By Joyce Duriga.
On a sunny fall day, Nov. 12, Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago held its 29th committal service to bury indigent people and the unborn from Cook County at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 2755 W. 111th St.
The burial included the remains of one unidentified person, 48 unborn babies and 114 indigent people who were cremated. Since Catholic Cemeteries started these burials in conjunction with the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, the remains of 1,337 unborn babies and 2,077 adults have been interred.
Local funeral directors volunteered their time to transport the remains in hearses from the medical examiner’s office to the cemetery with an escort from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.
The short service included Scripture readings, intercessory prayer and a blessing of the remains. Following the service, participants placed white roses on the boxed remains and cemetery staff buried them.
During his homily, Father Larry Sullivan, director of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago, reflected on the effects of the pandemic on all people.
“We know that life is not always easy. We know that life can be painful, that life is hard. And yet at difficult times we look to see the face of God,” he said.
We see the face of God when we serve others and put their needs before our own, he said.
“That’s why it’s so appropriate that we gather here today sacrificing of our time and our energy and our commitments to gather here to recognize that what we’re doing here is fundamentally important to us,” Sullivan said. “Not just as a faith people but as a people who are committed to easing the pain and suffering of others.”
The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of caring for each other, Sullivan said.
“We gather here today knowing that we are responsible for caring for one another and that is absolutely fundamental to who we are as a Christian people and to be members of the human race,” he said. “As we come here today to mourn the loss of those we lay to rest here today we do so out of a sense that we not only have to care for them, not only have to care for their earthly remains, but that we have to care for all people who are suffering.”
Following the service, Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar said her office is grateful for the help of Catholic Cemeteries in burying the indigent.
“The mission of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office is to treat our indigent with respect and dignity. Catholic Cemeteries has helped us a lot with our mission,” Arunkumar said. “It gives us a lot of satisfaction to see how the process goes so smoothly. We’re indebted to Catholic Cemeteries for allowing us to partner with them and help us with the burial of our indigents and our unknown.”
Martin Flagg, the funeral director who organized the volunteers from the Cook County Funeral Directors Association to transport the remains when Catholic Cemeteries began holding the services, was remembered during the service. He died the week before in Florida.
“It was his initiative. He was a humble, kind, outgoing funeral director,” said Leonard Zielinski of the Cook County Funeral Directors Association.
“Any of the funeral directors who have been fortunate enough to volunteer and be here have found it a rewarding experience to be involved in this because it’s something that doesn’t normally happen in their careers,” he said. “Once you’re here and you see the kindness, the benevolence that goes into this, and the cooperating parties that make this happen is when you really experience firsthand, hopefully it goes deeply into your heart.”
For the full story by Joyce Duriga, click here.