Tolomato Cemetery was the parish cemetery for the church that is now the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine and returns to its roots, so to speak, every November. In the Catholic Church, November is the month in which the dead are prayed for and commemorated, and priests from the Cathedral generally celebrate a Mass in the Varela Chapel for this occasion.
Once again this year, on Saturday, Nov. 3, the Menorcan Society sponsored the Mass and encouraged its members to come, since there are many Minorcans buried at Tolomato. In fact, it was the priest who served the Minorcans in their New World ordeal during the British Period and also accompanied them on their flight to St. Augustine, Fr. Pedro Camps, who asked British Governor Patrick Tonyn for permission to use the “Old Catholic Cemetery” for burials once again. If you live in St Augustine and visit Tolomato, you will recognize many of the Minorcan names that you see on streets and shops throughout town.
Below is the statue of Fr. Camps and the Minorcans in the west courtyard of the Cathedral. The term “Minorcan” also includes those of Greek, Italian, Sardinian, Sicilian and other stock who were part of the emigration.
The Menorcan Society and other attendees placed flowers on the graves, although unfortunately when I went out to the cemetery later that same day, I found that our abundant squirrel population had tipped over the vases and eaten the flowers, leaving only a random scattering of petals here and there.
But the squirrels didn’t win! Above, Fr. Ed Booth (who has Minorcan roots) from the Cathedral parish stands for a moment after blessing the grave of his long ago predecessor, Fr. Miguel O’Reilly, who during the Second Spanish Period was the first pastor of the parish that is now the Cathedral. Fr. Miguel O’Reilly died in 1812 and was buried at Tolomato; his successor, Fr. Miguel Crosby (another Irishman ordained in Spain) is buried nearby.