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4 young sisters and their mother who died in Des Plaines fire remembered during funeral Mass

Pope Francis sent along rosary beads to offer comfort to grieving relatives.

Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Rev. Esequiel Sanchez presided over the funeral Mass of five members of the Espinosa family Wednesday at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.
Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez presided over the funeral Mass of five members of the Espinosa family Wednesday at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.
Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic

Their tiny white caskets lay at the front of the church, not far from grandparents who’d flown in from Mexico for a final farewell.

Pope Francis tried to offer some comfort, sending along rosary beads.

“He would like me to make sure the family receives them as a way of showing his closeness to you,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich, officiating Wednesday at the funeral Mass for a mother and her four young children who died Jan. 27 in a Des Plaines house fire. “And he would ask that you pray for him because he takes on himself the sufferings of the world, your suffering.”

The funeral Mass, conducted almost entirely in Spanish, was held at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines. A smattering of mourners, socially distanced and wearing masks, sat in the pews.

Investigators say a space heater likely caused the blaze that killed Grace Espinosa, 2; Allison Espinosa, 3; Genesis Espinosa, 5; Renata P. Espinosa, 6; and their mother, Nancy Cithlaly Zamudio, 25.

The 104-year-old home in the 700 block of Oakton Street was a two-story duplex. The family who died lived in a second-floor unit. The children’s father was at work at the time of the fire, a neighbor said.

The Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, the shrine’s rector, spoke of the terrible loss of innocent lives, and he spoke of the courage of a family that had come to America trying to make a new life.

“When you come from another country, you can’t speak the language and you try for it anyway. You bring your family, hoping that your future is going to be beautiful and bright. You’re hoping that your girls will have a future,” Sanchez said.

“You have to be brave to do that. You have to be brave. You have to have faith. You have to believe in yourself to know that if I hang onto faith and work hard, a beautiful life can I live.”

A casket for one of the Espinosa children killed in a house fire is carried into the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe for a funeral Mass.
A funeral was held Wednesday for five members of the Espinosa family at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines.
Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Rev. Esequiel Sanchez presided over the funeral Mass Wedneday for the four young girls and their mother killed in a Des Plaines house fire.
Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Very Rev. Esequiel Sanchez presided over the funeral Mass Wedneday for the four young girls and their mother killed in a Des Plaines house fire.
Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
Four children and an adult died in a Des Plaines house fire Jan. 27, 2021.
Four young girls and their mother died in a Des Plaines house fire Jan. 27, 2021.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file