Focolare Movement of Fontem
The Christian cemetery at Fontem: beginnings and some history
In the past, the Parish priest, Mgr. Johannes Diestelberger, together with the Christians of the place, asked many times to the Administration to assign a plot for a “Holy field” (cemetery) close to the Parish Church of Menji, without success.
In January 1989, Ita Lyng, a 34 year-old Irish focolarina, passed away and there was still no Christian Cemetery in the Little Town of Fontem. Chiara Lubich’s wish was that Ita should be buried in Fontem, so we chose together a plot, and one was available, although a bit hilly, behind the house “Lauretana” of the focolarine. The cemetery can be clearly seen while going down the road from Menji (where the Parish Church, dedicated to Saint Claire, is located). It is at a 15 minutes walk from there.
The architect Carlo Santanché, from Ascoli Picena (Italy), came several times to Fontem. Taking into account the environment and the Little Town as a whole, he designed the Mariapoli Centre, the new constructions and the renovation of the Hospital, of the College and the Nursery School.
Carlo even managed to make a simple draft of the cemetery, on that same plot, where the terrain is quite stony and hard. Following that, the different levels for the tombs were made, with the Caterpillar and manually. They are connected by narrow paths, with small round gardens and stairs in the centre, for an easier access. The architect proposed different designs for simple tombs in cement (standard size), with the possibility to write down the names and eventually a sentence of the Gospel.
For about 12 years a young Christian, with a modest salary, has been busy building stonewalls to prevent landslides during the heavy rains. He also planted a hedge around the cemetery, and some trees in the round gardens, which are now blooming. There is a project to place there some benches, to allow visitors to stay while they pray and meditate on the life of their deceased dear ones.
Ninety-eight Christians have been buried here in these 25 years, from various villages of the Parish. Until now, 21 tombs have been decorated with small gravestones indicating their name and for some even their picture, printed in tile, and the “word of life” that Chiara herself had chosen for them. There is a record book to keep in touch with their family members.
Every 2nd November, Holy Mass is celebrated in the small chapel at the cemetery entrance, its doors facing the tombs wide open. Various groups of Christians, catechumens and students come from time to time to maintain the cemetery, especially before All Souls Day feast. Grass and bush grow fast in our tropical climate, so it is not easy to keep the surroundings in order. In Traditional culture, deceased people are buried next to the house, and the burial place does not require regular care.
We need lots of love, perseverance and work so that the Cemetery of Fontem testifies more and more to Christian love.
In 2001, a mother, who was participating to Jane M. Dubé funeral’s (a British focolarina), exclaimed: “When I’ll leave from this life, I wish to be buried here, because I have seen many people coming to pray!” In fact, she is now resting there.