The St. Paul Parish's cemetery is about to see some changes.
HINGHAM - Faced with maintaining land full of invasive trees, undefined road edges and limited burial space, St. Paul Parish is launching a five-year restoration and expansion project to upgrade its cemetery on Hersey Street.
The church hired Boston-based Halvorson Design Partnership, who has worked on Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, to draw up redesign options for the 141-year-old cemetery. On Sunday, they will present their plans and take feedback at a public meeting.
“There are different options we are considering and that’s part of why we want to have a meeting, to get the opinions of the parishioners, of the relatives of people buried here and the neighbors,” Linda Resca, the church’s business administrator, said.
Right now, there is about half an acre of empty land bordering Hersey Street before the burial plots begin. Roads, some paved, some gravel, are lined with towering, old trees and the burial plots slope down for acres before the cemetery ends at the golf course of South Shore Country Club.
“There is just nothing pretty about it right now,” Resca said.
The proposed changes include filling in smaller side roads to be used for more burial space, installing a landscape buffer at perimeters, paving existing gravel roads and replacing old trees with new plantings.
“Making sure the trees are maintained has been a big push in the recent past,” David Frank, facilities manager, said. “Some of these trees have gotten ‘long in the tooth,’ as they say, and unfortunately we are starting to lose some of these evergreens.”
While much of the design decisions are still up in the air, two things are certain, The Rev. Father Thomas Nestor said: the church wants to make use of the front, undeveloped half acre and incorporate a space for cremated remains.
“We thought we were limited to above-ground use of the front space because we thought it was on a ledge, but it was discovered there was no ledge so we have more options now,” the Rev. Nestor said.
The plot will likely be split somehow between burial space and a columbarium, a place for funerary urns. Cremation was not acceptable in the Catholic church until 1963, and the cemetery currently has no designated above ground space for urns. There is a small section in the cemetery designated for the burial of urns, and they can also be buried in regular plots.
One of the things the church is considering is the addition of a columbarium wall, similar to one in the cemetery at Glastonbury Abbey. Columbarium walls are usually low-standing and hollow with space inside to hold urns. Names of the deceased are engraved on the wall.
The church has not yet had to turn away those wishing to be buried in its cemetery, but space is quickly running out, the Rev. Nestor said. He also said beautifying the cemetery will allow it to act as a reflection of the parish.
“You want to show respect for the dead and the sorrow of the people who are surviving,” he said. “It’s a good and holy thing to do, so we want to be in line with that.”
According to internment records kept by the parish, the first burial at St. Paul's cemetery took place in 1877. Expansions in 1897, 1962 and 2007 brought the cemetery to Hersey Street and included installing a retaining wall and building concrete burial crypts.
A meeting on the project will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday in the St. Paul School gym, 18 Fearing Road.
Mary Whitfill may be reached at email@example.com.