Student Pallbearers Serve the Underprivileged

Monday, July 21, 2014

Saint Ignatius High School students in the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearers Ministry lead a funeral for a local resident in Cleveland, Ohio. (Keith Mokris)

School is out for the summer, and may students are spending their with friends or working a summer job. But some students at the Cleveland, Ohio-based high school St. Ignatius are also spending time doing an unlikely act of service.

More than 400 juniors and seniors at this all-male Catholic school volunteer in the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Ministry, a student organization that leads funerals for deceased people who were homeless, financially insecure, or simply didn’t have anyone to give them a dignified burial.

Over the past 12 years, the Pallbearers Ministry has led hundreds of funerals. Burying the dead, these students learn that every person is worthy of dignity and care, a lesson that makes them more conscious of how they treat the living.

Jim Skerl is a theology teacher and the founder of the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearers Ministry at St. Ignatius, and Sean McCann is a 2014 graduate of St. Ignatius who was involved the Pallbearers Ministry as a student. They discuss how this program has changed their perspectives on life and death.

Keith Mokris
Saint Ignatius High School students in the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearers Ministry lead a funeral for a local resident in Cleveland, Ohio.
Keith Mokris
Saint Ignatius High School students in the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearers Ministry lead a funeral for a local resident in Cleveland, Ohio.


Sean McCann and Jim Skerl

Produced by:

Allie Ferguson and Kaitlin Roberts


T.J. Raphael

Comments [5]

Anonymous from New York City, NY

I was a Pallbearer at Saint Ignatius (Class of 2011). There is no bigger organization on campus than the Pallbearers and the Christian Action Team. These young men take a tremendous amount of pride in meeting these families and practicing their faith in the real world. Typically these funerals will have less than 15 people including the Pallbearers and the clergy. It's an incredible mission and one of the most important things I'll ever do in my life. Thank you for telling their story.

Jul. 22 2014 10:21 AM
Anne Straitiff from Bay Village, Ohio

I have been an adult companion to these amazing young men for five years. My son was a pallbearer during his junior and senior years. I am continuing to serve two years after his graduation. There have been times when the boys and I are the only people at a funeral other than the priest or minister and the funeral director. It is incredible to watch 17 and 18 year olds handle this responsibility and navigate the nuances of interaction with the presiders and mourners at a funeral. Many people think the boys are required to do this to fulfill their high school service requirement, but that is incorrect. The students of Saint Ignatius all do their service during their sophomore year. Pallbearers must be juniors or seniors. They volunteer for this ministry for their own reasons, and I am privileged to accompany them.

Jul. 22 2014 07:01 AM
Dayna from Menlo Park, CA

This was SUCH an encouraging story. I not only commend these amazing young men, but I thank John Hockenburry, for allowing this piece to work its way into a day that's otherwise dominated by stories of war and strife - whether it's the middle east, situation in Ukraine or even the children coming over our own border. When we hear about the good work these young men are doing, serving their community as Pallbearers, it touches the heart. If only we had more folks like this! They consider first what they can give (rather than what they can receive); this choice unleashes a tidal wave of blessings....first upon the deceased, who is honored well in their final journey....then, to the friends/loved ones, and lastly, to the community at large. And, today - all of us as well, who yearn for this kind honorable service and civility in our communities.

Jul. 21 2014 10:14 PM
Carrie Mook Bridgman from Louisville, KY

I was enjoying the story til the last minute, when the interviewer, who had just been talking with a recently-graduated high school senior who has taken part in this ministry for two years, ended the conversation with "Out of the mouths of babes. . . . "

Excuse me? The young man is probably 17 or 18 years old and has just been telling you about his involvement with giving the indigent a decent burial. A seven-year-old would object to that characterization of his comments.

Jul. 21 2014 03:54 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

When I was surrounded by the elderly and death at a young age, it helped me respect the preciousness of life.

Jul. 21 2014 02:48 PM

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