History of The Catholic Cemeteries Association

We can trace the beginnings of what is now The Catholic Cemeteries Association to the earliest decades in the history of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Among the cemeteries established during that time were those that eventually became the founding members of The Catholic Cemeteries Association: St. Mary Cemetery, Lawrenceville; St. Joseph and St. Thomas Cemeteries, Braddock; Calvary Cemetery, Hazelwood; and St. Philomena Cemetery, Ross Township.

In the decades to follow, other cemeteries were established that would eventually become members of The Catholic Cemeteries Association. But these four--St. Mary Cemetery, Braddock Catholic Cemetery, Calvary Cemetery and North Side Catholic Cemetery--would become the charter members of The Catholic Cemeteries Association when it was incorporated on December 23, 1952. To all those who established, operated and maintained these cemeteries in the Catholic tradition, we owe a profound debt of gratitude.

The Catholic Cemeteries Association currently owns, operates and maintains 16 diocesan cemeteries in Allegheny and Washington counties in western Pennsylvania. Below you will find information regarding the history of some of our initial cemeteries. For an expanded listing of cemeteries and descriptions, please refer to the cemeteries section of this site.

Founding cemeteries of The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh:

St. Mary Catholic Cemetery
St. Mary Cemetery, at 45th and Penn Avenues in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, was incorporated in 1849, a mere six years after the founding of the diocese. At that time, there were two parish cemeteries also in existence: one near the first St. Patrick Church, which stood where the Pennsylvania Railroad Union Station was eventually built; and St. Paul Church at Grant Street and Fifth Avenue, which established a parish cemetery on Boyds Hill, near Mercy Hospital.

A document in the diocesan archives, which provides a brief, partial history of Catholic cemeteries, quotes a Father Lambing as saying: "The cemetery attached to St. Patrick's Church and that on Boyd Hill near Mercy Hospital ... became so crowded and so within the limits of the fast expanding city, that it became necessary to purchase more extensive grounds at a distance from the city. To this end, the present St. Mary Cemetery was purchased in 1849 at a cost of $20,000."

Over time, as Mercy Hospital expanded, all bodies interred in the Boyd's Hill parish cemetery were transferred to the new St. Mary Cemetery. All those buried in St. Patrick parish cemetery also were eventually transferred to St. Mary Cemetery.

Bishop Michael J. O'Connor had commissioned James S. Devlin, a civil engineer, to select and lay out the property for this first diocesan cemetery. Afterwards, Mr. Devlin was appointed by the Board of Managers as secretary, treasurer and superintendent. He administered both St. Mary Cemetery and later Calvary Cemetery until his death in 1894. His son, James A. Devlin, succeeded him.

Today, St. Mary Cemetery is a 44-acre tract of land immediately adjacent to Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh. All records from this cemetery are now housed at Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, and all administrative functions take place at the Calvary office as well. As of 2001, there have been 99,882 interments in St. Mary Cemetery.

Braddock Catholic Cemetery (now All Saints Catholic Cemetery)
St. Joseph and St. Thomas parishes, Braddock, opened adjoining cemeteries in 1883. In 1911, the two cemeteries merged and were incorporated under the name of "Braddock Catholic Cemetery," totaling 65 acres. The diocese assumed the management of this cemetery in 1927. In 1997, Bishop Donald Wuerl renamed the cemetery "All Saints Catholic Cemetery." Garden crypts were added in 1999. As of 2001, 32,790 interments and entombments have taken place at Braddock Catholic Cemetery.

Calvary Catholic Cemetery
In 1886, the diocese established the Calvary Cemetery Association and Calvary Cemetery, a 200-acre tract of land in the Hazelwood area of Pittsburgh. The first burial took place in June 1888. Calvary Cemetery remains the largest of the diocesan cemeteries. Today it includes a beautiful chapel mausoleum, a large garden crypt development, the exclusive Cardinal Wright Oratory crypts, a large priests' plot, and Shepherd's Rest, a mausoleum set aside for the entombment of bishops of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The central offices of The Catholic Cemeteries Association are also located on its premises. A total of 152,238 interments and entombments have taken place at Calvary Cemetery as of 2008.

North Side Catholic Cemetery (now Christ Our Redeemer Catholic Cemetery)
In 1888, the Redemptorist Fathers and St. Philomena Parish, Pittsburgh, established a parish cemetery in Ross Township. The 165-acre cemetery operated as a parish cemetery until 1910, when its management was assumed by the diocese and the cemetery was incorporated as "North Side Catholic Cemetery." An inspiring chapel mausoleum was added in 1988. In 1997, Bishop Donald Wuerl renamed the cemetery "Christ Our Redeemer Catholic Cemetery," to reflect its religious nature.