When the Diocese hosted the national Catholic Cemeteries Convention in the Coachella Valley last month it unveiled plans for Guardian Angels Catholic Cemetery, a second piece of consecrated land for burial in the Diocese and one that reflects a growing trend.

The Diocese will lease one acre of land within Joshua Tree Memorial Park, where it will offer 800 gravesites, half of which will be “green” sites. These graves differ significantly from traditional ground burial sites in that they are meant to “allow the body to return to the earth as quickly and efficiently as possible,” according to literature provided by Joshua Tree Memorial Park.

Specifically, green burial does not involve the use of embalming chemicals that would pollute the environment; it does not utilize a cement vault or metal casket, which impede the body’s contact with the earth. Instead, the body is lowered in the grave in a biodegradable casket, basket, or simple shroud. Halfway through the filling of the grave, a layer of rock is placed to guard against any intrusion by local wildlife. Green burial sites are dug by hand, with no heavy equipment used, and no chemicals or fertilizers are utilized in the upkeep of the cemetery.

Aesthetically, a green burial site is characteristic of the surrounding landscape, featuring wood from local trees, local plants and natural stone. A traditional headstone is not used.

“It allows us to appeal to the younger generation that is organic and sensitive to protecting the environment,” said Al Martini, Director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Diocese. “Joshua Tree is the perfect location due to the undisturbed environment it provides.”

On Sept. 20, the second day of the Catholic Cemetery Convention, the more than 250 attendees rode three tour buses from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree, where they got a firsthand look at some of the local green burial sites. Some were adorned with natural articles like seashells, tree stumps and animal skulls. Others had religious icons made of natural materials.

“It can be done in a way that is consistent with Catholic theology, it’s cost effective and it’s environmentally responsible,” said Convention attendee Damian Lenshek, Director of Catholic Cemeteries for the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. He has begun to see green burials increase in popularity in parts of his diocese. “You can touch all the bases,” he said.

Full story at Inland Catholic Byte.