What is a Cemetery Permanent Care Fund?

by | May 2, 2024

You may have heard the term “perpetual care fund” which was often used in the past to describe what we now call the Permanent Care Fund. The purpose of a Permanent Care Fund is to provide funds for cemetery care and maintenance at such point in time as the cemetery is full and no longer generating any income.

It takes a lot of resources to manage a cemetery! Even one that is no longer doing burials. There are roads to plow, maintain, and periodically replace. The roofs of our mausoleums or buildings also need to be kept in good repair and replaced when needed. The buildings themselves need to be maintained. Our mausoleums at Resurrection and Gethsemane use heat and lights. Of course, there’s mowing and trimming of the lawns, maintenance of landscaping and flower beds. There is equipment needed to do all that work and repairs to that equipment. Trees need to be trimmed, sometimes taken down and replaced. Even if a cemetery has no burials, some level of staffing is needed to manage the cemetery, care for the buildings and grounds, maintain records, and be available to answer questions.

If you have a homeowners association, you pay a monthly fee towards ongoing maintenance. At the cemetery, you pay once and that’s it. All maintenance and operations have to be covered through our annual income. The Archdiocese does not subsidize The CatholicCemeteries.

The permanent care fund exists so that, when the time comes, interest from the fund will pay for these ongoing maintenance needs of the cemetery. The Catholic Cemeteries is a nonprofit organization, so every dollar that comes in the door helps to support our operations. Yes, funeral and cemetery fees can be expensive, but none of it is profit to us. All of our income goes into maintenance, operations and staffing for those tasks. We set aside 20% of every lot sale and 10% of every crypt or niche sale to place in our permanent care fund with a goal of building it for the future. To maintain our cemeteries on the interest only in the future will require significant funds. Donations to the permanent care fund are always welcome.

One of the biggest misconceptions that I’ve encountered in my years of cemetery work is that a permanent care fund will care for each and every individual grave forever. Currently, we have over 220,000 burials among our six cemeteries. If we were to give attention to each grave just once per growing season, we would have to be tending over 1800 graves per work day. That simply isn’t possible within the scope of our budget. And the number of burials we have will continue to grow. We are committed to maintaining the overall grounds, to mowing and trimming around graves. While the cemetery land is owned by the cemetery (lot owners purchase burial rights, not real estate), the monuments and markers are the personal property of the owner who purchases them, or their family. If requested by the family, we can raise a sinking marker for a very modest fee. Some families have elected to establish endowments with us which cover the cost of maintaining individual graves.

We care deeply for our cemeteries and are committed to caring for them long after we’re all gone. That’s why our Permanent Care Fund exists. If you would like to join in helping to build that fund for the future, your gifts are tax deductible and greatly appreciated.