Published June 21, 2011
Volume 19, Number 6

CFCS Co-Locates Memorial Chapel with Hacienda Offices        
Organization Seeks to Address Needs of Families in New Ways

The staff of Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services in their new
Hacienda offices, just outside the memorial chapel that is part of
the facility.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

The opening of the new Catholic Funeral & Cemetery Services (CFCS) facility in Hacienda represents a new way of reaching out to the community. Locating a memorial chapel in the middle of a business park may seem an unusual notion. Yet the move makes perfect sense for the organization as it explores fresh options to fulfill its mission.

A nonprofit ministry of the Diocese of Oakland, CFCS is responsible for managing the cemeteries and funeral homes for the diocese, which stretches across Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The organization currently has six diocesan cemeteries, two of which have funeral homes on site, and five stand-alone funeral centers from San Pablo to Antioch to Livermore.

“Our first cemetery, Holy Cross in Antioch, was dedicated in 1863, so we have been around for a long time,” relates CFCS director of marketing Stephanie Sloane. “We are seeking to become more relevant within the community by addressing the needs of families in new ways. We'd like to convey that cemeteries are a sanctuary for the living, and that funerals are an important moment to gather together. It is more than just celebrating the life—it is a faith-filled gathering of families and friends connecting to the Catholic tradition.”

The new site, at 4457 Willow Road, is divided almost equally between administrative offices and the funeral center. The offices consolidate a growing management and accounting staff that had previously been housed on two separate sites within the diocese, in Hayward and Lafayette.

The funeral center consists of a chapel and reception area for memorial services. The glass-walled, light-filled building, looking out onto a peaceful pond, provides a soothing and serene backdrop. “We strive to create a warm and welcoming environment in all our centers, so they are positive places of remembrance and gathering,” Sloane comments. Light is a powerful metaphor in the religious context, she adds, noting, that “for Christians, life does not end but changes.” CFCS serves families of all faith traditions, not just Catholics, providing a non-profit approach to what is often perceived to be a very expensive service.

While unconventional, the new location is not the only evidence of the diocese's response to more contemporary tastes. The undeniably modern architecture of Oakland's Cathedral of Christ the Light is another example Sloane cites. Similarly, some of the cemeteries have planted unused acreage with vineyards whose grapes are harvested to make sacramental wine. “We are trying to bring something new to the picture,” she comments.

The Hacienda facility also has several practical dimensions. “It speaks to our goal of taking a subject most people don’t want to talk about and putting a more positive face on it,” Sloane continues. The higher visibility helps CFCS with its responsibility to educate the community about Christian teachings on death, burial, and cremation, and emphasizes the importance of advance planning to ensure individual needs and wishes will be met.

Location also played an important role in the choice of the Hacienda site. “Pleasanton is a growing and thriving community, and we wanted a stronger presence here to serve our families,” Sloane comments. She also points out that CFCS's status as a nonprofit allows the purchase of cemetery property to qualify as a charitable contribution for tax purposes. The organization's Mother Theresa financial assistance program also helps defray expenses so “everyone is eligible for a spiritual, dignified end-of-life service,” she concludes.

For more information, visit www.cfcsfuneral.org.


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