Teen Volunteers Build Birdhouses to Comfort Mourners, Discuss Faith at Gate of Heaven Cemetery

Nearly 30 teens from North Jersey and Pennsylvania had fun building birdhouses to display at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover as part of a community service summer camp offered by the Archdiocese of Newark’s Office for Youth & Young Adult Ministry. 


The teenagers, who were participating in the Archdiocese’s Youth Summer Camp for high school-aged youth during the last week of July, gave each bird abode their own unique sense of style and architecture while happily chatting about their favorite movies and television shows. They also engaged in deep conversations with Father Paul Houlis, Gate of Heaven’s chaplain, on such subjects as maintaining faith in a less-than-perfect world. Afterward, the teens received a tour of the cemetery’s extensive art collection and learned about the work of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark.


“Being able to give them hope, talk to them about God’s love for them, and share His great desire to forgive and heal them left me with a huge ‘Jesus high’ when I left,” said Father Houlis. “It was certainly the highlight of my priesthood this year so far. I do not say that lightly. This event might have done more for my priesthood than whatever I did for them.”


The birdhouses will be displayed throughout Gate of Heaven Cemetery, where they serve to comfort those grieving with the knowledge that their loved ones are laid to rest surrounded by God’s creatures. This year’s creations join a long line of birdhouses built by teenagers since 2013, which Catholic Cemeteries has placed at locations such as the award-winning Holy Cross, Saint Gertrude, and Maryrest cemeteries. The birdhouse program was even once recognized by the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association with a First Place award for “Best in Personalization of an Event in the Cemetery and Funeral Service Profession.”


For more information about the Archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Cemeteries, visit www.catholicjourney.org.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.