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Press Release

 Office of Media and Communication

Evangelical Catholic
Diocese of the Northwest

Chicago Illinois 60617-8388
Office: 773-721-5383   Fax: 773-721-2581

 January 28, 2012

 Chicago, Illinois - For Immediate Release 



Diocese releases Bishop’s letter of recommendations to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle for new policies to address the needs of the bodies of the indigent


The attached is a copy of Bishop James Wilkowski’s letter to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle after his visit to the Cook County Morgue.


William R. Morton
Office of Media and Public Relations
(T) 773.721.5353      (C) 773.998.2014





“A Welcoming Community of Faith Rooted in the Catholic Tradition”



The Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest
Post Office Box 178388   Chicago Illinois 60617-8388
Office:  773-721-5383     Fax:  773-721-2581    Email:  diocesenw@evangelicalcatholicchurch.org

Office of the Bishop

 January 28th, 2012


The Honorable Toni Preckwinkle
President of the Cook County Board
118 N. Clark Street  Room 537
Chicago Illinois 60602

RE:  Recommendations for redressing concerns at the Cook County Morgue

Dear Madam President:

I hope that this letter finds you well.

After my visit to the Cook County Morgue yesterday, may I begin this letter by thanking you for your desire to address the current problems at the Cook County Morgue and with your permission; I wish to offer you my suggestions towards formulation news policies for the disposition of the remains of the indigents which so often goes unclaimed leaving the responsibility for disposition to our County.

Permit me to begin my recommendations by stating that the current policy of burials of indigents in mass graves has become both outdated and disrespectful.  It has become outdated by the fact that available land space for mass graves is becoming limited and these burials, done without traditional burial vaults are also a safety issue.  Despite the fact that the remains of so many of our indigents goes unidentified, I believe that we are now living in times which no longer dispenses our society from providing dignified burials for the unknown and unwanted.

I wish to suggest that the following steps be considered as an alternative to the current policies for the disposition of the remains of indigents:


·          Upon taking custody of remains, the Cook County Medical Examiner will obtain the DNA of the deceased and created an ID record with this information.


·          After remains have been in the custody of the County for more than 60 days, they will be cremated and place in a simple container with a file identification number attached and returned to the custody of the County for storage in a non-refrigerated location with the hope of possible reuniting with family.


·          If the cremains of indigents are not claimed within one year, the County can purchase one or two traditional size grave lots and install an ossuary as a final dignified resting place for the cremains of the indigents.  And if at some future date in time, a family member becomes identified, they may be directed to where there family member has been placed at rest.


I realize that these suggestions represents a “broad stroke” remedy to this scandal, but I believe that this scandal demands our County to consider thinking outside of the current box to policies for new and caring policies which will allow the County of Cook become the temple for others to follow.

Madam President, I am fully aware that problems such as what we are currently faced with cannot be answered overnight.  Thus, let me conclude this letter with one final recommendation:

I ask you to consider the creation of a Blue Ribbon Committee charged with providing you and the members of the County Board with recommendations for solutions to this matter we are facing within a 90 day period.  Please consider allowing ordinary citizens of our County the opportunity to assist you and the Board in finding a solution to this problem.

If I can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call upon me.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my recommendations.

I remain,


Respectfully Yours in Christ,


James Alan Wilkowski 

Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest



“A Welcoming Community of Faith Rooted in the Catholic Tradition”




Diocesan Church Office
Post Office Box 178388  Chicago Illinois  60617-8388
(T)  773-721-5383   (F)  773-721-2581