By Penny Wiegert
WINNEBAGO, Ill. (CNS) – What started as an idea of some people from St. Peter from South Beloit, Illinois, resulted in a beautiful body work of mercy for 243 people.
The cremated remains of these individuals – unclaimed, unburied and some even unclean – were finally restored with dignity and respect on January 24, thanks to the combined efforts of the Winnebago County Law Office and the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Winnebago. is in Rockford. Diocese.
After receiving an investigation from South Beloit parishioners about what could be done to help bury the growing inventory of unclaimed cremated remains stored for years in boxes and bags, the Winnebago County coroner and cemetery worked together to provide a suitable place to rest.
“We have been working constantly for at least six months to work on the details, documents and logistics of transferring the remains of these people to Calvary,” said Ken Giambalvo, diocesan director of the Catholic Cemetery Bureau.
Some of the remains have been stored by the coroner’s office for 20 years, according to coroner’s spokesman Mark Karner.
In the last six months, finding a place of respect and dignity has become the companion project of Rob Baumgartner, an investigator in the coroner’s office.
Baumgartner said Winnebago County had considered several ways to ban the wreckage, but each time there were obstacles.
One of the biggest obstacles, he said, was finding a place where the remains could be buried and unburied if someone came to claim their loved ones.
“There have been many ideas over the years about where to put these people. But it all comes down to the possibility of presenting the remains of the family when requested. The county cemetery does not have a mausoleum. That’s why working with Calvary was a wonderful solution, “Baumgartner told The Observer, a Rockford diocese newspaper.
With a mausoleum and a columbarium, Calvary Cemetery is equipped to receive, bury and cremate the remains. For years, as part of his Catholic ministry, he has helped bury fetal remains and has helped those in financial need.
Calvary Cemetery offered to donate a crypt to find all the cremated remains stored by Winnebago County.
New containers were ordered for each individual’s remains. They have been documented in county and cemetery databases – a crucial step when a family member shows up to claim a person’s cremated remains. Each container was then labeled and labeled.
Baumgartner said there were many factors as to why a person’s remains would be unclaimed, including the deceased being alone or indigenous; lack of family resources; inability to locate close relatives; or the deceased was unidentified.
In some cases, the cremated remains were abandoned in storage units and even in a closet of a bus station, and the forensic office came into their possession until close relatives could be found.
But the most common and growing reason for the dead to remain unclaimed, Baumgartner explained, is that families have been alienated or are so deprived of rights that they are not interested or able to take responsibility for making arrangements. funeral.
“That’s why we are so grateful to give these people dignity and respect at Calvary,” Baumgartner said.
-And that’s exactly what the 20 or so grieving officials from the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office and the coroner’s office offered, including Sheriff Gary Caruana, Deputy Chief Rick Ciganek and Winnebago County Board Chairman Joseph Chiarelli one morning. cold months, with snow.
Rockford Bishop David J. Malloy and Sherman Nichols, a Winnebago County chaplain and pastor of Rockford Central Christian Church, presided over a prayer and a service for the cremated remains.
Using a combination of prayers and a sermon from Nichols and Catholic prayers for the dead and condemned, Bishop Malloy began with thanksgiving for all who came to confess and weep with the two clerics.
“I am very grateful and proud of the efforts and generosity that has been put in to make it possible for us, our brothers and sisters who have walked before us, to be properly recorded and rested,” he said. Bishop Malloy.
Nichols normally said at funerals that he would talk about the person after gathering testimonies from friends and loved ones about the deceased’s contributions, family ties, and their faith. It is a conversation of memories about which he said “it helps us in our pain, to have hope. These are the kinds of things we look for in trying to value a person. ”
“So what can we say about 243 people – let’s talk about their value as human beings? Some of them died many years ago. We are here in an effort to recognize something. I think one thing is that their life mattered, “he said.
When God created all people in His image, “God said that every person’s life is meaningful,” Nichols said. “He did not say that one life is more valuable than another. God founded all human life when He sent Jesus to redeem every man who would accept him. In doing so, he established the value of all people. “
“There must be a good reason to appreciate the lives of all people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, cultures, and times. That’s it, “he continued. “God created all nations in His image. He gave his son for the salvation of anyone who would accept him.
“It simply came to our notice then. Each person. So this is a good reason to come together to do this. In fact, that’s the best reason. “
Nichols concluded with a prayer to honor God for giving great value to every human being.
Bishop Malloy then said the prayers of condemnation and blessed the cremated remains and the crypt in which they will rest.
The jewelers took some time after the short ceremony to read the labels on each person’s container.
Marcy Giambalvo, who helped document and prepare the cremated remains, explained that the whole process was “very exciting” for her, especially, she said, when she processed and documented the remains of the unclaimed children.
Wiegert is the editor of The Observer, the diocese of Rockford.