County buries indigent, unidentified with help from archdiocese

By Kevin Beese For Chronicle Media

Area funeral directors prepare one of the caskets to be buried. (Photo by Kevin Beese/for Chronicle Media)

Area funeral directors placed yellow roses on wooden coffins in Chicago’s Mount Olivet Cemetery, remembering the unknown, unborn and indigent being buried.

Friday’s mass burial saw 109 individuals laid to rest through the efforts of Cook County and Catholic Cemeteries. Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Chicago Archdiocese and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle were among the individuals on hand for the burial.

The solemn event saw five unknown individuals, 24 unborn babies and 80 unclaimed indigent people buried in the Chicago cemetery.

Yellow roses pay tribute to the remains of individuals to be buried in Mount Olivet. (Photo by Kevin Beese/for Chronicle Media)

“Pope Francis said we have to make sure that no one in life feels excluded and so we’re here to say very clearly that those who have died may be alone and indigent, but they cannot be excluded,” Cupich said.  “We’re here to commend the souls of all those who will be buried.”

Cupich said the burial was in some way being true to the call that each of us has to live out our faith.

Preckwinkle said that although unknown and unclaimed the individuals buried Friday were still people.

Cardinal Cupich says a blessing over a county monument to remember the unborn and deceased infants buried in Mount Olivet. With Cupich are (from left) the Rev. Larry Sullivan, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and county Commissioner John Daley. (Photo by Kevin Beese/for Chronicle Media)

“Each person was a member of our community, a friend, a neighbor, a son or a daughter,” Preckwinkle said.

A county monument was unveiled Friday in the cemetery where nearly 1,500 unknown and unclaimed individuals, including many unborn and infants, have been buried.

“This monument is a symbol of our community coming together to care for one another,” the County Board president said. “I believe that government at every level has two basic responsibilities: to provide good service, and to do it as effectively and efficiently as possible. This philosophy is particularly important within the (county) Medical Examiner’s Office where the care and dignity of loved ones are key to our mandate and our mission.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich sprinkles holy water on the coffins of indigent and unclaimed individuals being buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago. (Photo by Kevin Beese/for Chronicle Media)

Preckwinkle said the county has had to take on the role of indigent individuals’ family.

“It falls to us to see them off in a respectful and dignified manner,” she said.

The County Board president said she is grateful to Cupich and Catholic Cemeteries for providing the burial space for the indigent and unclaimed. She said the county put out a request for proposals, asking for assistance in providing dignified burials for the indigent and got no responses.

Workers lower a casket of an unclaimed and indigent individual into a grave site. (Photo by Kevin Beese/for Chronicle Media)

“Shortly after he arrived here as archbishop, I went to meet the cardinal and he was gracious enough to offer Catholic Cemeteries as a place where we could bury those who are indigent and unidentified and unborn,” Preckwinkle said.

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