St. Dominic Cemetery
January 26, 2021 UPDATE:
With the modification of the Covid-19 Pandemic restrictions just announced by Solano County, the cemetery’s gate will be reopened immediately for normal hours, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. However, on days when a Funeral/Burial Rite is scheduled, the gates must be locked until the new grave is filled in. While in the Purple Tier 10 mourners will be allowed in. In the Orange Tier 45 mourners will be allowed in. As far as possible we will post closure information on this web site in addition to notices posted in the cemetery’s gates. While in the cemetery all Covid-19 Pandemic protocols must be observed, i.e., face masks must be worn and social distancing must be observed. Additionally, activities not in keeping with the sacred character of the cemetery, such as picnicking and the like, cannot be tolerated. This also includes walking dogs within the cemetery. Violators of these protocols will be asked to leave the cemetery immediately. Further, we reserve the right and obligation to modify these restrictions without advance notice if the sacred character of the cemetery is not respected and the Covid-19 Pandemic safety protocols are not observed.
We deeply appreciate your patience and understanding during these challenging days. It was not an easy decision to restrict access to the cemetery, but given the serious nature of the safety protocols, it was a necessary decision. We are pleased that we are able to take action to reopen our beloved St. Dominic’s Cemetery. We look forward to continuing our caring for our beloved dead and serving the families as they live the Corporal Work of Mercy, To Bury the Dead … in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.
January 21, 2021 – This morning Mike White, the groundskeeper at St. Dominic’s Cemetery sent me this photograph and told me that the drillers reached 400 Feet yesterday. They switched over to a 12? bit this morning and they will begin the process of installing a 6? pipe to pump the water more efficiently from this new well. We will have to dig a trench from the new well on the north end of the cemetery that ill go along the fence that separates the cemetery from the Valero Refinery to the site of the old well just south of the Hayes Pavillion. There we will build a concrete pad and install water tanks that will each hold 5,000 gallons of water. The tanks will then be connected to our irrigation system and, hopefully provide for the water needs of the cemetery for many years. Although the initial expense is not inexpensive, the savings down to the road for the cemetery will be significant!
-Fr. LaSalle Hallissey, O.P.
When the Dominican Friars moved to Benicia in 1853 and established Saint Dominic’s Priory of Benicia, one of the early concerns of Father Vilarrasa was to provide for the burial needs both of the parish community and the Dominican Community. He purchased a large tract of land within the Benicia City Cemetery that was informally known as Saint Dominic’s Cemetery. For many years it served the burial needs of the parish and remains the largest single section of the Benicia City Cemetery. (If you drive into the City Cemetery you drive on the right side of the cemetery. At the northern end of the cemetery you must make a hair-pin turn and head in a southerly direction. All of the burial land to your right is Saint Dominic’s Cemetery. It is not used for new burials and is maintained by the City of Benicia Department of Parks and Recreation.)
In 1894 Saint Dominic’s Cemetery was formally established and the eleven friars buried in the priory cemetery were transferred to the new cemetery located just one mile away. In 1897 twenty-three Dominican Sisters were transferred from the Sisters’ cemetery that had been located behind their convent on Military Road. (Benicia’s Safeway Store is located on the site of Saint Catherine’s Convent.) Very quickly this became the preferred burial site for not only the Friars and Sisters, but also for Dominican Laity, parishioners, family members of friars and sisters, benefactors, and other people who have been associated with the life and ministry of the Friars in California.
Until the 1970s the cemetery was under the direction of the pastors of Saint Dominic’s Parish. Beginning with Father Anthony Cordiero and then Father Thomas Hayes, the cemetery has been maintained by the Province directly. In large part the beauty of the cemetery today reflects the dedication, hard work, and love of these two friars. Without their efforts the cemetery would not be as beautiful as it is today. In addition to the work of Father Cordeiro and Thomas Hayes, I must pay tribute the contribution that Father Finbarr Hayes has made to the cemetery. In the 1980s, he spoke at the first Mass that was celebrated in the cemetery during a Province Assembly. Using a wireless mike, he stood behind the gravestones of ten friars and introduced the Province to some of their brothers that had gone before them. Often humorous, Father Hayes’ stories made our deceased brothers come alive again and allowed them to continue being a part of the life of the Western Dominican Province.