All Souls Day, observed after All Saints Day, calls for the commemoration of the faithfully departed.
"It's an opportunity for the Catholic church to pray for all those who have gone before us," said Monsignor Michael Becker, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lakemont.
He explained that All Saints Day - observed Nov. 1 - is the day for the church universal to celebrate those who are with Christ in heaven because of their sanctified and exemplary virtuous life.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Monsignor Michael Becker watches as Joan Price adds silk flowers to a vase at the Priests’ Circle at Calvary Cemetery. A prayer service will be held at the site at 10 a.m. on Nov. 2.
On the following day, Catholics consider relatives, friends and others who have died.
Among them are the deceased priests who have served in the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. They will be remembered at the third annual prayer service to be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 2 at the Priests' Circle at Calvary Cemetery, 2417 Pleasant Valley Blvd. The service is hosted by St. John's and will be led by Becker.
The circle is at the top of the hill at the cemetery and is the final resting place for 26 priests, representing 14 churches in the diocese. Some of the graves date back to the mid-1880s.
While most of the departed priests served parishes in Blair County, such as Our Lady of Lourdes in Altoona or St. Mary's in Hollidaysburg, others were from St. Thomas Parish in Ashville or St. Patrick's in Northern Cambria (Spangler).
While many other deceased priests are buried in family or parish plots, the setting offers a peaceful resting place for the men who dedicated their lives to serving the spiritual needs of others.
With that thought in mind, Joan Price, a member of St. John the Evangelist, decided that the graves needed sprucing up.
Price said she would pass the Priests' Circle on the way to visit her mother's grave.
"It seemed so dismal. There were no flowers," she said. "I thought somebody should do something."
Price said she decided she was that somebody and called the diocesan offices for some help. Her desire was to purchase vases for each grave that she could fill with silk flowers.
Betty and Ron Peschock, also members of St. John, helped her organize the information from the diocese about where each priest served. She also began a campaign to raise money for the 26 vases which cost $90 each. She said the permanent vases are anchored so that the wind cannot topple them over.
Price said it took about a year to raise the funds, and she has been changing the silk flowers in the vases with each season for about three years.
She said tulips decorate the graves for Easter, mums for autumn and poinsettias for Christmas.
"The priests don't have children or wives to do it," she said.
Her future plans include cleaning some of the gravestones that have become discolored with age.
"They really deserve it," she said of the efforts to keep the priests' final resting place in order.
"They gave their all to their parishioners until they died. It's the least we can do for them."