Chicagoland

Interest in cremation leads to new garden in Des Plaines

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
October 26, 2017

Cremation garden opens at All Saints Cemetery

Catholics increasingly choose to be cremated, so this summer Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago opened its first cremation garden next to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Mausoleum at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines.
A statue of St. Francis of Assisi at the new cremation garden of St. Francis at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines on July 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Family members gather for the entombment of of Marian and Edmund Sylwestrak at the new cremation garden of St. Francis at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines on July 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Family members gather for the entombment of of Marian and Edmund Sylwestrak at the new cremation garden of St. Francis at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines on July 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Family members gather for the entombment of of Marian and Edmund Sylwestrak at the new cremation garden of St. Francis at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines on July 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The new cremation garden of St. Francis at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines on July 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The new cremation garden of St. Francis at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines on July 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The new cremation garden of St. Francis at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Every year on Nov. 2, the Catholic Church remembers its dead on All Souls Day. On or around that day many families visit their deceased loved ones at the cemetery. 

Increasingly, Catholics choose to be cremated, so this summer Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago opened its first cremation garden next to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Mausoleum at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines.  

The Cremation Garden of St. Francis is a picturesque space filled with flowers and plants and a small pond with koi. Catholic Cemeteries worked with architect Ken Girere to create the garden, which features various types of niches that hold the cremated remains. A large bronze statue of St. Francis of Assisi stands prominent in the space. Catholic Cemeteries has long buried cremated remains, and the new garden can hold approximately 800 interments or entombments.

The waterfall, pond, fish and landscaping predate the garden and were donated by a man in memory of his wife who is entombed in the mausoleum.  

“We have specifically designed this garden around these features to allow more families to intimately experience the peace and tranquility of the setting,” said Ted Ratajczyk, director of cemetery services. “It serves not only as a peaceful setting for the burial or entombment of your loved ones’ cremated remains but also as a visible presence to the community that the Catholic Church is here to meet the needs of families in grief looking for a suitable final resting place for the cremated remains of the body of their loved ones.”

Every year the number of cremations the cemeteries handle increases. In 2007, about 14 percent of all burials were cremations, Ratajczyk said. At the end of the fiscal year 2017, cremation burials accounted for just over 26 percent, for a yearly total of over 4,100 cremated remains burials.

 Catholic Cemeteries plans to enlarge the St. Francis garden and is exploring in which of its 45 cemeteries they will open another garden. 

While it’s often thought that people choose cremation because of cost, Ratajczyk said that’s not the case. 

“The majority of our cremated remains burials take place in the summer months and around holidays. This gives the family a chance to schedule the services at their convenience, allowing more family members to be present for the service without needing to take off of work or travel long distances at a moment’s notice,” he said. Many cremation services take place anywhere from 30 days to years after the person’s death. 

That was the case with the family of Edmund Sylwestrak, who died in June at 98. His wife, Marian, died in 2010. The couple wanted to be buried together so the family waited to inter their mother’s ashes until Edmund died. 

The Sylwestrak’s daughter Claire Thom said the Cremation Garden of St. Francis opened soon after her father’s death and “the timing was just perfect.”

Her parents chose cremation in part because they didn’t want their children to have to maintain a gravesite. 

The couple was also clear in their desire to be cremated and their remains placed in a Catholic cemetery. Which cemetery was up to the family. 

The Catholic Church asks people to bury or inter cremated remains in a sacred space.

“Burial in a Catholic Cemetery ensures that all family members will have sacred place to visit, remember and pray for their loved ones. Memorialization in a Catholic cemetery provides a place for generations of families to continue to visit their ancestors. Many of these benefits would not be available to families who keep the remains on a mantle, in a closet or scattered in a lake, park or other property that may be used for a different purpose years down the road,” Ratajczyk said. “Since cemeteries are designated as sacred places, they can never be disturbed for other uses.”

 When cremation of the body is chosen, the remains of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, such as a cemetery, he said. “The church teaches us that the cremated remains of the body should be treated with the same respect as the corporal remains of the body and therefore not kept at home, distributed to family members, scattered or made into jewelry. The church further states that when possible the corporal remains of the body be brought to church for the funeral liturgy prior to cremation.”  

This view benefits those left behind, he said. 

“Taking part in the vigil or wake service, the funeral liturgy and the committal at the cemetery are very powerful and supportive ways for families to see the love that surrounds them in their grief — love of family and friends as well as love from the Catholic Church.”

Topics:

  • catholic cemeteries
  • cremation

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