Youths ask questions during cemetery cleanup

Maria Meller
Youths from St. Mary Church in Riverside pick up broken flowers and other debris in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Riverside last month.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

RIVERSIDE — Fourth-graders from Holy Family Parish spruced up Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Riverside last month with encouragement from their religious education teacher, Maria Meller.

The remains of many of Meller’s ancestors rest there. While visiting her grandfather’s grave earlier this year, she noticed broken flowers and decorations scattered throughout the cemetery, likely due to wind and winter weather. She saw an opportunity for her students to help. “I suggested it to my students and they were very excited,” she said. “Service has always been the center of my faith. I wanted to give the gift of serving the community to my students.”

Holy Family Parish includes churches in Riverside, Richmond and Wellman, with religious education programs in each location. The youths who participated in the cleanup participate in religious education at St. Mary Church in Riverside. Meller and the fourth-graders walked between gravestones, placed trash in plastic grocery bags and straightened out flower displays.


The students asked Meller questions about death and heaven as they went along. “It led to a lot of good discussions,” she said. She was grateful for the opportunity to share Catholic teaching on what happens to people after they die.

More work remains at the cemetery, such as cleaning up brush and branches and trimming bushes, Meller said. She hopes to expand the service project to more students in the future. “It was a really good experience.”

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