Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The subject of a deceased loved one’s remains is a very sensitive one, and as Catholics in Singapore, we value the attention shown by our Church columbaria in ensuring that these remains receive the utmost care and respect.
It is in this context of ensuring the continued care and consideration for a deceased person’s remains, that I would like to explain some upcoming changes that will be adopted to the policies and procedures of our Catholic columbaria and the actions that existing niche-holders will need to take.
After a thorough study of the operations of the 17 existing columbaria in Singapore parishes, the Archdiocese has recognized the need for a more consistent system of policies and practices governing all parish columbaria. The scarcity of land also calls for the introduction of certain provisions into new contracts, which will include time limitations on the use of a niche.
With the active cooperation of the respective parishes and expert legal advice, a set of Terms and Conditions Governing the Use of All Parish Columbaria in the Archdiocese of Singapore was elaborated and formally approved and promulgated by me for all to observe.
A summary of the Terms and Conditions is as follows:
• They are mainly of a “house-keeping” nature, setting out what has already been adopted by most columbaria.
• They will enter into effect from 1 March 2012.
• They will apply to all parish columbaria (freehold and leasehold).
• Existing agreements will be honoured within the terms specified.
• In new bookings of niches, the use of the niche will be restricted to a term of 30 (thirty) years, renewable.
• To assure a smooth transition, parishes have not accepted any new bookings from 28 September 2011 onward (the date they first agreed on the 30-year term); new bookings will resume on 1 March 2012. In case of emergency, the 30-year term must be maintained while the contract can be signed later.
The introduction of measures of this nature requires diligent preparation and execution, as well as the loyal cooperation of all concerned. The priority is to ensure that we pay the utmost respect to our loved ones.
Therefore, in the coming weeks, parishes will send a copy of the Terms and Conditions to all persons who already have the ashes of their loved ones kept at a columbarium or who have booked a niche for future use. This will be accompanied by a personal letter from the Parish Priest further explaining the details and what this new contract ultimately would mean to them.
It is expected that most, if not all, parishioners will continue their existing agreement. However, if, for some reason, a parishioner decides not to make further use of the columbarium, this person should contact the respective columbarium by 20 February 2012.
In such a case, by common agreement, churches will refund part of the donation that was originally made for the use of the Niche, based on a standard formula applicable to all Catholic columbaria.
To bring this exercise to a successful completion, parish columbaria need to update their records, in particular recent and accurate contact addresses. To this end, special forms will be available for the next two weekends at all parishes, including those that do not have their own columbarium.
All persons who already have a booking for a niche are kindly requested to fill out the form and hand it back as soon as possible to any parish office, at the latest by 14 December 2011.
Completed forms will then be forwarded to the respective parishes, so that columbarium records can be duly updated. The various columbarium administrators can then send out a copy of the Terms and Conditions and the special letter.
A dedicated hotline will be available from 11 Dec 2011 to 20 Feb 2012 to address any related questions.
Your assistance in this process will be greatly appreciated.
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop Nicholas Chia
Note: the “Franciscan Columbarium” at St Mary of the Angels does not belong to the parish and, as such, is governed by its own Terms and Conditions. However, there is no substantial difference from those introduced by the Singapore Archdiocese.