Unfortunately several of the older cemeteries in Macon County have been forgotten and the final resting place of many of our ancestors, are no longer even recognizable.
A group of teenagers participating in mission work this summer from St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Franklin, Indiana, spent last week in our county working side by side with profound personal and spiritual commitment repairing grave yards to their original beauty, learning that goals are obtained through hard work and effort. While following in the footsteps of our Lord, these kids learned a life lesson, that the dead are as important as the living, and we should all walk humbly with our Heavenly Father.
Hosted by Catholics John and Judy Clements Burgener, who are owners & operators of the Red Barn Winery, this group of young people learned a lot over the span of only a few days, according to the youth minister, Yolanda Burgener and her husband Don. Thanks to Macon County Historian Randy East also participating in this effort, he emphasized the importance of respecting these sacred burial grounds, as well as preserving them for future generations whose family trees can be traced back to these forgotten people peacefully resting underground for many years.
“This wonderful group of young people held several fundraisers in Indiana to make money for this mission trip,” said Yolanda, whose husband is the nephew of John Burgener. “John and Judy suggested this project for our summer mission and the teenagers were prepared for the challenge, working on several grave yards including the Smith-Casey Cemetery a few miles down Patterson Road.”
Yolanda said that the church created short-term mission experiences for the young people during the summer to provide whatever services are needed and the primary focus is to teach these teenagers how to make a difference in the world. She says there are no special talents required, just compassionate kids who want to be helpful while sharing their spiritual love of God.
Sixteen-year-old Mary Huffine said that she was really excited about this trip, and that it was a great opportunity to not only help them grow in their faith, but to make an impact on our community that will last a life time. “It was actually difficult trying to decide where to start,’ Mary smiled, “but we just began cleaning around the visible graves and we cleared the brush all the way out to the road.”
“When we first got there we could only see a few markers and monuments, but by the time we were finished there were 17 graves in the burial area. We were proud of our work because this lost cemetery turned into a beautiful, calm place for the people who are resting there forever.”
Mary added, “John and Judy were fantastic hosts and they were so much fun to be around. They gave us somewhere to sleep and cooked our meals, and we were fortunate that this wonderful couple was so hospitable to our mission group. This was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
According to Dominick Morales, also 16, he was proud to be a part of the restoration of these cemeteries and he felt good contributing to this endeavor. “I would also like to thank John and Judy for suggesting this mission project, because it was amazing how much good we actually did for the final resting place of all those people.”
The Burgeners are hoping that this article will help motivate other folks to get involved in cleaning up overgrown cemeteries in the county and to respect our dead. We all need to provide honorable maintenance for the people who paved the way for where we are today!