On 2 November, Catholics throughout the world commemorate All Souls’ Day, a special time to honour, remember and pray for loved ones who have died, and which continues throughout the month. To mark this time, an outdoor reflective space has been created at Springvale Botanical Cemetery in Melbourne’s south-east, which provides the opportunity to pray for departed loved ones, in a COVID-safe manner.

Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) has created an outdoor memorial space in the grounds of Springvale Botanical Cemetery so that community members have a place to visit and remember their departed loved ones on All Souls’ Day. Open to everyone, between Thursday 28 October – Tuesday 2 November, the interactive reflection space includes a five-metre cross, logs that feature a word from scripture and a ‘nature tribute hollow’ allowing visitors to place their prayers and tributes within. Those who visit the reflection space will also be able to pick up a complimentary LED candle from the All Souls’ stand near Café Vita et Flores, to place within a groove on the cross.

In preparation for the opening of the reflection space, Fr Aurelio Fragapane blessed the cross, which features at the memorial site. He said, ‘For the Christian community, this space of prayer will become a sacred space for them to remember their loved ones and find strength for their own journey of faith. It will be seen as a place of pilgrimage, uniting their sorrows and pain with the sorrow and pain of Christ on Calvary.

‘By this cross, which is blessed today, we remember and pray not only for those who have died in the last year but also those who will die in this coming year. Remembrance is not only about showing our gratitude for our loved ones, but it is also about assisting them as they continue their journey towards heaven.

To stop on this day and pray for all souls is an act of mercy and love towards those who have loved us and shown us mercy. A moment of prayer not only brings relief to the souls of our loved ones, but also to us in our grief.’

SMCT started planning for and creating the memorial site some weeks ago, mindful that many in their local community would be unable to attend All Souls’ Mass – including the Mass they usually hold onsite to mark the day – due to Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions. Though restrictions have eased, allowing small numbers to now attend Mass, the outdoor reflective space provides another opportunity to take time to reflect and pray for loved ones who have died.

Chief Executive Officer of SMCT, Jane Gover, said, ‘In acknowledgement of the faith and traditions of our Catholic and Christian communities, this All Souls’ Day, we have carefully designed a memorial space for our community to pray and pay tribute to their loved ones. We welcome you to this reflection space which has been lovingly crafted from natural, reclaimed materials in honour of our earth and our people.’

Fr Aurelio expressed his gratitude to SMCT for ‘doing something positive and practical to reach out to grieving members’ in the community. He said, ‘This is a wonderful gesture by SMTC for the Christian community, not just Catholics and Orthodox but also for all who believe in the power of the cross to save. Hopefully this cross will continue to be a sign for future generations of the value of life and a road map to receiving the new life of the resurrection promised to us in Baptism.’

During the blessing of the cross, Fr Aurelio wore a red stole, rather than the purple stole that will be worn during the All Souls’ Day Mass. He explained, ‘Today I am wearing a red stole which is worn on Good Friday at the Veneration of the Cross service. This stole was placed on Calvary in Jerusalem, and I now place it on this cross as a symbolic gesture for all those who will come here to pray for the loss of their loved ones.

‘All Souls Day, therefore, is remembering this journey of faith not only of our loved ones, but it helps us to reflect on where we are on our own journey of faith. Through the Cross, Jesus has destroyed death and revealed the resurrection.’

With restrictions in Melbourne now lifting from Friday 22 October, all are invited to visit the All Souls’ outdoor reflection space beside the new mausoleum within the grounds of Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Summit Road and Hibbertia Road, from Thursday 29 October to 2 November, between 6am to 6pm. Visitors can pick up a LED candle to place at the memorial site from the All Souls’ stand near Café Vita et Flores between 9am to 4pm. For more information, visit the SMCT website.

Photography by Jonathan Lang.