Supply challenges affecting cemeteries, too

Headstones for the Catholics cemeteries in Wichita are taking much longer to be placed because of problems resulting from the pandemic. (Catholic Advance photo)

In special cases it may take up to a year for a headstone to be placed

The pandemic is not only affecting the living, it is also affecting the deceased.

Mark Miller, director of Catholic Cemeteries, said last week that it is taking twice as long as usual for headstones to be delivered to the three Catholic cemeteries in Wichita.

It’s currently taking about six months for headstones to be inscribed and delivered if the stone is quarried domestically, he said. It now takes nine to 12 months if the stone is imported.

“That is about twice the normal lead time we had prior to Covid,” he wrote in an email. “Once we receive the headstone at our cemeteries we typically have it installed within one week, depending on the number of funeral services we must set up for.”

Miller said he isn’t able to say when the supply issue will be addressed. “The demand for headstones has increased over the last 18 months. We typically had about 45 headstones on order at any given time two years ago. Currently, we have over 90 headstones on order and continue to write new orders every week.”

The diocese is currently receiving only eight to 10 headstones every three to four weeks for Calvary, Resurrection, and Ascension cemeteries.

A representative of the granite company used by Catholic cemeteries told Miller that it now takes about 15 weeks to quarry the stone – and that doesn’t include the transportation delays.

“Another challenge with the increased demand is that the art department at the granite company is overwhelmed with requests,” Miller said. “The granite company that we work with would get layouts and proofs back to us within one week. Currently it is taking three to four weeks to get a proof back for customer approval.”

The diocese is fortunate to have received Fr. Kapaun’s tomb, he added. “The granite company we worked with had all the materials in inventory so that they could meet our deadline – even with the custom carved capitals and columns.”

Miller said he has talked to other suppliers but they are in the same situation. “The delays seem to be across the board, across the country.”