Student volunteers from Brother Rice, St. Rita and St. Laurence assist in the
burial of 160 indigents  last week at Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Photos by Nuha Abdessalam)

Student volunteers from Brother Rice, St. Rita and St. Laurence assist in the
burial of 160 indigents last week at Mount Olivet Cemetery. (Photos by Nuha Abdessalam)

Volunteers from Brother Rice, St. Rita and St. Laurence help indigent on their final journey

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Volunteers help prepare the coffin of an indigent before burial at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

By Nuha Abdessalam

Father Larry Sullivan, a director of Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago and pastor of Christ the King Parish, joined County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and spoke words of love, respect, and God at the 35th annual committal service at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

The service on June 6 at 1:30 p.m. was a testament to unity and compassion. It was dedicated to laying souls to rest with dignity, a solemn affair that reminded us of our shared humanity, our shared grief, and our shared hope for a peaceful afterlife.

The sun, gently filtering through the trees, cast a serene glow on the scene, adding to the peaceful ambiance of the 35th annual committal service. The weather, the most ideal in days, reflected the occasion’s solemnity.

The service was held to bury 160 indigent remains, those who passed away without financial means for a proper burial, and 22 unborn persons who came under the care of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, a solemn act of respect and remembrance.

The burial was a profound tribute to the 5,240 unborn, indigent, and unknown persons buried at the South Side cemetery since 2012. Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago partners with Cook County to provide dignified burials for these decedents as a public service.

Cook County, through the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, is authorized with the final disposition of indigent deceased, unidentified deceased, and fetal remains. In a mighty collaborative effort, they have worked hand in hand with Catholic Cemeteries and the Funeral Directors Association, Worsham College of Mortuary Science, and Malcolm X College to provide dignified burials.

Students of Brother Rice High School, St. Rita of Cascia High School, and St. Laurence High School played a pivotal role during the service. They stood alongside caskets with other local funeral directors, symbolizing the community’s support and respect for the departed. They accompanied each decedent at the service, providing a comforting presence, and stayed until the burial was complete, ensuring that no one was left alone in their final journey.

Senior students Jacob DeLlano and Canden Wilson of Brother Rice generously dedicated their time to assist.

Wilson, who has selflessly helped four consecutive times with annual committal services, shared his thoughts, “I think it’s a privilege to be the last human touch. As Father Larry said, being there for our neighbor, it feels good to be part of that.”

Delano added, “I feel deeply honored to be there for people who really didn’t have anybody, and so I was honored to be there for others.”

Their heartfelt words reflect the deep impact of the event on them, inspiring us all with their selflessness and compassion.

Elsa Hindman, a junior at St. Laurence High School, was introduced to the volunteering efforts by a friend. She expressed her gratitude, saying, “My friend told me about this, and the thought of not helping didn’t make sense. I’m grateful to be here and pray over these souls; being part of this is an honor.”

Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County’s Board president, said, “The service ensures that every single person under our care in Cook County is treated with dignity and respect as we lay them to rest. We’re here to say our final goodbyes to these individuals, the people we are honoring were someone’s child, they may have been parents or siblings, they were our neighbors.

“While their circumstances are all unique, today, as members of their community, we become their family, and we see them off in a respectful and dignified manner.”

2 Comments

  1. Mary Walsh Farmar on June 17, 2024 at 8:31 am

    God bless these kind, caring young people, need more stories like this. Their compassion is inspiring



  2. Gayle Moravecek on June 17, 2024 at 1:35 pm

    I applaud their loving service to the dearly departed. My hope is that the message will be published before the event so many more can attend. May God bless them for caring so much for the deceased. What an honor to be able to put them to their final rest. May they all rest in peace and may God have mercy on them.



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