Mormon Trail AssociationMormon Trail AssociationMount Calvary Catholic Cemetery


Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery
(One of only 33 Catholic cemeteries in the U.S.)


(The following history is quoted from an article written by Bud Mease for the Intermountain Catholic, Sept. 12, 1997, p. 14, celebrating Mount Calvary's 100th birthday.)

History. On Sept. 17, l897, the growing Catholic presence in Utah was recognized in a significant way. Mayor James Glendinning signed a document that donated 19.5 acres to the Diocese of Salt Lake City for Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery. At the time, Bishop Lawrence Scanlan, the First bishop, had a diocese of just six parishes with 8,000 Catholics, and the Cathedral of the Madeleine wouldn't be completed until 1909.

The significance of a Catholic cemetery for the Catholic community is stated in canon law: "Sacred places are those which have been designated for divine worship or for the burial of the faithful..." Early records show that many families subsequently had their loved ones transferred to the new Catholic cemetery for re-interment among the faithful.

In the history of the diocese published in 1909, Bishop Scanlan spoke of our community, which endures forever: "These relations do not cease when death enters. The visible church, that is, the church on earth, is the channel and means of our union with the church invisible, that is, with the souls who departed this life in friendship with God."

More recently, a bronze plaque was mounted in the Holy Cross plat, which provides testimony to the role of a Catholic cemetery in linking the visible church and the Communion of Saints:

"This Catholic cemetery is a holy place. It is blessed by the church and dedicated to God as a place of worship, prayer, and reflection upon divine truth and the purpose of life. It is the resting place until the day of resurrection for the bodies of faithful departed, once temples of the Holy Spirit, whose souls are now with God. It is a final and continuing profession of faith in God and of membership in the church by those who have chosen to be buried with fellow believers of 'the household of faith.' Eternal rest grant to them, 0 Lord."

The centerpiece of Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery is the Holy Cross Plat, where a large crucifix overlooks the final resting place of Bishops Hunt and Federal, 37 priests, and 96 sisters. It is here that Bishop Joseph S. Glass suggested in 1925, that an altar be erected in the center of the circle at the heart of the cemetery. It was not until 1947 that this was accomplished by a group of veterans who established the altar as a memorial to 78 Utah Catholics killed in World War II. The altar was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1947, by Bishop Hunt and subsequent bishops have continued the practice of a commemorative Mass at the altar on Memorial Day. It has become the highlight of the year, complete with a flag ceremony.

Just above the Holy Cross Plat towers a tall obelisk in memory of James McTernay. who was buried in 1910. The folklore is that he was a very popular tavern owner whose patrons kept contributing until they could purchase the largest monument in the cemetery. It still holds that distinction.

Mount Calvary increased its capacity and the option available to Utah Catholics in 1987, with the addition of a garden mausoleum, a lawn crypt section, and a columbarium for cremated remains. The mausoleum has become the location of the annual All Souls Day Mass at Mount Calvary,
weather permitting.

Just below the mausoleum is a garden in which a monment to the innocent victims of abortion was dedicated in October 1992. Since then, a multi-denominations candlelight vigil has been conducted each year on the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision, making abortion legal. The vigil serves to reaffirm the sanctity of life.

While there is not a lot written about the history of Mount Calvary, the numerous monuments and statuary that adorn the grounds speak of its purpose and the lasting tribute to our faith community. It is indeed a sacred place of faith, honor, and prayer. From a vantage point above the mausoleum, it appears there are hundreds of tiny altars scattered throughout the cemetery where one may pause, pray for, and remember their loved ones, and contemplate the beauty of God's plan.

The story of Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery is timeless, however, our human memories are not. There are hundreds of meaningful stories of loved ones interred in Mount Calvary that should be preserved for future generations.

Persons are encouraged to prepare short vignettes or anecdotes to share with others. The staff at Mount Calvary would like to compile an anthology of the stories to preserve the history of the cemetery. Volunteer authors, editors, or interested persons are asked to contact the cemetery staff at 355-2476.


Mount Calvary Cemetery offers the following "competitively-priced burial methods to meet your personal desires and financial requirements with fair and affordable terms."

Traditional In Ground: Single burial sites. Double burial sites. Lawn crypts with double-depth vaults in a special section of Mt. Calvary.
Mausoleum Crypts: An open-air granite structure that is designed to provide an impressively spiritual setting. Single and double crypt selections are available
Columbarium Niches: A free-standing wall within the mausoleum with niches for cremated remains. Niches can be used for either single or double interments.
In-Ground Cremorials: Single or double cremorials in a special section near the mausoleum. Within an existing grave of another family member.

Looking at the cemetery map, you will notice that the whole cemetery is platted in the shape of a Celtic Cross. Each little square in the map contains 8 burial plots. The numbering system is shown in the lower right corner of the map. The oldest section is J. Here the bodies were laid side by side. Only a few have markers. A little more than 10,000 persons are buried here. Less than 250 plots are currently available. The road between sections D and E was converted to plots and quickly sold out. The road between A and B will soon be replaced with additional plots. About 2,800 unused plots are owned by individuals or families. When the cemetery is full an effort will be made to locate the owners to see whether they still plan to use them or would be willing to sell back to the cemetery. About ten percent of the owners have disappeared and the status of their plots will remain questionable.

Ethnic groups. Three different ethnic groups have dominated burials this past century. First were the Irish, second the Italians, and now the majority is Spanish.

The Holy Cross Plat (middle of the circle), with few exceptions, is reserved for the clergy and those of religious orders. Bishops Hunt and Federal flank the cross at the north end of the. Nuns and priests are buried sections designated for the various orders. A few orphans, mostly from Kearns-St. Ann's Orphanage are buried in the northeast corner of the same plat. On the south end of that plat is the grave of Patrick Phelan, a miner who died at 80 years of age in 1901. He was single an donated $76,000 to St. Ann's before he died. An appropriate marker was erected, showing a young angel writing his name in the Book of Life.

Other graves. Besides James McTernay's tall obelisk, graves of interest might include Thomas Kearns (G-6-1&2), Walter Cosgriff (H-4-28), John Mooney (H-7-26), and the Galvan family (G-7-3). Note: The letter is the section, the first number is the X and the second number the Y coordinates.

What is the symbolism of the Celtic Cross? The Irish Catholic priest will have no hesitation telling you that the circle of the Celtic Cross is a symbol of eternity that emphasizes the endlessness of God's love as shown through Christ's sacrifice on the cross. The history of this powerful symbol is ambiguous, with Catholics and Scottish Presbyterians both claiming it as their own.

There is a legend of how St. Patrick when preaching to some soon to be converted heathens was shown a sacred standing stone that was marked with a circle that was symbolic of the moon goddess. Patrick made the mark of a Latin cross through the circle and blessed the stone making the first Celtic Cross. This legend implies that the Saint was willing to make ideas and practices that were formerly Druid into Christian ideas and practices. This is consistent with the belief that he converted and ordained many Druids to lives as Christian priests.

There are many variations of interpretations and legends about the original meaning. One thing is certain; beginning in the 6th century, the ringed cross has had meaning as a Celtic Christian symbol. In our modern multi-cultural world the Celtic Cross is as much a symbol of ethnic heritage as it is of faith and it is often used as an emblem of ones Irish, Scottish or Welsh identity.

IHS is the anglicized rendering of the first three Greek letters in Jesus' name. In the early Church, especially during the time of the Roman persecution, this became a popular way of writing Jesus' name as a sort of code. Since then it has become a universally-used insignia and shows up on all types of Catholic religious art and accouterments. After a few centuries, when the monogram was integrated into the general Latin usage of the Church, many were unacquainted with the original meaning and wrongly believed it meant, in Latin, Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, Savior of Humanity) or Iesus Hierosolyma Salvator (Jesus, Savior of Jerusalem).

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