UD Jesuit High students carry caskets of the homeless

Mike Householder
Associated Press

Detroit — Students at University of Detroit Jesuit High School are encouraged to become “men for others.”

Some who attend the all-boys Catholic prep school are taking that tenet to heart and putting it into action by taking on a volunteer experience that has them serving as pallbearers at the funerals of homeless men and women.

More than 50 signed up to be pallbearers. The students named their effort after Joseph of Arimathea, the wealthy biblical figure many Christians see as the most important pallbearer in history, having cared for Jesus Christ’s body after his crucifixion.

Six students recently kicked off the Arimathean pallbearer ministry by carrying the caskets of three homeless military veterans during services at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly Township.

The men, whose bodies went unclaimed at the county morgue, had served in the Army, Air Force and Marines.

Senior Lenny Froehlich was among the students wearing white gloves and matching school ties who toted the flag-draped caskets at the Veterans Affairs cemetery.

“We kind of represent the family that is not here to be with them. And that is, I think, a privilege,” he said after the first of the funerals.

Three weeks earlier, Froehlich and the other two students heading up the ministry led a training session in the school’s chapel, outlining the program for students and faculty members.

The ministry was conceived by students in the school’s Ignatian Service Corps, or service team, as a way to better serve the community. It is similar to a program at another Jesuit high school, St. Ignatius, in Cleveland.

“I think for the young men here at U of D, it teaches them the value and dignity of life at all levels,” said Todd Wilson, the school’s director of service.

Kevin Desmond, a funeral director at A.J. Desmond & Sons, said additional staff members typically are brought in to serve as pallbearers at services for the homeless — a duty University of Detroit Jesuit students now can fulfill.

“To be able to recognize that need, to offer this respect, is really a testament to these gentlemen and also just the community and spirit here at U of D Jesuit,” Desmond said.