Funeral Planning


This life is short, and the life to come is eternal. When a Catholic Christian departs this world for eternity, the Church commends him or her to the love and mercy of God. The Funeral is a time to remember the deceased and to give thanks to God for the gift of his or her life. Even more so, it is a very privileged and sacred time to pray for the deceased, asking God to grant them a merciful judgment, and to grant peace and consolation to their family and friends.


Most families will choose to have a Funeral Mass offered for the soul of deceased. The Mass is the central and most powerful prayer of our Catholic faith, and so it is the most fitting way that we can pray for our departed loved ones. There are circumstances, however, in which it may be more appropriate to have the Funeral rites conducted outside of Mass (whether in the church or at the funeral home or graveside) based on who plans to attend. In such cases, one of the regularly scheduled parish Masses can be offered at a later time in memory of the deceased as a means of praying for that person. Cathedral staff can be helpful in answering any questions about choosing one form or the other of the funeral liturgy.


The family of the deceased is welcome and encouraged to actively participate in planning the Funeral Rites. Members of the parish staff, together with the priest celebrant, will assist the family in choosing appropriate Scripture readings and readers, and the appropriate music, so that the Funeral Mass itself can be a truly prayerful and beautiful opportunity to pray for the deceased, as the Church commends him or her to the love and mercy of God. Normally some designated members of the family will arrange an appointment with the priest or member of the parish staff before the funeral to finalize these details and to discuss briefly any other details regarding the liturgy. These planning details can also be conducted via phone.


The “Funeral Planning” tab on the Cathedral website has links for viewing the various choices for Funeral Readings. One (1) First Reading and one (1) Second Reading should be selected. The Gospel will be chosen by the priest celebrant.

Some designated family members or friends of the deceased may choose to participate in the Liturgy by proclaiming the Readings and the Prayers of the Faithful. It is not a requirement for the family to find such volunteers as a reader from our Cathedral parish can be appointed to this role.

If chosen, the selected readers should be:

  • practicing Catholics in good standing with the Church,

  • appropriately and modestly dressed,

  • and able to proclaim the readings clearly and calmly, as is appropriate for the liturgy


Music is an especially important part of the Funeral Liturgy. By its very nature, the Church’s Liturgy is sacred. It is a time set apart, in a sacred place, specifically for the worship of God. Thus, it is possible only for sacred music to be used during the Funeral Liturgy. Any non-sacred, or “secular” music which may hold a particular significance to the family of the deceased would be more appropriate to be played either at the wake, or at the reception following the Funeral Liturgy. Our priest and Director of Music will be happy to guide you in the planning of a prayerful, tasteful, and reverent Liturgy.

There are many beautiful hymns and antiphons which come to us from all the centuries of the Church’s life of prayer and worship. As the Cathedral church of our Diocese, we prioritize this musical tradition. There are, however, some music options available to the family. Please see the Music Planning Guide at the end of this packet to assist you with your selections.

The standard funeral at the Cathedral involves the use of our Cathedral organist and cantor. With sufficient notice and for an additional fee, families can request to have a small ensemble of singers capable of singing the full Requiem Chants of the Roman Liturgy.

Should a family wish to bring in non-parish liturgical musicians and cantors, a “bench fee” to the Director of Music will be assessed. Furthermore these musicians and musical choices must be approved in advance for our Director of Music.


As Catholics we believe that the Eucharist really is the Body and Blood of Christ and our reception of Holy Communion is a sign of our full unity in faith. For this reason at Funeral Masses—as at all Masses—we respectfully insist that Holy Communion be received only by practicing Catholics who are not conscious of grave sin. Generally the priest will make a brief announcement to this effect during the Mass, especially so that non-Catholics and others who are not receiving Holy Communion can be put at ease about what is expected and avoid embarrassing or confusing situations.

We also have generous confession times at the Cathedral for those wishing to avail themselves of this great sacrament of mercy.


The practice of giving “Words of Remembrance,” also known as a eulogy, is actually not a part of the Catholic funeral liturgy. Since eulogies are often seen at funerals, however, families sometimes think that they are obligated to designate someone to offer a remembrance of the deceased, or to express thanks on behalf of the family. While this is understandable, no such obligation exists.

Yet some families, as part of the grieving and healing process, have a desire for loved ones to share stories and memories of the deceased. It should be remembered that the Funeral Liturgy is a time of very intense emotions, and it is often more difficult than people realize to retain their composure while offering words of remembrance in church.

Due to our experiences with Words of Remembrance in the past, it is our recommendation to everyone that Words of Remembrance not take place in church. If the family does wish that Words of Remembrance be offered, it is best that this take place at the wake, at the cemetery, or at the luncheon following the burial – rather than at the Funeral Liturgy itself.

At the same time, we intentionally make every effort to provide a homily which is as personal to the deceased as possible, while also explaining the hope of eternal life which is offered to us in Christ’s victory over sin and death. In our experience, this alleviates any need for additional words, which are often repetitive.


If a family would like to invite a Priest or Deacon to celebrate or concelebrate any of the Funeral Liturgies, they would be welcome to do so, provided that the invited Priest or Deacon is currently in good standing in his Diocese or Religious Order. We ask any visiting clergy to respect the guidelines listed in this document.

If an invited Priest or Deacon is from another Diocese, or from a Religious Order outside the Diocese of Rochester, he must bring with him a document called a Testimonial of Ministerial Suitability from his Bishop or Religious Superior, for presentation to the Diocesan Chancery here in the Diocese of Rochester. Our parish priests would be happy to facilitate this process with any visiting clergy.


When a member of your family is seriously ill or near death, whether at home or in the hospital, a family member should contact the parish office to request the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and the Apostolic Pardon.

Especially if death occurs unexpectedly, the shock and confusion of the time can sometimes obscure the fact that everything which takes place within these Funeral Rites must be of a sacred nature, since the Funeral Liturgy is principally an act of divine worship.

So if, for instance, it is not possible for the parish to accommodate some requests, such as a specific poem, song, or article which was special to the deceased, it should be remembered that other moments, outside of the Mass (such as at the wake, the interment, or the reception following it) are actually more appropriate times for such things to be shared with family and friends.

We at Sacred Heart Cathedral are here to support your family in your time of grief and loss, and we will be sure that the Funeral Liturgy is celebrated with all possible dignity, prayerfulness, and beauty.