Teens send poor to their final resting place with dignity

March 2, 2013

When teens get involved in charitable endeavors, it usually involves food or clothing drives or some variation of Toys for Tots.

But students in Louisville, Ky., for the past several years have taken human compassion to a whole new level.

They grieve at funerals for the indigent.

Teens who have homework commitments and sporting events and text messages to answer and Facebook postings to make put aside those commitments to carry the caskets of those who have no one else to do it.

There are babies and murder victims and people who died homeless on the street. There are people whose family members won’t return phone calls from the Jefferson County coroner’s office.

At the paupers cemetery, the kids stand respectfully with bowed heads. They say prayers and read Scriptures. And they give condolences to any family members that might be in attendance.

Several years ago, St. Xavier High School student Cory Kress was honored by the coroner’s office with a plaque and praise for his unparalleled compassion. Since becoming involved in the program of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society, the honor student and wrestler had attended 80-90 percent of the county’s indigent burials. One summer, he attended every single one.

It was doubtless a touching sight to see Kress, not even out of high school, single-handedly carrying the casket of an infant. He and the baby’s parents were the only ones at the tiny, hand-dug grave.

Other schools have followed St. Xavier’s lead. In doing so, the dozens of students at those schools have learned compassion. And they’ve been made to realize that life’s hardships are not just inflicted on those with years of life experience.

Eight students at Trinity High School in Louisville attended the funeral of a 19-year-old murder victim whose parents did not attend, according to a Catholic publication.

The task of arranging for the young man’s burial at the pauper’s cemetery fell on the shoulders of his 21-year-old brother.

He did not stand alone at his younger brother’s grave.

One student, interviewed by a local TV station, called his own participation in the funeral services “humbling.”

It is humbling indeed.

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