In the woods behind the Highland Cemetery are several graves. Set away from the rest of the cemetery, the graves mark the resting places of infants who died before being baptized and a man who is thought to have lost his life to suicide.
All buried before the turn of the century, the unbaptized infants were thought to be in “limbo” and the man unworthy of consecrated ground.
That is something Father Paul Jarvis hopes to change soon, though. St. Joseph Church plans to bless the ground in which those graves lie. Jarvis said area historian Jerry Mattson brought the matter to his attention.
“Attitudes have changed a lot … especially on people who are victims of suicide,” said Jarvis.
Jarvis said in earlier times, before the church had a good understanding of depression and addiction, it was normal to bury victims of suicide and those considered to be morally problematic in burial sites outside of consecrated ground.
Today, Jarvis said the Catholic Church has a more mature understanding of suicide. Specifically, he said it is now understood that mental health issues are the root cause of the vast majority of suicides.
Additionally, Jarvis said the church no longer holds on to the belief that babies who die before they are baptized are in limbo.
That being the case, Jarvis said it’s important to provide better for those people. It would be impossible to physically move all the dead onto consecrated ground, so Jarvis said they plan to bring consecrated ground to them.
On Memorial Day, Highland Cemetery will be the last visited as part of the day’s commemorative events. Jack Wallace, who will be the keynote speaker for the ceremony, said while in the past the Highland graves have been marked earlier in the day, they moved it to end of the list to make way for the blessing.
Located on the corner of Pilot Knob and Dodd roads in Lakeville, Highland was the original cemetery of The Church of St. Joseph. The cemetery land was purchased from Thomas Hyland.
Jarvis participated in a similar blessing ceremony at the Guardian Angels Catholic Cemetery in Shakopee. Outside of the cemetery grounds there, a man by the name of John Goetz was buried. On a Friday morning in 1884, the Civil War veteran and father of three children and two step-children woke up, built a fire and put the coffee on. He then walked to his barn, climbed into the loft and hanged himself, according to the Shakopee Valley News.
In the Goetz case, Jarvis said his living descendants were very supportive of the blessing ceremony. He said many made it to the ceremony.
“Our experience at Guardian Angels was that this can be a very healing opportunity for the parish and the wider community,” said Jarvis.
While there are no known descendants of the dead buried on unconsecrated ground at Highland, Jarvis said he felt it was important to follow through on the event.
“We’re hoping to turn this into a needed conversation about suicide,” said Jarvis.
According to Dakota County Community Health, there were 42 suicides in Dakota County in 2013, the last year on record. Suicide was the second leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds.
Suicide has impacted many and Jarvis said it’s important to have open and honest conversations about it and mental health. To learn more about suicide visit the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education website at www.save.org.
Memorial Day activities
There will be a Memorial Day program at 9 a.m. May 25 in Central Park. The event will feature music by the 34th Infantry North Star “Red Bull” Brass Quintet. Father Paul Jarvis will provide the invocation and Jack Wallace will serve as the master of ceremonies.
William F. Rouleau, a veteran of the Army Special Forces and Green Beret Medic, will give the memorial address.
Cemetery visits will follow the program starting with St. Joseph’s at 10:15 a.m., Rosemount at 10:30 a.m., Rich Valley at 10:45 a.m., Pine Bend at 11 a.m., Lebanon at 11:30 a.m. and Highland at noon.
Wallace said each year local veterans honor deceased veterans by placing flags on their gravesites. Wallace asked that anyone who knows of a veteran buried in any of the above listed cemeteries who has not been honored with a marker by their gravesite call him at 612-207-5051.
Following the ceremonies a free lunch will be served at the Rosemount American Legion, 14590 Burma Ave.
The lunch will be provided by the VFW Post 9433 Women’s and Men’s auxiliaries, American Legion Post 65 and Unit 65 Auxiliary.
Rosemount’s Memorial Day events are a collaborative efforts put on by the Rosemount Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9433 and Women’s and Men’s auxiliaries; the American Legion Post 65 and Auxiliary Unit 65; Vietnam Veterans of America, Dakota County Chapter 492 and Friends and Family of Chapter 492.