Home, Kansas City, Kansas; Kansas City Funeral Directors, Kansas City, Kansas; Muehlebach Funeral Care, Kansas City, Missouri; Brennan-Mathena Funeral Home, Topeka; Dove Cremations & Funerals, Topeka; Parker-Price Cremations, Funerals & Receptions, Topeka; and Penwell-Gabel Cremations, Funerals & Receptions, Topeka.” 

Sharon Vallegjo, the President of Catholic Cemeteries is quoted in the article, “Similar to how persons preplan cemetery arrangements with us, they can now complete all of their funeral arrangements with our team as well.  Benefits include convenience, guaranteed pricing, ease for the family at their time of loss and helping ensure an individual’s wishes are met upon the person’s death.”

Funeral Director Daily take:  I was one funeral home owner who was pretty competitive and not real collaborative in my early years.  Early in my career it would have bothered me that some death care clients would visit with their church group about funeral home issues because I would have wondered if the church staff favored my funeral home or a competitors.  I preferred to be in front of potential clients personally.

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

However, over time I learned that telling of the value of the funeral and the importance of certain aspects of the death care process in a collaborative way with my competitors or colleagues could add to the list of client families who wanted full-service.  And doing this cooperatively could get us in front of more people to spread that news.

As is the case here, if the Catholic Cemetery Family Advisors can advocate for permanent memorialization, which is what the Catholic Church prefers, it might really benefit all death care providers in the area.  I think it is key, however, that the Family Advisors know what the costs of the services are and if they can be guaranteed or not – and they cannot show favoritism among funeral homes.  Quite frankly, it would be best if they bring in the family’s preferred funeral home provider to work as a team with the Family Advisor on the client’s wishes for their funeral/cremation/cemetery/church options.

While I think that collaboratively done this concept can be good for the profession as a whole, some may look at this concept and wonder if it is one of those areas where, if a cemetery counselor tries to go it alone with a family, that their goal may be to elbow into the funeral home pre-need insurance commission revenue by not only pre-arranging cemetery issues but pre-arranging funeral home plans as well.  The article does point out that the “Family Service Advisors” are all “licensed insurance providers” in the state of Kansas.

This arrangement brings up some interesting questions. . . . I think they can be answered by working as a team and making sure that all parties – church, cemetery, and funeral home provider –  are at the table helping the client family plan for their choices.

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