We are one holy, catholic and apostolic church, but every diocese and every parish has its own richness and customs. Catholic funerals in the Archdiocese of Portland are a case in point.

For instance, Carole Kay is one of three volunteer funeral coordinators at St. Anne Parish in Grants Pass. When a family loses a loved one, she and Father Bill Holtzinger, pastor, sit down with the family and walk them through what needs to be decided for the funeral.

“It’s very satisfying to help people in their time of need,” Kay says about her work. “I’m honored to do it.”

There’s no fee for funerals at St. Anne, although nearly every family donates to a funeral fund that pays for receptions.

The only set cost is $100, to either a cantor or pianist for the music.

However, you won’t find Kay at any other parish and you won’t even find her counterpart at some parishes. Each parish has its own way of carrying out the recommended practices set forth by the archdiocese — which in turn developed those recommendations from canon law and the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.

The guidelines include when, where and who:

When: Funeral Masses can be celebrated on “any day except solemnities that are days of obligation, Holy Thursday, the Easter Triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent and the Easter season.”

Where: “A funeral Mass should be celebrated only in a parish church, chapel, or oratory where Catholic Mass is normally celebrated. Celebrating a Funeral Mass in a cemetery or funeral home chapel would require an exceptional circumstance and the permission of the local ordinary.

Who: Priests cannot refuse funeral rites for a Catholic without permission of the local ordinary.” Canon law does not prohibit funeral Masses for someone who committed suicide.

The guidelines also cover funeral rites, the order of the funeral Mass, how the deceased should be laid to rest, and specific questions about eulogies, praying the rosary and music.

The archdiocesan guidance for stipends states that in accordance with canon law, “offerings given in conjunction with the celebration of the sacraments or funerals belong to the parish unless the donors clearly state they wish the gift to go to the priest. The priest is entitled to take a Mass stipend if he has not already received a stipend for another Mass that day... Funeral parlors should be instructed that offerings on the occasion of funerals should be made out to the parish and not the individual priest.”

There’s no stipend for Father Holtzinger at St. Anne. “We suggest they give to the funeral fund,” says Kay.

At Shepherd of the Valley Parish in Central Point, Father Ben Tapia, pastor, says families there also are encouraged to donate to the church. “We provide a reception; it’s to help with that,” he says.

Father Tapia and his staff offer telephone contacts for musicians — the going fee for a funeral is $100.

In Coos Bay, musicians charge a bit less ($75 each for a funeral) and in Portland it can be more. Joseph Muir, a music editor at Oregon Catholic Press and a cantor at St. Mary Cathedral, says he typically receives $150 to $175 for a funeral Mass.

Funeral Masses are a respectful and loving way to say goodbye and to join families and friends together. But what if a very elderly person has outlived his or her family and friends?

“For some people, we only go to the hospital where they die,” says Father Tapia in Central Point.

He explains the parish works to accommodate the wishes of the family, whether that’s just a blessing when the person dies, a prayer service, blessing the tomb or a funeral Mass.

Kay too knows of families who choose prayers at the graveside rather than a funeral Mass. “All their friends and family were gone,” she says.

Kay has also known non-Catholic families who wanted a funeral Mass for their deceased because he or she was a good Catholic. “Then Father just explains that they won’t take Communion, but he’ll give them a blessing.”

kristenh@catholicsentinel.org