In general, the Catholic cemeteries in Halifax are maintained by the Catholic Archdiocese, of which Holy Cross cemetery is one. Unfortunately, due to fiscal restraints, the Catholic Archdiocese has been unable to do the necessary repairs and refurbishing. When our predecessor organization, Holy Cross Cemetery Trust, became involved six years ago, many of the headstones had deteriorated through weathering and vandalism, and were toppled and broken. Moreover, the chapel had weathered to the point of needing significant repairs and refurbishing, and the fencing was in bad disrepair.
In addition, the Commission’s responsibility is of a more general nature, without responsibility for individual interment markers unless it becomes one of public safety. A majority of the stones were erected prior to the provision of perpetual care funds and for many of those persons buried at Holy Cross, there are no descendants in this generation to provide the maintenance required for these markers.
Faced with these conditions at Holy Cross, the Trust embarked on a project to provide the level of care required to restore the cemetery. With the help of initial donors and volunteers, work got underway. The Trust undertook to straighten, repair and re-erect as many of the stones as possible. In the last six years, a rotating crew of volunteers has shown up every Saturday morning in the fine weather (from May to October) to get it done. Averaging about 30 workers on any particular Saturday, some 200 volunteers have been involved altogether over this period in this labour of love with the “stones”. Funds raised by the Trust have gone to renovations and repairs on the chapel and the replacement of hundred of feet of fencing. Have a look at the Volunteer Gallery on Flickr to see who has been involved.
With the work done this year, the worst physical problems have been fixed. Next summer, we anticipate that the renovation crew will meet one Saturday a month to work on some of the most difficult and time consuming cemetery stone jobs, and the annual repair and maintenance which is required.
As the physical renovation is slowing down, though, the genealogical work is ramping up. Given the importance of Holy Cross Cemetery to many generations of Irish families, the Charitable Irish Society of Halifax, with the support of Saint Mary’s University, initiated the research and recording of names and inscriptions on all gravestones within the cemetery. The information collected will serve as a record of Irish history in Halifax and support the genealogical research of Irish families buried at Holy Cross. We invite you to join in the efforts of the Trust in respecting those who have gone before us and the history they have provided.