by Judy Weismann
Attached is a picture taken Sunday, November 13, 2016 at Calvary Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA. Every year – on the 2nd Sunday of November – the Ladies of Charity from the Diocese of Pittsburgh gather at the St. Vincent de Paul Memorial in Calvary Cemetery and lay a wreath in memory of all of the unclaimed souls. This tradition started many years ago in commemoration of the founding of the Ladies of Charity in Pittsburgh, PA.
Her name was Anna. She was a tiny, old woman without a friend in the world. When she died in a Pittsburgh institution, no one mourned. Anna was as unimportant in men’s eyes as a human could be. At the funeral mass, there was no one present. When the mass ended and the hearse drove off alone with the coffin, it should have been the end of Anna’s earthly story. However, the church was not entirely empty that day. By some impulse, Margaret O’Konski decided to stay after attending the last mass. She watched unbelievingly as the solitary funeral began. Afterward, she set out to do something about it. She began organizing a group of women to attend funerals of these unclaimed dead. Thus the roots of the Ladies of Charity in the Diocese of Pittsburgh were planted and the official organization was formed two years later.
This year the weather could not have been more beautiful as more than 100 ladies from the various Pittsburgh diocesan parishes gathered and participated in a prayer service for the unclaimed dead.