By Jen Reed

Kevin Shervinskie walks the verdant, sloped grounds of All Saints Cemetery in Elysburg on a perfect spring day. The dogwood trees there are in full bloom, and the manicured cemetery is fresh with color from flowers placed at gravesites on Mother's Day. As he strolls the driveways that meander around and through the grounds, Shervinskie contemplates his connection to All Saints, one of a number of cemeteries operated and cared for by the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Shervinskie's grandparents are buried here. He purchased a plot here. And, for the past six months, he's been serving as cemetery manager here.

He respectfully took the reins from longtime manager Mike Rugalla in November - on All Souls Day to be exact, when the Catholic Church remembers in a special way all of the faithful departed.

He understands the significance of his work - to care for the 25 acres of sacred ground and the final resting place of so many, to meet with bereaved people who are faced with burying their loved ones.

In fulfilling this position, he draws heavily on his previous experiences of serving those who are grieving.

For 23 years, Shervinskie had worked as a funeral director in Shamokin, consoling people in their time of need, just as he does now at All Saints.

"Being the cemetery manager here is a perfect opportunity for me to continue to be of service to people in their time of need, to offer support and consolation," Shervinskie said.

"Many families I worked with at the funeral home know that I'm here now at All Saints, and I've kept a connection with the other funeral directors in the area, so that has been advantageous to my work here," he said. In the cemetery office, where Shervinskie readily accepts phone calls and visits, there is a dining room table and a set of chairs. Here, he offers those overwhelmed by grief a chance to sit, to consider a plot or marker, to talk about their needs, or share stories about their deceased loved one, or just to gather their thoughts or some strength.

"When people come in to the office, I come out from behind my desk and the main counter, and come out here to be with them," Shervinskie said as he gestured to the table and chairs.

"It's about being caring and consoling, listening to people's needs, working with them on their financial concerns," he said.

"Often, when people come to see me, it's during their most difficult time. It's important for me to care for their needs first," Shervinskie remarked. "Sometimes I sit here at the table with them for an extra hour because they just might need someone to talk to. I do a lot of listening, whether it's here in the office, over the phone, or out in the cemetery."

Catholic cemeteries are sacred spaces. They offer a place to remember the dead and to pray for them, to contemplate sure hope in the resurrection.

Among the in-ground plots, mausoleums and columbarium at All Saints Cemetery are Stations of the Cross. The Stations, indicated by large markers depicting each scene, begin at the cemetery entrance and weave through the grounds.

Statues, crosses and images of the Risen Christ and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary fill the Catholic cemetery, which offers burial for both Catholics and non-Catholics. And, each Memorial Day, weather permitting, All Saints Cemetery hosts a special outdoor Mass, which is set up next to the cemetery office. Some 250 people gather each year for the Memorial Day Mass, which has been a tradition at All Saints Cemetery since 1988.

"There is a long tradition of caring and compassion here," Shervinskie of the cemetery, which was established in 1965. "We have dedicated staff members that offer perpetual care for the beautiful grounds."

"This cemetery is important to me, and I appreciate the opportunity to care for it and to be here to help people," he said. "Whether it's walking through the cemetery to help someone find a loved one's grave, or listening to people in their grief, I'm here for them."

(Republished with permission from The Catholic Witness.)