What if you passed away and nobody was present at your funeral? What if you passed away and you did not have any relatives to organize a funeral for you? Or, what if those relatives did not have enough money to fund an event to remember your life? Death and funerals are usually not the first things on our minds everyday, but as privileged members of society, when these things do occur, we often overlook the expenses and privileges we have that allow us to celebrate our loved ones’ lives. Funerals are not merely a mass with a eulogy followed by a burial service, they serve as an opportunity for friends and family to come together as one to celebrate the life, accomplishments, and love shared by the person that has moved on to eternal life.
Located right off of Tremont St. and just a short walk from the Boston Common, Saint Anthony’s Shrine and Ministry Center organizes funeral masses for the homeless or indigent members of the Boston community. Boston and the Greater Boston area is home to one of the largest homeless communities in the nation, reports the Boston Globe in December 2014, with over 17,000 people living in emergency shelters. The Boston Globe reported that in 2014, this number was 2,000 more people than Los Angeles and 14,000 more than Chicago. Now, these are just numbers, so we must break it down to a more personal level. Think about those 17,000 people: their relatives, their personal funds, and their health. What is to happen when they grow old or become ill? If they pass away, who will be there to celebrate their lives, accomplishments, and loves? Will anyone even be able to support an event to do this celebrating? This is where St. Anthony’s Shrine comes into play. The Lazarus Ministry Project at St. Anthony’s hosts approximately six or seven funeral services a year for adults that have passed away in Boston. Sometimes family members will show up, and sometimes no relatives or friends will show up at all. In fact, in many cases, the only people present to celebrate the life of the person are the amazing parishioners of St. Anthony’s.
St. Anthony’s Shrine staff, priests, and parishioners work extremely hard to humanize the less fortunate members of our community and come together to properly celebrate their life. On Wednesday, October 21, 2015, I witnessed the Lazarus Ministry first hand while attending the funeral for Mr. Ervin Brown. On this brisk fall morning, myself and ten other BC High students, as well as Mrs. Devlin and Mrs. Kupsc came together with the St. Anthony’s community to celebrate the life of a stranger, but to us, a partner in our community. Contrary to most funerals held at St. Anthony’s, Ervin had multiple family members present but none were able to afford a
proper service to celebrate his life. So, on that Wednesday morning we joined the family and parishioners and came together for communion and the celebration of Ervin’s life. The experience was like none other. In an obviously sad time, it was a powerful feeling to be in attendance. We served as the pallbearers for Ervin and played an integral part of the service and of the celebration. The ability to have been at the service and pay respect to a man who otherwise might not have been celebrated in the way that he should have been was a sublime moment that everyone should attempt to be a part of at BC High or later on in their life.