Final burial of the indigent held at Mount Olivet

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, May 4, 2014

On April 23 Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago welcomed the last group of indigent deceased people from the Cook County Morgue for burial at Mount Olivet Cemetery, 2755 W. 111th St. Twenty three adults and 92 unborn babies were buried.

Back in early 2012 when the county Medical Examiner’s Office reported a backlog of more than 300 bodies in storage, more than its capacity, Catholic Cemeteries offered the county 300 graves free of charge. The first such burial at Mount Olivet took place in May 2012 and since then a total of 170 adults and 461 unborn babies have been buried.

The MedicalExaminer’s Office has new procedures in place that it says should prevent future backlogs. These include charging families to store deceased family members and seeking permission from families to cremate identified indigent people.

Indigent means that the deceased could not afford to pay for his or her own burial or their family could not pay. In some cases, no families could be found.

In the case of cremation, the Medical Examiner will keep the cremated remains for a period of time. Catholic Cemeteries has expressed a desire to take the remains and store them in perpetuity if the Medical Examiner decides to no longer keep them, said Roman Szabelski, executive director of Catholic Cemeteries.

In Cook County, unborn babies are still considered human remains and must be buried. Other counties consider them medical waste and dispose of them. Szabelski said they will continue to bury the unborn children from the county.

All of the graves will remain unmarked unless families provide markers.

Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Rojas presided over a gravesite service at Mount Olivet on April 23. Officials from the Cook County Morgue attended the service along with the funeral directors who donated their time and services to go and pick up the simple wooden caskets at the morgue and deliver them to the Southwest Side cemetery.

The Cook County Funeral Directors Association organized the volunteers to transport the men, women and babies.

If they didn’t, the bodies would be transported all at once in a storage truck.


  • catholic cemeteries of the archdiocese of chicago
  • indigent

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