Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Catholic Cemetery's Roman Szabelski to Oversee the Horrors at Burr Oak

I was at Kean Gas this morning and heard from a Cook County Sheriff's Deputy that Sheriff Tom Dart had asked a judge to appoint someone to oversee the disaster that is Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, IL.

My Cousin Willie works for the Sheriff and he has not had much shut-eye in the last six or so days. Willie bought some fish from my son Conor at Di Cola's on Western Ave. just before closing on Tuesday. Conor said Willie looked dead on his feet.

All of the Sheriff's people have done a great job.

Today, I heard that Roman Szabelski of the Catholic Cemeteries was appointed.

Roman Szabelski the Chief of the forty or so Catholic Cemteries in the Chicago Area was appointred by a judge to oversee the horrors of Burr Oak Cemetery, years of mismanagement leading to one of the great horrors of recent history.

Two years ago, Mr. Szabelski appeared on Public Radio to talk about Green Issues in the Cemetery Industry. ( click my post title)

Brushing aside the usual smarm ( snide remarks about 'What Catholics Believe') from the soft-talkers of Public Radio, Mr. Szabelski articulated the care and concern of the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese for families of the deceased:

RICHARD: The Catholic Church prefers full-body burial in consecrated ground. That’s because Catholics believe in the resurrection of the dead. The church has only allowed cremation since the mid-Sixties.

MELBY: That doesn’t mean Chicago’s Catholic cemeteries are immune to progress.

COMPUTERIZED GRAVE LOCATOR: Spell out the last name of the deceased that you are trying to locate using the touch-screen keyboard, and then press search.

SZABELSKI: So I’ve just keyed in my family name and I’m pushing search. Florence Szabelski is my mother so I’m asking it to show that record to me.

MELBY: That’s Roman Szabelski. He’s executive director of Catholic cemeteries for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

RICHARD: Roman started mowing grass at the cemeteries in 1979. Today, he presides over 2.2 million dead at 43 cemeteries around Chicago. He has a good sense of what his customers want.

SZABELSKI: We come from a very conservative tradition where people want their 3 by 8, their grave, to look like their backyard, which is perfectly manicured.

MELBY: Providing that much space won’t be a problem anytime soon. Roman says the archdiocese has stockpiled enough land not just for the next couple decades, but for the next one to two hundred years.

SZABELSKI: We’re sitting in Queen of Heaven Cemetery right now, which is roughly about a 300-acre site. About 100 of those acres are leased to the golf course next door. As we need the property, the golf course will go from 18 to 9 to zero and a driving range and that property will be used.

MELBY: Roman doesn’t expect to dig into that golf course for another 25 years.

RICHARD: Yet Roman is considering carving out a green burial section in one of the cemeteries here.

MELBY: Still it won’t be easy to do in this sea of manicured lawns. Green burial advocates prefer a natural landscape of wild grass and trees. Their preference is to keep the plots free of any monuments or markers.

SZABELSKI: So we’re trying to figure out how do you incorporate a green burial cemetery section into a traditionally kept cemetery.

Not much Green at Burr Oak, but a great deal of grief. I wonder if Chicago Public Radio will make note? Most likely not.

The families of the thousands of Burr Oak Cemetery Dead will at last have a caring and thoughtful soul looking out for them. Francis Cardinal George has a solid man being tasked with this extra duty.

Catholics cause Progressives the itch, until a human crisis like Burr Oak Cemetery seems to impact on all of us - and while the work is being done for people, the Progressives will stand on the sidelines and wait for the green light to go Bill Maher on Catholics again.

God Bless the work, Roman!

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