Mystery ashes find a special home

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Sinead Kent of Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria reads tributes to Peter Cuddy and John Wharton at the Bringing Them Home service in August. IMAGE: Thomas Biddle, RockNBob Media House

Cathedral’s most unusual lost belonging left no clues

A sad puzzle had a happy ending when Bishop Terry Brady buried ashes left anonymously in St Mary’s Cathedral during a special interment service at Rookwood cemetery.

A security guard discovered
 the mystery urn on the floor near an entrance to the cathedral last December and no one subsequently claimed to have lost it.

Cathedral manager Helen Morassut said there were no identifying markers on the white rectangular plastic urn to indicate whose remains were inside or which crematorium it had come from.

“It was in one of those brightly-coloured reusable cloth shopping bags,” she said. “There was nothing written on the box, nothing in or on the bag, no clue as to where to start to find where the ashes came from.

We reported it to the police and they examined the urn and lodged a report but there was nothing more for them to do.”

The ashes were buried in the gardens during an outdoor service in August under the name Mary Cathedral at the same time as the remains of two men known to the St Vincent de Paul SocietyVietnam War veteran and “selfless” Mary MacKillop Outreach volunteer Peter Cuddy and former state table tennis champion and “gentle and respectful” John Wharton.

Bishop Brady said that whoever had left the ashes “made a very wise choice” in placing them in the cathedral’s care.
“This person we honour today, we don’t know if it is a man or a woman, but who we refer to as Mary Cathedral, really represents the reason we gather here each year,” he said during the service.

Despite having no known connections on earth, he or she is “a person very much loved by God”, he added.

“This is a person very much loved by God,” Bishop Terry Brady

The Bringing Them Home service is held each year during Homelessness Week and brings together representatives of the St Vincent de Paul Society, David’s Place, the Cana Community and Matthew Talbot community in the gardens of the Charles O’Neil Walk.

This year due to COVID-19 restrictions it was only attended by Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria staff and included th
e burial for the precious remains of the three people who otherwise lacked the means for one.

Bishop Brady
 thanked the mystery deceased person “for giving us the opportunity to remember that each one of us, every sister and brother on the face of the earth, is loved by God and that we all have a place with our God in eternity.

Joy Bowen, St Vincent de Paul’s Mission, Spirituality and Pastoral Care Partner said the annual event is “profoundly important especially in these COVID times” for Sydney’s homeless and struggling. 

Bishop Terry Brady buries the ashes belonging to the unidentified person who was officially recorded as ‘Mary Cathedral’. IMAGE: Thomas Biddle, RockNBob Media House

“This service does deeply matter to the men,” she said. “Life and death is pretty harsh for our community and often with families that are estranged there are few who really know them or speak kind words of love and non-judgement at their deaths.”

Ms Morassut said it was not unusual for items to be accidently left at the cathedral but this was a most unique instance.  She was relieved at the dignity given to the precious remains. 

“We were so worried at first about 
them not being able to find a nice home,” she said.

It’s quite nice knowing that someone, for whatever reason, left the urn at the cathedral believing we would take good care of it. 

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