Catholic Cemeteries unveils new columbarium at Mount Carmel

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Catholic Cemeteries unveils new columbarium at Mount Carmel

Visitors got a first look of the new indoor columbarium opening at Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery, 1400 S. Wolf Road, Hillside, on Sept. 19, 2023. The original administration building at Mount Carmel was repurposed it into an indoor columbarium to hold cremated remains. Consecrated in 1901, Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery was the first cemetery to be opened in the western area of the Archdiocese of Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Joseph Tamburino, mayor of Hillside, got a first look of the new indoor columbarium on Sept. 19, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Statues of St. Clare of Assisi and St. Francis of Assisi. With a nod to the many Italian Catholics buried at Mount Carmel, statues of Italian saints are featured inside the building. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Statue of St. Joseph. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sample of etching on the glass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The St. Frances Xavier Cabrini section. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Statues of St. Anthony and St. Padre Pio are featured in this section. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The original administration building. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The former administration building at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside has been renovated into the Archdiocese of Chicago’s first indoor columbarium. The building, first constructed in 1901, can accommodate the cremated remains of 2,336 people.

People can choose from different sized glass niches that can hold the remains of one, two or three people. Buyers choose from a variety of urns approved by Catholic Cemeteries. They also can add a photo of their loved one, and a Christian memento and the names of the deceased are etched on the front of the niche.

The chapel is climate-controlled, so people can visit in all kinds of weather.

With a nod to the many Italian Catholics buried at Mount Carmel, statues of 11 Italian saints are featured in the space, along with a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which has a waterfall behind it and is a the main focal point when entering the chapel. Committal services can take place in front of the Mary statue, officials said. Soft instrumental music plays in the background when the chapel is open.

Catholic Cemeteries began working on the building two years ago, officials said.

“This was a unique repurposing of a historic building,” said Liane Bania, director of cemetery services, during an open house on Sept. 19. “I think it serves the purpose of what everyone is looking for. It’s a peaceful place to come and sit. Even if you don’t have a loved one in here, it’s nice to sit with the music and really just give yourself some spiritual space.”

Officials consulted funeral directors and families about the future of cremations and what people wanted, she said.

“We created this space so we could keep the history and the authenticity of Mount Carmel and then also give people different sizes [of niches],” Bania said.

In particular, she said, people wanted space for three urns in one niche because many families have children at home and want them to be buried with them.

“In doing so, it caused the ripple of making different sized niches,” she added.

Cremations make up about 40% of burials at the archdiocese’s Catholic cemeteries, officials said.

Mount Carmel Cemetery spans 214 acres and more than 238,000 people are buried there. Intricate tombstones and 400 ornate private mausoleums reflect the burial traditions of many of the Italian Catholic families who buried loved ones there.


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