The covid-19 pandemic has skyrocketed the demand for workers in cemeteries and funeral homes. That is why the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will hold two job fairs to fill about 40 open positions.
“Work has increased by 50%, but during the height of the pandemic, last year, services increased between 60 and 70%,” says Sonyaann Sandoval Carreón, licensed embalmer and manager of Calvary Cemetery Funeral Home. in East Los Angeles.
“With the Ómicron variant we have not had so many deaths,” he clarifies.
Sonyaann says you don’t need experience to work as a funeral home attendant or gravedigger, but you do need to be an embalmer.
“To be a licensed embalmer or a funeral director you have to go to mortuary school. In California, we only have two in the cities of Cypress and Sacramento, but they are not part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Right now there is a waiting list to enter, and one of the requirements is to have general studies”.
Generally, he explains, the study program is very intense and takes two years, and then you have to go through two more years of training or apprenticeship in a funeral home.
“The salaries can be around 20 to 25 dollars per hour, but it depends.”
It indicates that professions in cemeteries and funeral homes are not well-known jobs among Latinos.
Sonyaann confesses that she loves her job, but admits that working around dead people is not a job for everyone.
“It requires a lot of ethics and professionalism, but it is also a ministry of faith for those who work in Catholic cemeteries and funeral homes. You must treat the dead as if they were your loved ones because their relatives are trusting us.”
She has been working among the dead for 13 years. “It is my vocation and it was like a call because I began to lose all my immediate family from the age of 5. So working with people when they experience the first death in the family, when they are heartbroken and in shock, has been a way of coping with my grief, and I know I’m in the right place.”
He says that it is okay to not have experience, but one of the skills of those who work in this industry is to be empathetic, to have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the bereaved, understand that many times they do not know what to do and assist them. “We are looking for people who want to help others in the worst moments of their lives.”
This job, he says, has taught him that nothing is forever and that we should live each day as if it were the last.
But in addition, the pandemic, which has brought one death after another, caught many families off guard and by surprise, without prior arrangements to face the costs of funeral services, which are usually expensive.
“They did not expect deaths.”
Therefore, he indicates, that this crisis has taught us that we must start paying for these services and approach their parishes to see what help they can get.
Even though those who work in cemeteries and funeral homes have to deal with death and sadness on a daily basis, he says they try to stay motivated.
“It is very satisfying to be able to help families in the lowest moments of their lives.”
And of course, he says, there are times when work takes its toll and they have their days, especially when the dead are babies or children.
“That’s where we lean on each other, on our Archdiocese and strongly on our faith that gives us strength to move forward for the families who trust us.”
Sergio Haro began working as a gravedigger for Calvary Catholic Cemetery in East Los Angeles two and a half years ago around the time the pandemic began.
“I used to work as a cook, but I like this job better. It has changed my life. I appreciate everything more. Sometimes when one renders a service, helping to bury, one even begins to cry when looking at the pain. Although it is a job, one becomes part of it”.
Haro considers that this work was sent to him by God.
“Part of my job, apart from keeping the pantheon in perfect order, is to bury a loved one from another family. I do it with a lot of love and respect because I know that they are going through difficult times.”
With the pandemic, their work increased. “It has been a very sad thing. Looking at so many deaths shocks you. And we continue with the outbreaks of covid. And even we have been hit. We even had the loss of our partner, Rafita. I was about 50 years old,” he says.
Sergio says that the work of burying human beings is very honest. “Those who come to work at the cemetery will find a lot of peace; and it is a job that changes the way you think. Since I work as a gravedigger, I treat my whole family better. I come to the house, asking how they are. We are more united and we have more communication”.
Father of two children aged 16 and 11, Sergio is proud of his work because he considers that he does his bit of love to say goodbye to those who completed their cycle in this life.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles job fairs will be held on February 25 from 10 am to 2 pm at Calvary Cemetery and Mortuary, 4201 Whittier, Los Angeles. 90028; and February 1 from 10 am to 2 pm at San Fernando Mission Hills Cemetery and Mortuary. 11160 Stranwood Ave. Mission Hills. 91345.
It is important that you bring your resume. For any questions, you can call 888-912-6516, or write to Employment@la-archdiocese.org
Omar Gallarzo, director of operations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes Eastside Omar Gallarzo, says that working for the Archdiocese’s Catholic cemeteries and funeral homes is not only a unique and rewarding career, but what more importantly, it is a ministry of service to those in the communities.
“It offers the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives every day. As the needs of our communities continue to grow, so does our ministry.”
She points out that hosting a job fair allows potential applicants to explore the various opportunities available at Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes and learn more about their ministry.
Annabelle Baltierra, senior director of the Human Resources Department for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, says Catholic cemeteries and funeral homes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are here to serve members of the Catholic community not only in their time of greatest need, but also to help them plan ahead for the day they return to the house of the Lord.
“In accordance with one of our pastoral values of service, our mission is to treat everyone with compassion, dignity and respect and to ensure that deceased family members are cared for with the utmost care. This is what sets us apart.”