John McQueen: [0:01] Welcome to Anderson McQueen’s radio show, “Undertakings.” I’m John McQueen,
president and owner of Anderson McQueen Funeral Homes, and as always on this show, we undertake those subjects that you want to know about.
[0:15] Remember, if there is a specific topic you would like us to talk about, or if you have a question you would like
us to ask one of our upcoming guests, please email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We always do our best to include everyone’s request, if at all possible.
[0:35] Our topic today is Funerals Under the Oriental Churches of the Vatican. Our special guest today is Reverend Roman Badiak, with Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church, who will help us in undertaking this worthy subject.
[0:52] Welcome, Reverend Badiak.
Reverend Roman Badiak: [0:54] Thank you.
John: [0:55] We appreciate you being here on the show today and taking time away from your busy schedule to join us and help our listeners learn the important aspects within the Ukrainian Greek Catholic faith, and as it relates to the Byzantine Rite.
[1:11] Before we get started though, would you please share with us a little background on Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church here at St. Pete?
Reverend Badiak: [1:18] Of course. Maybe Ukrainian started coming to St. Pete in the 1960s. Some were retired. Others were looking for work because of the economy up in the Midwest, mostly from Ohio and Michigan, et cetera.
[1:35] They started looking for a church. In 1964, the bishop of Philadelphia from which St. Pete was under that eparchy or diocese, started a mission.
[1:49] They bought property at where we are now at 434‑90th Avenue, North, small lot with a small wooden house. The priest rented quarters for himself. They had about 20 families. They had a small, like I said, wooden house that they turned into a chapel.
[2:06] In 1966, they started constructing their own small wooden church next to that little house. They also started construction of a social hall and a rectory about that time. As the congregation grew, they bought more lots across the street for parking basically.
[2:29] In 1993, they decided to build the church that we have now which is much bigger. It’s across the street from the rectory. At that time, there were maybe 100, 200 families in St. Pete at that church. It’s been around now since 2014. In 1995, they changed the mission into a parish.
[2:58] That made it an official church. In 1987, Parma became its own eparchy under its own bishop. They become the Parma, Ohio diocese. We’re there now. We have about a hundred families and mostly new Ukrainian immigrants.
John: [3:19] We’re glad to have all of them here in St. Petersburg. As a third generation native of St. Pete, I have to say 1964 was a great year for the church to get started and also a great year because that was when I was born.
[3:37] As a young funeral director coming up in the family business, I remember having services at the old church.
Now, though you have the new church, it’s very beautiful. It’s been a little while since I’ve been there personally but
[3:53] Every time I go up North 4th Street, I see the big gold domes and think of the church. It’s definitely a beautiful church.
Reverend Badiak: [4:01] Thank you.
John: [4:03] Also, before we move in to actually our main topic, as I understand it, you’ve had quite an interesting background in your life, also. Before actually joining the priesthood and then being sent here to St. Petersburg to head up the church. Would you mind sharing a little bit with our listeners about your background?
Reverend Badiak: [4:24] I was born in a refugee camp in Germany at World War II. We immigrated to the US, to New York in 1950 with my family. That’s where I grew up. When I graduated high school, I got into the Marines during the Vietnam War.
[4:43] I was there for a few years. I went in Southeast Asia. When I got up, went around Asia and Europe for a while, decided to go back to school. When I came back to New York and received my night school and received my business degree in four years. I decided to go to law school, decided for the [inaudible 05:06] law degree.
[5:09] In the meantime, I got married and traveling a lot and enjoying the life. I was a lawyer for 25 years. I was a maritime lawyer, so I traveled all over the world whatever the cases were. I got bored. I [inaudible 05:25] . I wasn’t a believer.
[5:32] Once I got out of Vietnam, I was not very close to the church at all. It took me a few years, but my wife was. Over the years, she never pushed me but she just slowly went to church, took the kids to church. They go and I just stayed home. After a while, I decided to take a chance. Go with her one in a blue moon and that’s it.
[5:51] As I went, I got my faith back. When I retire from the law, I decided, I was ordained at the age of 63, five years ago. They didn’t have any place for me in the eparchy and Stamford, Connecticut was the head of the eparchy.
[6:11] They made me a supply priest, maybe. Where I was needed, I went. I’ve traveled to about 20 parishes in about three years. Here, there, there, and there. I enjoyed it very much. You have to remember when we immigrated, we have had about 10,000 families in our parish. There were old immigrants in the camps.
[6:30] Every parish I went to, there was somebody there from my [inaudible 06:32] , from the people in the neighborhood. I was really happy with that. I guess the bishop was upset that I was happy to get out of parish. He sent me to England for a couple of years. I had some parishes in England.
[6:45] When I came back, again, I was supply priest. Bishop Borja of Parma, Ohio at that time, we were office‑mate in the camps. He is also from the camps…
Reverend Badiak: [6:55] We grew up. We knew each other when we were kids. He says, “I need a priest.” He told to the bishop in Stamford. Bishop says, “Yeah. I got one who wants to travel.
[7:05] Here, you could take him.” Bishop John took me and offered me a bunch of parishes. I had to pick one. I picked St. Pete because a lot of people I grew up with retired here. I thought I’d have time to play golf with them, tennis. I haven’t been in a golf course in the year‑and‑a‑half I’ve been here. Just so busy. It was great. It was nice.
John: [7:30] You won’t see me out on the golf course either, when you do get there because most of the golf courses here have banned me from the course. Because I’m such a good golfer. You mentioned that you were born in a concentration camp. Correct?
Reverend Badiak: [7:45] Displaced persons. When they flee the people from the concentration camps, the barracks were turned into people who couldn’t go back to their countries.
John: [7:56] How long were you there approximately?
Reverend Badiak: [7:58] I was about three‑and‑a‑half when we came to the US. I was here three‑and‑a‑half years. My brother was born. It was about the year when we came over.
John: [8:08] Thank you for your service, too, in the Marines. We appreciate that. Let’s go ahead and shift gears a little bit. We appreciate your background. In order to lay a little foundation for our talk today.
[8:22] Could you share with us the Ukrainian Greek Catholic belief regarding death and any ways in which you might differ maybe from our western Catholic faith?
Reverend Badiak: [8:32] We look at death as a change. We follow the physicist. We say that nothing disappears. If it’s destroyed, it just turns at the energy or whatever. We look at death as a change. You change from your life there to life in heaven or the afterlife. The Hindus believe in incarnation.
[8:58] That’s the way we look at death. It’s a resurrection, basically, but not the resurrection of Christ as a change in your whole being. We mourn or we cry and we beat our dress and we reap our clothes and [inaudible 09:20] .
[9:23] I feel that, as I tell my servants, you have achieved the greatest happiness of your life. That is to be with God forever. That’s how I look at death.
John: [9:38] That’s something a lot of us hope that we’ve done a good enough job here so that in the end, we can be with the Lord.
Reverend Badiak: [9:46] Everybody is going to be with the Lord in some degree. Because that last second of life, a lot of change happens in your mental state. Since this life is so short as compared to infinity that your being bad for so many years really is irrelevant to the time of heaven.
John: [10:08] I hope so. I may have a few [inaudible 10:10] against me along the way.
Reverend Badiak: [10:12] We all do.
John: [10:15] In most of our western Catholic funerals I happen to be at, they consist of three main aspects. We have a vigil the night before and then the funeral liturgy, and then the committal service.
[10:27] Could you share with us if it’s the same for the Ukrainian Greek faith, and perhaps a little about the significance that may be each of those aspects play in the funeral mass?
Reverend Badiak: [10:39] Yes. We also have the vigil and usually the night before the last one day, sometimes it will last two days if there’s a lot of people or they’re very important in the parish, you want a lot of people to come in. The vigil is important because it gives everyone a chance to basically talk about and say goodbye to the deceased.
[11:04] There’s also a Panakhyda service in the last day, on the second day. Which is really asking God to accept his soul and that he is going to heaven and everybody should recognize it, and to never forget him and he’s a son with eternal memory as the final.
[11:27] The vigil is fairly important, especially with the service. A lot of priests also have confessions after the Panakhyda…
Reverend Badiak: [11:37] …only people go when they’re at a funeral or at a vigil. On the next morning, there’s a Panikhida prayer service before the casket is closed. That’s his final, then the casket is closed.
[11:54] The priest goes to the church. The procession with the casket will come to the church. That’s prepared with candles. You have to have four candles, one in each corner of the casket. The head is turned towards the altar. We start at the front of the church.
[12:17] We have a gospel reading. You have the singing of the [inaudible 12:21] and you come in with incense. You have the liturgy. I see that one of the questions there was music. You do have music. In the Eastern Churches, we do not have instruments. All music is by the voice of the people.
[12:44] The whole liturgy is sung by the people present in the church. Which is sometimes difficult because a lot of people who come to the funeral are strangers, who’ve never been there. You sometimes only have three or four people responding with songs. But you still have a music.
[13:02] There is a special funeral liturgy. It is so complicated that most people would just have to stand with regular liturgy and sing that. At the end of the liturgy, there’s another Panakhyda. The casket is blessed of course. Slowly, there’s a gospel reading.
[13:21] One of the questions was, “What’s with the kissing of the cross?” When the liturgy is over and the Panakhyda is over, the priest comes to the altar and there is what they called the final kiss. All the people are invited to come to the casket, go around the casket, kiss the cross of the priest and say goodbye to the deceased.
[13:43] We try to avoid the family, because otherwise you’d never get out of there. At the funeral, at the cemetery, that’s when the family to get together, and they say goodbye and everything else like that. There’s that final kiss of the cross in the exits to the entrance of the church.
[14:02] Then, there’s another gospel reading. The casket of holy water is blessed with incense and then is put away and taken to the cemetery. That’s the committal I guess. We have the vigil and the things. It’s not complicated. It gives the people a lot of time to say goodbye, for now. There’s [inaudible 14:26] .
John: [14:29] When I was younger and attended more of the funeral masses and things, it always seemed to be a very beautiful service. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand a lot of it. It definitely has always seemed to be very beautiful service in the…
Reverend Badiak: [14:46] A lot of it now is in English.
John: [14:47] Is it?
Reverend Badiak: [14:48] Yeah. There’s more and more Americanized people. We’ve been here 50 years. We know English and a lot of our friends of American. We now say it in English, depending on what the family says. Sometimes it’s English and Ukrainian, sometimes Ukrainian, sometimes it’s just all English.
John: [15:07] Backing up just a little bit with the Panakhyda service. What I would say is the western Catholic faith is we would usually have a wake or a rosary. Would you say that it’s comparable to one or the other though?
Reverend Badiak: [15:28] Yeah. In the Eastern Church, the rosary was never important, until recently ever since Lourdes and Fatima, as we’ve gotten more important in the Eastern churches. But it was never important at the beginning, but the Panakhyda was. You have to remember the services are from the ninth century, our liturgy, everything.
[15:48] The Panakhyda took the place of the rosary. It’s a prayer service where everybody prays and sings and they’re asking God to bring the deceased to heaven. The Panakhyda is said at the funeral home the night before. It is said again, in the morning when the casket is closed. It is said after the liturgy, one is said at the funeral, at the cemetery.
[16:12] The Panakhyda is a very important service. [inaudible 16:15] said or sung at any time someone has…like 40th day or any time someone brings a mass [inaudible 16:22] , once a mass for the deceased, many times have also ask for Panakhyda for the service.
[16:29] It’s only about 10 minutes long. They also get it after a year, after the deceased since anniversary, and have a Panikhida and stuff like that. It’s a very important service.
John: [16:40] In the Ukrainian faith, is there a…I know in the Catholic faith, we have the anointing of the sick or last rites, as a lot used to call it, before the individual actually passes away. Is that also common in the Ukrainian church?
Reverend Badiak: [16:57] There is not a Ukrainian faith. We are Catholics. We have Catholic faith, we just have Ukrainian traditions. Yes, we have the anointing of the sick also which I’ve had a lot of this past year. We have anointing of the sick. We don’t call it the last rites either.
[17:17] We also have the prayer of absolution in case they can’t go to confession. A lot of times, you can’t give a communion because they’re in coma or something like that. We have a prayer of absolution which will forgive them for any sins that they may have. That’s about 45 minutes, I guess.
John: [17:38] What I did as I was getting ready for this interview, I did check a few things on your website. I did notice that, again, as you said, it’s the Ukrainian customs within the Catholic Church. Any Catholic or anyone that is Catholic if they were attending your church could still take communion and things, as I understand it.
[18:00] As far as kissing the cross, I had read something that said that only if you were of the Ukrainian culture should you kiss the cross. Is that true or should it be more if you were a Catholic, you can kiss it or anybody can kiss it?
Reverend Badiak: [18:16] I look at it as anybody…If you don’t believe in Christ, you’re not going to kiss the cross. Anybody who believes in Christ will kiss the cross. That’s the kissing of the cross, [inaudible 18:28] . Black and white people choose to stand outside, shake hands, and whatever.
[18:35] I meet everybody to come to the altar and kiss the cross as they’re singing hymns. That’s how I meet everybody who’s there and say a few words here, a few words that would [inaudible 18:44] .
[18:45] That’s a tradition that we have just like the other tradition of children holding candles around the gospel lead. So just a few traditions, but really have nothing to do with the faith, Catholic faith. They’re just traditions. Anybody can kiss the cross, and I also have some…so they don’t fear, I also have something to [inaudible 19:10] infection.
John: [19:12] Sure. I know that’s a big thing nowadays. My wife, and in‑laws, and children now, everybody uses the hand sanitizer and things all the time, so everybody’s always worried about passing the germ on to the next person.
Reverend Badiak: [19:29] That’s what they do with communion. Because give it with a spoon with wine and bread, and we give it, what we do is you raise your head at a 45 degree angle, open your mouth and drop it in. Most people will, especially the elderly, will lick it. That’s why the spoon is gold, gold does not carry germs.
John: [19:50] Oh, really?
Reverend Badiak: [19:51] Bacteria does not stick to gold, so that’s number one, number two it’s wine, it’s alcohol. So every time you stick it in it cleans it off. So most people don’t get infected by communion behavior. We give communion to any Catholic who is there, and Orthodox.
John: [20:10] That’s good to know too about the gold, I’ll have to keep that in mind and let my wife know that, so it’s OK to sip the wine. Also let’s say what would be some advice you might have for some of our listeners then, as you mentioned, the mass is done now more in English or Ukrainian.
[20:31] But if say I’m coming to a mass, and let’s say I’m not even Catholic. But I have a good friend who happens to be Ukrainian, and I need to go to the funeral. Any insights on what I should expect, and any things I should do or shouldn’t do, or things I should join in on, or not join in on?
Reverend Badiak: [20:52] You can join with the last kissing at the end. You don’t have to kiss the cross, but you can say goodbye to the person, the deceased in the casket. If you’re not Catholic I don’t expect certain things, I don’t expect you to cross yourself, I don’t expect you to genuflect.
[21:09] I would like you, expect you to stand when everybody else is standing, and sit when everybody else is sitting, that’s just a show of respect. But no, I don’t expect them to follow my traditions and my faith. You’re there to say goodbye to a friend, or to a family member, and I accept that, and they should be there.
[21:31] Whether you do, what the others do, I don’t expect it, and I’m just as happy to just see you. I tell that to people who haven’t been in church who are Catholics. I said, “Look, come to church, sit down, there’s no telemarketers.
[21:46] There’s nobody knocking on your door like Jehovah Witness. There’s nothing, it’s a peaceful, quiet thing. You’re here, you listen to some good singing, and maybe sometimes not that good singing, you listen to good singing, relax, think about it, and eventually I don’t expect you to go there, pray to God, Hallelujahs.
[22:03] Sit there and just meditate, be peaceful.” Eventually they come back to God, I’m not anybody’s judge.
John: [22:13] That’s great, that sounds as if you’re very welcoming to everybody.
Reverend Badiak: [22:18] I am, I am, because I never went to a Ukrainian seminary, and I don’t know all the rules and regulations that priests are supposed to do.
John: [laughs] [22:26] There you go. Also the next follow‑up question, shifting gears just a little bit. Again, many of the Catholic churches that we serve, obviously, would use Calvary Catholic Cemetery, here local for their parishioners that are being buried.
[22:47] I’ve had a lot of Catholic families of all different cultures within the Catholic church have asked me though over the years that, “I know there’s Calvary Cemetery that the Catholic diocese has.
[23:01] But I want to be buried or I was thinking about maybe being buried someplace else, but I’m concerned about whether or not that’s consecrated grounds,” or things like that.
[23:13] I usually, at least, advise them that any cemetery is OK, because the priest is going to bless the ground anyways, but you could maybe give me a little bit of your take on that. Am I correct, or am I wrong in what I tell families?
Reverend Badiak: [23:26] You and I, I think we’re correct. There may be some bishop there to say you’ve got to put Holy Water, and I don’t know what the rules are. I look at it, every cemetery will have consecrated ground.
[23:41] You can’t exist as a cemetery and say, “Well, we’re not going to accept Catholics, Catholics are not going to be here.” Except maybe Jewish cemeteries, but they would have their own rules and regulations.
[23:53] When I go to a cemetery and they bury it, I do bless the stone and I also bless the ground. I bless the casket, I bless everything around it with ashes, with dirt, and with Holy Water. I consider the casket as blessed and the hole itself is blessed, the ground around it is blessed.
[24:14] I don’t see any problem, and like I said, we do when they put up the stone, if it’s not there, when they do put it up, the stone, they usually ask the priest to come and bless the gravestone as well. So we say a prayer for that.
John: [24:29] As a follow‑up question to that about the gravestone, I know many of our different cultures, for example you mentioned Jewish, but quite a few of the different cultures wait a year before they install the marker, there will be a temporary marker there.
[24:48] But the permanent memorial goes on one year after the death. Is that the case with the Ukrainian culture, or?
Reverend Badiak: [24:55] No, you put it up whenever you can afford it. That’s basically, a lot of markers now, we have this Ukrainian cemetery up in the mountains in New York State, we have a couple thousand graves there now, and it’s owned by the diocese.
[25:10] It’s tremendous, tremendous spot for old Ukrainians. Over there, a lot of the people have markers already, without the date of death on them.
[25:21] So you say, “Oh, yeah, look. I’m going to be buried there, there’s my marker. There’s my wife, and here’s me.” So you can’t wait a year, the markers are there already. There is no time element in our church.
John: [25:35] Another question we get asked quite often as funeral directors from families, “Hey, my mom or my dad was Catholic, and attended say the Ukrainian Catholic church, but I’m not Catholic, or I don’t ever really go anymore, and I’m not sure, should I have a mass or should I not have a mass?” What’s your feelings on that?
Reverend Badiak: [26:00] I say yes, you have a mass. You’re burying your parents who were Catholics and churchgoers. I don’t care if you went there or not. I’m not burying you, I’m burying them, and they should have a mass.
[26:09] If you don’t want to go, we can always ask someone to bring them. But the funeral isn’t for you, the funeral is for them. The grieving is for you, and the mourning, but not the funeral. That’s for them, and that’s the respect you show them.
John: [26:29] Well great, that’s good advice. Another question we get quite often also is I was considering donating my body to science. Am I permitted to do that within the Catholic Church, and so again, with the Ukrainian culture side, is that an acceptable form of disposition I would say?
Reverend Badiak: [26:53] The church has changed, they used to say that, but now they will allow donation of the body, the Catholic Church. The Ukrainian church will follow the same Catholic rules.
[27:05] Now, you can probably donate for organs, to give someone else life as long as you follow the tradition of burial, and funeral, and stuff like that. The whole purpose of that, is at the judgement, the last judgement, they say that people are going to rise, and the body and soul are going to meet again.
[27:31] But at that point, I don’t think they’re going to, kidneys are very important for them to eat…I think the organs, you know. And if you cremate, they say the cremation, the dust is going to come back as a person. If you follow that thinking, everybody’s going to be the same with all their organs and everything else.
John: [27:53] God does a lot of amazing things, so I’m sure if he wants those organs back, he’ll be able to find a way to put you back with all the parts you had to begin with.
Reverend Badiak: [28:03] That’s right, you’re giving life to someone else.
John: [28:07] You brought up, as a matter of fact, you brought up about cremation. So, in the Byzantine faith or side of the church I would say, how acceptable is cremation? I know with a lot of Catholic churches here, and again I would refer to it as Western Catholic just for the sake, they prefer that you have the traditional mass.
[28:35] Then we do cremation, if not, we can do a memorial mass with cremation, where the body’s not present. And again, their main focus is they want us to keep the cremated remains intact, not divide them up or things like that. Is it different in the Ukrainian faith or culture?
Reverend Badiak: [28:55] Recently cremation has been accepted, especially in England, it’s a small island, and usually they’ll have the regular traditional mass and the vigil. The next day they’ll have the funeral and everything, and then they go to the crematory and they’ll cremate there.
John: [29:13] I think when we had a side conversation when you first joined the parish here, and came by to introduce yourself, I think you actually mentioned that when you were in England, after you would do a service at the church that you actually would process to the crematory and oftentimes do a final prayers and…
Reverend Badiak: [29:35] We go [inaudible 29:35] in the crematory.
John: [29:38] I don’t know if I ever shared with you. But, when we built our crematory that’s the way we had built it, to be designed, was so that when whether it was a mass, or whether it was a funeral here.
[29:50] The funeral home, that families could process to the crematory and actually take part in that final service just like you would a burial, for example, out in the cemetery.
Reverend Badiak: [30:00] Exactly. And in the church you have to bury the ashes, you have to keep it together, so you’re supposed to bury them in consecrated ground just like a body.
John: [30:09] Sure, well great. I do get asked more often, I don’t know whether it’s because nowadays it seems like families live all over, all over the country, and so Mom or Dad lived down here, retired, beautiful St. Petersburg, and pass away.
[30:28] So the children come into town for the service, but need to leave relatively soon. It seems like more and more where we used to have the traditional viewing the night before, and then funeral mass, a lot of our Catholic families are now trying to everything in one day.
[30:49] We get asked more and more, which we used to never do. But we now seem to be doing a little more often is that some of the Catholic churches here, locally, having a visitation at the church with an open casket for an hour prior to the mass. Then we come in, close the casket, and move back to the back of church and start over again.
[31:11] Is that something that’s possible at your church, or do you still prefer the evening before?
Reverend Badiak: [31:16] My first funeral here, last year, was with you [inaudible 31:20] . It was Donald, and he prepared everything years before. He had the viewing in the vestibule of the church, and at 9 o’clock, and the service was at 10 o’clock, then they went to the crematory.
[31:34] They couldn’t bury him, because he burried at the VA thing, about a week later. Then we had a small Panahyda at the VA thing. That was the first, I’d never had that before, and I learned myself.
John: [31:48] All right, that’s an acceptable practice if that’s what the family would like to do.
Reverend Badiak: [31:54] Everything’s acceptable practice, as long as the event is in church. For me, the vigils, nice and everything, but it’s not extremely necessary.
[32:06] It’s the funeral mass that’s necessary. If people want the vigil, there’s a vigil when he’s at the altar being prayed over. The people still are there. They may not have an open casket, but the vigil is still there. I look at the vigil as very nice, but not a necessity. The vigil could be at a church an hour before.
John: [32:28] All right, well, great.
[32:30] Well, Reverend Badiak, I want to again thank you for providing our listeners with fantastic insight to the Byzantine funeral rite in the Ukrainian and Greek Catholic Church. Before we depart, though, are there any final words or thoughts that you would like to share with our listeners?
Reverend Badiak: [32:50] Well, I said, do not be afraid of death. Do not cry for the person that died, because they’re up in Heaven, very happy with God. But do cry. Cry for yourselves, because you have lost the greatest treasure in your life, whether it’s a grandmother, grandfather, father, mother, sister, brother, friend.
[33:13] Cry for them, cry for yourself for losing that great treasure. But don’t feel like you have to cry for them, because they’re up in Heaven with God.
John: [33:24] That’s great insight, and great words of wisdom to pass along.
Reverend Badiak: [33:28] Thank you.
John: [33:29] My parents passed away a long time ago. My father died when I was 22. My mother passed away, actually, back in 2000, on the exact same day my son was born, so she passed away early in the morning and he was born late at night. It was quite a long day and wide range of emotions.
[33:48] But my father‑in‑law passed away just a couple years ago, and I’m going to share those words of wisdom with my wife and my mother‑in‑law.
[33:57] Again, thank you for being a part of our show, Undertakings. Again, for our listeners, thank you for listening to Anderson McQueen’s radio show, Undertakings. Never miss an episode by subscribing to Undertakings at iTunes store. It’s easy and it’s free.
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[34:45] I’m John McQueen, with Anderson McQueen Funeral Homes, and I thank you for listening to Undertakings.
Click on this link to visit the website for Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church