West Roxbury, Mass.— Students from Catholic Memorial School’s American War in Vietnam class hosted the funeral of a deceased U.S. Marine Corps veteran in the CM chapel on Wednesday morning.
Thirteen students from the class hosted the service for Mr. Joseph F. O’Connor, a veteran who passed away with no known living family or friends left to celebrate his life. The funeral service marks CM’s seventh service in the past three years for a veteran who died with no living family or family.
Eight of the 13 students served as pallbearers, a gesture that teacher Mr. Vin Bradley called powerful and profound. He said that the service helped students put into perspective the sacrifice that veterans make in war.
“It’s providing humanity to a story that is often reduced to a statistic,” said Mr. Bradley, who teaches the American War in Vietnam course.
“Every army is made up of human beings and, at the end of the day, it’s important to hear their story."
CM’s American War in Vietnam class encourages students to look at the Vietnam War through a variety of perspectives between those who supported and protested it. Mr. Bradley said that he wants his students to develop their own consciousness when evaluating the different social and geo-political factors that led to the war.
Hosting a veteran funeral allows students to see war through a unique lens.
“It reinforces the idea of war and peace—that these are human beings who are being deployed and fighting for our country,” said Mr. Bradley.
“These veterans deserve to be honored for their bravery and their sacrifice to protect their country.”
CM began hosting funerals for veterans in November of 2017 when the school laid to rest Army veteran John T. Fitzmaurice. On Wednesday, Fr. Wayne Belschner, the pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption in Dedham, celebrated Mr. O’Connor's funeral Mass. According to Senior Class President Will Fleck, CM’s tradition of hosting such services leaves an impression on the hearts and minds of all students who participate.
“[Mr. O’Connor] was not required to serve,” said Will, who served as one of the pallbearers.
“He did not have to serve. But, instead he opted to serve. By doing that, he sets an example of what we should do. It’s that unconditional doing that motivates us to carry out his legacy and serve our greater community.”
CM partners with Lawler and Crosby Funeral Home for the planning purposes of each veteran funeral. The service coordinates the casket, hearse, and transportation needed for the burial. Every veteran funeral service concludes with an honorary presentation of the American flag to the deceased.
Led by Vice Principal of Mission Integration Mr. Kevin Durazo and Associate Director of Campus Ministry Mr. Michael Dermody ’07, the school’s Campus Ministry program encourages students to put character into action.
As a collective school community, students at CM complete over 16,000 service hours in the greater-Boston area each year at organizations such as homeless shelters, food pantries, and the neighboring West Roxbury Veteran's Affairs Hospital.
According to Mr. Durazo and Mr. Dermody, the funeral services encourage a variety of student groups to live out the program’s mission by standing in solidarity with those on the margins.
“One of the cornerstones of CM is service,” added Will.
“I think students can learn a lot from these veterans in how we find ways to serve our community.”