The Catholic faith is full of wonderful and inspiring traditions that tie us to Jesus Christ throughout the entirety of our lives.
Baptism welcomes and initiates us into the Church where we reject sin and embrace the core values that will guide our lives. In Holy Communion, we further our connection as the bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ — the Real Presence. Through marriage, husband and wife form a life-long union with Christ.
Just as important is the Order of Christian Funerals, which lets us mourn and grieve, and pray for the soul of the departed, who breaks the bonds of this earthly existence to see God in the face. But this important tradition — which includes the Vigil for the Deceased, the Funeral Mass and the Rite of Committal — has been in serious decline. 
A study conducted in the Diocese of Pittsburgh found Funeral Masses, Vigils for the Deceased, Rites of Committal and Burials in Catholic cemeteries are dwindling due to numerous factors including cultural changes in this country and a general lack of understanding of Church teaching.  
Now families can be given the peace of mind that their wishes — and those important elements of the Catholic Funeral Rites that protect and preserve this rich Catholic tradition — will be respected. 
The Catholic Funeral Plan®, offered by Albany Diocesan Cemeteries, is a faith-based, pre-need plan that allows Catholic families to plan their funeral arrangements in advance. The plan guarantees that, when you die, the funeral arrangements you’ve selected will be delivered as planned and in accordance with the liturgical traditions of the Church.
“A traditional Catholic funeral of a wake service, Funeral Mass and graveside committal service is important to many. People enroll in The Catholic Funeral Plan® (CFP) to ensure that they will receive the funeral they desire,” said Rick Touchette, Executive Director of Albany Diocesan Cemeteries. “They also know it is a prudent planning tool because their policy will grow tax-free, their family will control the final selection of funeral goods and services, and any excess funds are returned to the policy-holder’s beneficiary.”
The Catholic Funeral Plan® was first developed by the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1999 and has more than 20,000 enrollees in dioceses around the country. Here is just a small sample of what the plan does:
• Protects the Church’s teachings and guarantees families an affordable funeral in the traditions of their Church.
• Gives enrollees the peace of mind of knowing that their family will be spared the burden of making decisions about their funeral and burial and that there will be no doubt as to their wishes.
• Reconnects the Catholic family with the Church.
• Allows Catholic families the flexibility to change their funeral plans and provider even if they relocate worldwide.
• Protects their investment by allowing the family to maintain control of their funds. Excess funds are returned to the family or can be gifted eliminating the risks of traditional funeral planning.
• Assures the family has provided for the cost of their funeral. The insurance policy protects against inflation and grows in value every year. If the policy benefit exceeds the funeral costs, the excess will be paid to a designated beneficiary.
• The Catholic Funeral Plan® will be there when a family needs it, and is portable in the event that the enrollee moves. 
But in the words of the dedicated staff of Albany Diocesan Cemeteries, The Catholic Funeral Plan® offers so much more.
“The Funeral Mass is of utmost importance,” said Joshua Grant, a Family Service Representative with Albany Diocesan Cemeteries. “The CFP has its inception in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and, due to a massive decline in Funeral Masses, the Bishop and clergy in Pittsburgh had the foresight to say, ‘This is a huge problem, souls need this Mass, how can we fix this?’
“The Catholic Funeral Plan, number one, is going to ensure you receive your funeral Mass. There is a bit of a misunderstanding, sadly even from Catholics, about who the Mass is for. Many don’t really understand that the Funeral Mass is for the soul of the deceased, not for those left behind. CFP will reach out to the deceased’s parish at the time of death to facilitate family communication and ensure the Mass is carried out.”
Grant adds the plan relieves loved ones of a huge financial and emotional burden.
“Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, when we die, there is someone who is going to be responsible for the care and disposition of our remains,” Grant said. “We can either leave the burden for that person or persons, or we can take positive actions now, on our terms, to take control of those end-of-life expenses and decisions, and reduce the stress, confusion and financial burden that families are left to navigate through when a loved one has passed.”
Lori Biskup, a Family Service Representative, says our Catholic traditions bring ‘peace and comfort.’
“I have found in my years at the cemetery that when steps are skipped it is harder for families to fully grieve their loss. When traditions are not honored, family members may feel badly about not fulfilling their loved ones’ wishes,” Biskup said. “It is important to remember that the Catholic Church is steeped in tradition and that tradition brings comfort and peace.
“Every Catholic should have their full rites of Christian burial, especially a Funeral Mass. The Mass is for the soul of the departed — what better gift of love and expression of faith in our belief in the Resurrection? The traditions remind us of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us, and gives us hope of being reunited one day with our loved ones.”
Biskup adds the plan educates the family on cost and funds “those expenses so the family will never have to worry about paying out of pocket” while honoring their wishes.
Tina Marzano says enrolling in the plan starts a critical and, at times, difficult but very necessary discussion.
“People are uncomfortable with talking about death and don’t want to even think about their loved one dying,” said Marzano, a Family Service Representative. “However it is truly a generous and compassionate act when an individual has pre-planned all aspects of their death.  It reduces the emotional and financial burdens that their loved ones would typically face at time of death.”
Again the plan makes sure that your wishes, which include a complete Rite of Christian Burial, will be fulfilled while preserving something necessary and important.
“The Catholic Funeral Mass has always been my favorite celebration in the Catholic Church. I am reminded of a person’s baptism many years ago through the white vestments etc., and then I stand in wonder that through Christ’s resurrection our beloved relative/friend now gets to enjoy the banquet of love and joy of God’s blessing,” Marzano said. “The placing of the pall, the selection of hope and mercy liturgical readings, and the crucifix placed on the casket give witness to a better life ahead for us.
“For me personally as a CFP agent and Albany Diocesan Cemeteries representative this combined ministry allows me to help preserve, promote and protect the important traditions of the Church.”

For more information, call: 518-350-7676.


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