The following comes from a Jan. 5 story in the Catholic Sentinel, the archdiocesan paper of Portland, Oregon.
A decision several years ago to plant vineyards to beautify vacant cemetery land and produce wine for Mass has proven to be a win-win for the Diocese of Oakland and its parishes and schools.
The plan by Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services of the diocese took root in 2006 when they were looking for ways to make open grounds more attractive at various cemeteries and reduce maintenance costs. About 16 acres of grapes have been planted. Production in 2013 totaled about 1,200 cases (12 bottles to a case) of altar wine.
The grapes are produced into wine by a contractor, and the bottled altar wine is offered free to diocesan parishes. About 74 of the diocese’s 84 parishes have sampled the sacramental wine, said Joe Rivello, director of winery operations, and about half the parishes have taken advantage of the offer.
Cemetery wine managers estimate parishes could consume about 865 cases a year. “At an estimated retail cost of $6 a bottle delivered, that is a savings of $52,000 to the parishes of the diocese,” Rivello said.
At St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon, Father Ray Zielezienski, pastor, estimates the donated wine saves the parish about $2,500 a year.
In a letter to parishes, Bishop Michael Barber wrote: “The grapes planted in our cemeteries are clearly now not only part of a beautification project, but, providentially, became a sign of our participation in eternal life, through the celebration of the Eucharist.” Parishes will not only benefit from its quality, the bishop continued, but also financially from the wine donation.
Catholic Cemeteries has also donated wine to parishes and charities to support local fundraising activities, Rivello said. One Knights of Columbus council raised $600 for youth homes, a San Damiano retreat raised $720 at a fundraiser, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul sponsored a winetasting benefit as part of its 100th anniversary celebration….
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