In 2009, Hall-Wynne was approached by a small group of parents of students at Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons High School to explore the idea of starting a community outreach program of offering pallbearer services free of charge. The idea came about through the very successful pallbearer ministry of Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. News stories about St. Ignatius have run on National Public Radio, American Catholic Radio, and Fox News Network (which named the student-pallbearers Americas Heroes of the Week in November 2005).
The pallbearer society will offer their service to families who are either unable to identify and select their own pallbearers or are simply inspired by this unique program now available in our community.
Hall-Wynne was privileged to conduct training for the volunteer students at Cardinal Gibbons and serve as the pilot funeral home for this program.
- To put into practice the Corporal Works of Mercy by offering pall bearer services free of charge to those in need, especially the poor and elderly.
- To affirm the value and dignity of human life.
- To represent the community at a person’s final commendation.
- To commemorate and pray for the dead.
The Pallbearer Society is a ministry of respect and care. Students learn to offer sympathy and support to others and offer hope in the face of death. The Society gives young people opportunities to be leaders in service of others.
Typically, the student pallbearers meet the funeral home staff at the place of worship or funeral home chapel where they are introduced to the family of the deceased. Students attend the funeral service and are part of the procession to the cemetery if burial follows the funeral. Pallbearers carry the casket in and out of the church or chapel as well as to the gravesite.
For each funeral, students are accompanied by an adult (parent/faculty or staff member) who serves as a role model and liaison with the funeral director. The Society operates during school days, Saturdays, and over school and summer vacations as students are available.
Cardinal Gibbons High School Launches Pall Bearer Society
The following article appeared in the spring of 2010 on the website of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh
The Cardinal Gibbons High School Pall Bearer Society was established for students to serve as pall bearers at funerals for either those who are unable to furnish their own pall bearers, the poor or those who are inspired by the idea of having young people serve in this capacity.
“Every person who dies has the right to be mourned, and we as a school have the opportunity through this ministry to live out one of the Corporal Works of Mercy: to bury the dead,’” said The Rev. Scott E. McCue, Assistant Principal for Spiritual Life. “This is a real way that we can take the mission of the school out into the community.”
The program was launched in cooperation with Hall-Wynne Funeral Service in Durham. The funeral home’s owners, Mark Higgins and Michael O’Connor, both Catholic funeral directors, conducted the training for the first group of young men who volunteered. They will coordinate efforts with other local funeral directors who wish to take advantage of CGHS Pall Bearer Society services.
Several parent volunteers also work with the Society and accompany the students to the funerals. “What struck me about this ministry is that we teach little if anything about death, even in the parochial schools,” said Douglas Zinn, a CGHS parent volunteer. “Learning to respect and care for what families go through in this time is a part of life, and I thought, at their ages, it’s a perfect ministry.”
Daniel Kuhn, one of Hall-Wynne directors was pleased to be able to offer this service to a family. “Instant relief is the best way to explain what I saw on their faces when I told them about the ministry,” said Kuhn. “The family was so thankful for the service because they did not have enough people to call on their own.”
“This was a new experience for me,” said Zach Millikan, who had not attended a funeral before. “It is a work of mercy that few are called upon to perform. But I was honored to serve this family, and they were touched that we were there to help when there was no one else.”
“This new program integrates skills of students, faculty and parents in serving others,” Jason D. Curtis, CGHS Principal, said. “It is also another way that our mission in Church and community can come alive in the school. Students can continue this work far beyond their years here at Cardinal Gibbons.”