Cardinal presides at funeral Mass for mother, four daughters who died in a fire

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, February 11, 2021

Cardinal presides at funeral Mass for mother, four daughters who died in a fire

Cardinal Cupich and Father Esequiel Sanchez presided over the funeral Mass of five members of the Espinosa family, four young girls and their mother on Feb. 10, 2021 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines. The mother and four girls died in a house fire on Jan. 27, 2021. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The caskets of members of the Espinosa family are carried into the chapel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A mourner carries in a bear with a shirt displaying all the names of members of the Espinosa family who perished in the fire. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Esequiel Sanchez gives the homily during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich and priests celebrate the liturgy. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A man prays near flowers sent by the Des Plaines Fire Department. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich incenses the caskets during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich prepares to present family members rosaries sent by Pope Francis. When he was recently in Rome, the cardinal told the pope about the family’s tragedy and he gave him rosaries to share with them. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The cardinal presents the rosaries to the family. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Funeral Home staff guide the caskets out of the chapel following Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The caskets are guided out of church following Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Jesus Puentes, associate rector of the shrine, blesses Juan Manuel Espinosa (middle), the husband and father of the deceased. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When Cardinal Cupich presided at the funeral Mass for five members of the Espinosa family at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines on Feb. 10, gestures of comfort came from as far away as the Vatican.

Pope Francis sent rosaries for family members who were mourning the loss of Nancy Cithlaly Zamudio, 25, and her daughters, Renata P. Espinosa, 6; Genesis Espinosa, 5; Allison Espinosa, 3; and Grace Espinosa, 2. All of them died in a house fire Jan. 27 in Des Plaines.

The children’s father was at work when the 104-year-old wood frame duplex in Des Plaines caught fire, neighbors told media. Investigators believe the fire was started by a space heater.

Cardinal Cupich said the pope gave him the rosaries when the cardinal was in Rome two weeks previously.

“He said he would like me to make sure that the family receives them as a way of showing his closeness to you,” Cardinal Cupich said. “He would ask that you pray for him, because he also takes on himself the sufferings of the world, your suffering.”

Cardinal Cupich addressed the congregation, spread out so as to remain socially distanced in the pews, in Spanish at the end of the Mass.

“I’m here as your archbishop, pastor of the entire Catholic community in Chicago, to express our most sincere condolences” to the family, he said. “This horrible story has touched many hearts throughout the Chicago area and in the state of Guanajuata in Mexico.”

His presence was meant to show the whole church accompanied the family in their grief.

Father Esequiel Sánchez, rector of the shrine, addressed the family directly in his homily.

“When you come from another country, and you can’t speak the language, and you try anyway, you bring your family, hoping your future is going to be beautiful and bright, hoping your girls will have a future, you have to be brave to do that,” Sánchez said. “You have to have faith. You have to have to believe in yourself, to know that if I hang onto faith and work hard, a beautiful life can I live.

“We come here to give our condolences, and to thank God for their lives, and to give them the respect and love death tried to take away.”

Sánchez spoke of the promise Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount, that those who mourn will be comforted, and urged those grieving this loss to have faith.

“It is not a fantasy,” he said. “It is a promise, because it is given by the one who is the lord of life itself. It is given as a promise by God: ‘You will be consoled. There is more to life than what you think. There is more to life than this. It is in my hand. I am the creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.’”

The loss, Sánchez said, has hit even those who did not know the family well, coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a growing fatigue inside all of our hearts, the fatigue of so much death this year,” he said. “We’re tired. We’re tired of having to say goodbye.”


  • cardinal cupich
  • funerals

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