Teen’s Eagle Scout project restores worn bridge at Mount Olivet Cemetery

In addition to providing service and fulfilling the part of the Boy Scout Oath, “To help other people at all times,” one of the key aims of the Eagle Scout service project is to learn, improve or demonstrate leadership. One young man’s recent project achieved those goals and visitors to more than century-old Mount Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge will benefit as a result.

On July 27, Quinn Filby, 16, of Troop 770 at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, led a group of fellow Scouts and adult volunteers in restoring the railing on a 70-foot-long bridge that crosses one of two ponds at the nearly 400-acre cemetery. Filby and friends had previously painted the new railings and guardrails.

“The bridge was in poor shape,” said John Miller, outreach coordinator for the Denver Archdiocese’s Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services. “The paint was peeling and the rails were wobbly. It was deteriorating. Now it’s awesome. Quinn and the rest of the folks with him did a great job.”

Filby, a junior at Regis Jesuit High School-Boys Division who is considering studying engineering after high school, said his project gave him hands-on experience organizing and leading a group of about 20 people.

Quinn FIlby and a few of his fellow Eagle Scouts restored the bridge railing at Mount Olivet Cemetery as part of their service project. (Photos provided)

“I learned a lot about planning and bridge building,” he said. “The hardest part of the project was coordinating everything. … The best part of the project was seeing the finished product.”

Assistant Scout Master Bill Bergmann participated in the bridge restoration. He said Filby worked with the cemetery staff to plan and complete the project, raised the money for the supplies, and led the restoration.

The Eagle Scout Award is Scouting’s highest rank and among its most familiar icons. Americans from all walks of life know that being an Eagle Scout is a great honor, even if they don’t know just what the badge means, asserts the Boy Scouts of America website. Among the requirements to achieve Eagle rank, a Scout must demonstrate “Scout Spirit” by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law (a list of 12 virtues) and tell how they have done their duty to God, how they have lived the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and how their understanding of those will guide their life in the future. The Eagle service project is the capstone task for the award.

A before and after shot of the bridge railing at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

“The Eagle project is one of many requirements to be completed on the journey to Eagle,” Bergmann said. “I expect Quinn will complete all necessary requirements and obtain the rank of Eagle in the near future. In addition to Quinn, our troop currently has three other Life Scouts actively working through various stages of their Eagle service projects.”

Filby’s efforts toward his Eagle rank goal helped the cemetery staff achieve a couple of theirs as well, Miller said.

“Cemeteries are sacred, beautiful places that honor and show appreciation to the dead but which also provide beauty for those who use it to visit their loved ones and who come to pray and reflect,” he said. “The restored bridge makes it very inviting. First: it’s safe. Second: it really makes the cemetery beautiful. It just really is sharp.”

COMING UP: Mt. Olivet cemetery offers spiritual, corporal works of mercy

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On Hart Island in the Long Island Sound of New York City, more than one million unclaimed people’s remains are buried. It is the largest tax funded cemetery in the world.

The city’s Department of Corrections maintains and operates the island, and its prisoners bury the anonymous bodies. Visitors are welcome just once a month.

It’s examples like Hart Island that motivate Al Hooper and John Miller at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery to take even greater care of the unclaimed after they pass away.

“We’re an extension of the arm of the archbishop, doing the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead and the spiritual work of praying for the dead,” said Miller, Outreach Coordinator for the Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services of northern Colorado.

… it’s safe to say that at least in the Denver metro area, we’re the only cemetery that will take indigent persons — most of the time for free”

That’s why if the county reaches out to Mount Olivet in Denver when they have a homeless person with no known family who passed away, the cemetery buries them at little to no charge.

“I think it’s safe to say that at least in the Denver metro area, we’re the only cemetery that will take indigent persons — most of the time for free,” said Miller.

Not only does the cemetery accept the unknown, but it also houses a Crypt of All Souls, located inside a mausoleum, that offers reserved crypt space for families who cannot afford a burial plot. The cemetery places the cremated remains within the crypt at little to no cost.

“For me, this is hope,” said Hooper, Director of the Office of Social Ministry for the archdiocese. “This is what the faith is about. What do we need Easter for if it isn’t this?

“It’s just wonderfully hopeful,” he said.

Mount Olivet offers Mass each first Friday of the month in the mortuary chapel. Some families have attended the Mass for years, said Miller.

“It’s just one of the spiritual works of mercy that happens [here],” he said.

For Hooper, the merciful services offered through Denver’s Catholic cemeteries show “how healing a church’s understanding about death is for those that are grieving,” he said.

Mt. Olivet Cemetery offers full cemetery services, including standard casket and cremated ground burials and above ground crypts. Mass is also offered on the first Friday of each month at the Archdiocese of Denver Mortuary Chapel on the grounds of Mt. Olivet for those souls buried at the cemetery. (Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic)

It reminds Hooper how fortunate Catholics are to have the Mass to feel connected to their loved ones who have passed away.

“If you really want people to go back to Mass, connect with your deceased at the Mass together,” said Hooper. “As Scott Hahn said, this is where heaven and earth come together — they transcend time and dimension.”

Because we are able to worship God during Mass with the entire Communion of Saints, and it’s there that we pray together for both the living and the deceased, it’s important to celebrate the Church’s liturgy for funerals, said Miller. The liturgy includes a vigil, funeral Mass and committal.

“Each step along the way, each liturgy, prays for the deceased,” said Miller. “And it prays for all the dead, but also the living and consolation in their grief and their sorrow.

“The liturgy itself in my opinion brings healing and closure, especially if it’s done complete,” he said. “The funeral Mass is offered for the deceased, we’re offering our prayers in the greatest miracle of the sacrifice of the Mass in the Eucharist.

“To deprive the deceased of that is [unfair],” he said. “The Church has, in her wisdom and pastoral care of the people of God, this beautiful liturgy to help them in their grief and suffering.”

Both Hooper and Miller hope the services offered through Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services bring healing to those who need it.

“I want to make this very healthy and healing,” said Hooper. “It’s the hope of the whole Christian faith.”

For more information on Denver’s Catholic cemeteries, visit cfcscolorado.org.