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Expressing Love and Family Legacy in the Year of Mercy


By Nicole Lecheler and Kathy Fanger

“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” -Matthew 9:13. Pope Francis’ Lenten message to us embraces the service of Catholic Cemeteries:

“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In every new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbor and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s Tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions, meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them.” (Pope Francis, October 4, 2015.)

Catholic Cemeteries practices the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in every part of their service to the Catholic and Christian community. We provide an opportunity for the faithful to express their love for their family and friends, and a tradition and legacy strong in the Catholic faith. Mery Kawano and her family express tradition and family legacy through their love at Calvary Cemetery.

Mery Kawano’s story
Mery Kawano died on August 29, 2015, at the age of 83. Her daughter, Frances Kawano, tells of her mother’s life and death, the legacy she leaves to her family, and how she came to be buried at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in San Jose.

Mery and her mother came as tourists to California in 1963 as Japanese descendants from Chile, South America, when Mery was 25 years old. The two women liked California so much that they made it their new home, staying on with work visas. Hisae and Mery were both baptized Catholics. Hisae always told Mery, “I want to be buried in a Catholic Cemetery in close proximity to where you live.” When Hisae died, Mery honored her mother’s wishes, interring her cremated remains in a niche at Calvary Catholic Cemetery. Sharing such a close lifelong relationship, Mery desired her own cremated remains be placed with her mother when she herself died.

Mery married and had two children, Frances and her brother. Early on, Mery ran a daycare for preschoolers, but then became a stay-at-home mom priding herself on caring for her family and providing a safe, structured home life.

Frances remembers her mother for these qualities:

  1. Strong and stubborn. Mery held tightly to her beliefs, especially when she felt she was right.
  2. Prayed daily, asking God for reassurance in keeping her family safe and that they become good, faith-filled individuals.
  3. Searched for peace.

Mery’s legacy lives on in Frances, who by her mother’s example, considers herself to be a strong woman of beliefs, and a woman of prayer who also seeks peace in her own life. “We all have stresses in our lives, but we are called to give them up to God who will guide us and give us strength.”

Mery’s husband, Frances’ father, still lives in their home in the Calvary neighborhood where he visits his wife’s niche regularly. Frances would also like to be buried with her family at Calvary Cemetery and is considering purchasing a double niche near her mother so they can be together.

For more information regarding Catholic Cemeteries in the Diocese of San Jose visit www.ccdsj.org.