In addition to club meetings, band practices and football games, some University of Detroit Jesuit High School teens are also signing up to serve as pallbearers for homeless veterans. Recently six students volunteered to be pallbearers for three dead homeless veterans.
Senior Joshua Gonzales is one of the student leaders who helped develop the program. Gonzalez said this new opportunity for students is “meant to help dignify and respect the human being.” The Rev. Karl Kiser, the school president said the students’ initial plan was to carry the caskets for homeless individuals.
However after working with local funeral home A.J. Desmond & Sons, the students narrowed their focus to the largest group of homeless people in need of the pallbearing service: unclaimed veterans. At the beginning of the month more than 50 students attended the first training session, a number that surprised funeral director Kevin Desmond, who said he expected no more than 20 students.
Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia acted as motivation for Junior Noah Tylutki. Tylutki said “I thought that being a pallbearer for forgotten veterans was a great way to be a witness to Pope Francis’ message.”
The idea began two years ago when Director of Service Todd Wilson took a group of students to St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, where a similar program is in place. Wilson said initially, the idea didn’t take off “We wanted the students to want to do it. Interest was renewed and a group of student leaders worked over the summer to develop a training program as a pallbearer.”
According to Wilson a second training session for students interested in the pallbearer program is expected to be offered in November.
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