Archdiocese planning new mausoleum for Holy Cross Cemetery

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Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, already containing the most significant mausoleum section among Catholic cemeteries in the U.S., is planning a new mausoleum construction project to add space on the same footprint of the existing cemetery.

Representatives of the Archdiocese of Newark, which owns and operates the sprawling 208-acre site bordered by Ridge Road to the west and Schuyler Avenue to the east, presented plans for a new mausoleum construction project to Mayor Daniel Pronti and the Borough Council on July 14.

Ultimately, the proposal will go before the borough Planning or Zoning Board for design approval. However, the municipal governing body will have the final say because the cemetery sits within the Ridge Road Redevelopment Area.

Michael Saul, an architect who serves as director of Construction, Planning, and Development for the Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Cemeteries, said the mausoleum program needs to expand because the latest addition to its single mausoleum structure—opened in 2012—is nearly full. The 250,000-square-foot facility was designed for a capacity of 35,747 internment spaces.

Since Holy Cross Cemetery opened its doors in 1915, the cemetery has been home to some 300,000 buried below and above-ground, in caskets and urns, putting available land space at a premium—as is the case for many final resting grounds around the state and country.

That’s why, Saul said, the Archdiocese has turned to above-ground burials as a more efficient option by accommodating more interments vertically on the same amount of land that a traditional grave would use.

Traditional graves account for 55.6% of all interments in the cemetery; mausoleums hold 22.8%; below-ground urns have the remains of those cremated, 11.4%; and urns interred in the mausoleum, 10.2%, according to Saul.

He said the expansion plan calls for the erection of two smaller-sized mausoleums separate from the existing structure to accommodate additional above-ground burials. One is an 8,945-square-foot “open-air mausoleum,” with room for 1,600 mausoleum crypts and 500 cremation urn niches and, to the east, a 22,000-square-foot “chapel building” to handle 2,600 caskets and possibly up to 3,500 urn spaces.

The central portion of the open-air building will feature a wood cathedral ceiling, below which families and friends of the departed loved ones will gather to offer committal prayers.

Saul said the chapel building would be a fully enclosed, climate-controlled structure with a central chapel space and connecting corridors containing interior crypts arranged in columns along each corridor’s hallway. He added this structure would house 2,600 casket spaces and urn spaces for up to 3,500 cremated remains.

Both structures’ exteriors will mimic the façade of the existing mausoleum with a combination of polished and honed granite veneer, featuring rough ashlar granite accents. The interior will feature marble crypt fronts and religious-themed artwork retrieved from now-shuttered archdiocesan houses of worship such as St. Lucy’s, St. Bridget’s and St. Boniface of Jersey City’s downtown sector.

Saul said part of the project would include installing two additional interior roadways, each three lanes wide, to accommodate upward of 25 cars each at a time.

The cemetery’s existing vehicular ingress and egress points will remain off Ridge Road and Schuyler Avenue. Also in the works is a parking lot just north of the chapel building, with room for 14 spaces to be shared by the garden and chapel buildings.

Even with the additional mausoleum space added, Saul said cemetery officials anticipate less overall traffic from funerals, except for those involving public figures and civil servants.

Saul said the archdiocese has projected the project will take three years to complete. Once all necessary approvals have been secured, it is hoped that construction can begin in spring 2023, with the garden building projected to take 18 months to build and the chapel building, 30 months with some construction happening concurrently, according to Saul.

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York