30th Annual Interfaith Memorial Observance For Indigent Persons

30th Annual Interfaith Memorial Observance For Indigent Persons

The lives of 226 people buried by the Cook County Medical Examiner in the past twelve months were celebrated at the 30th Annual Interfaith Memorial for Indigent Persons. First United Methodist Church–Chicago Temple, home of the Ministry for the Indigent, hosted the service.

Pat Smuck, a member of the Indigent Ministry Committee, welcomed the guests and introduced President Toni Perkwinkle who extended greetings from the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

The Medical Examiners Office operates under the auspices of the County Board. Ms. Preckwinkle attends each annual service and pledges her office's continual commitment to treating the remains of the deceased who come into their care with dignity and respect.

  • Tabassum Haleem, recently elected Executive Director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, read from the Qu'ran.
  • Steven Dishler, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, shared a selection from the Old Testament.
  • Andrew Lyke, Director of the Office for Black Catholics—Archdiocese of Chicago—shared a reading from Matthew's Gospel concluding with a prayer.
  • Rev. Dr. Myron F. McCoy, Chicago Temple's new pastor, delivered the keynote address.


The focal point of the memorial service is reading the name of every person buried each year. Members of various religions read the 226 names, which crossed several ethnic groups: European, Hispanic, African-American and Asian. A bell chimed intermittently and a white candle was lit between each reading.

A few years ago, the County's Bureau of Administration Public Information Office informed the Ministry that some of the indigent people buried by Cook County were not among Chicago's homeless population; their survivors simply lacked the funds to bury them. Most are interred at Homewood Memorial Gardens in unmarked graves, but the plots are numbered and GPS tracked, allowing visitors to locate their gravesites through the cemetery office.

Now in its 30th year, the Memorial Service is sponsored by the Ministry for the Indigent and offers the community an opportunity to act as a surrogate family to individuals buried by the Coroner's Office.

The Ministry for the Indigent and the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs gratefully acknowledge ANDRZEJ SZREMSKI for his kind contribution of time and talent to photograph the service. A special thank you to ANA PAULA PANZARINI for assisting with the ushering details.