Boston’s Lazarus Ministry Fills Valuable Need

Gary Convertino Around the Province

BOSTON, — The Lazarus Program at St. Anthony Shrine here has had a large calling recently with three funerals that truly represent the value of this Shrine ministry.

The first funeral was for a murder victim who was killed by a friend and his girlfriend. David Convertino presided at this funeral Mass in which family members representing the victim and his girlfriend attended.  The funeral Mass was tense, but David implored each side to come together in peace and faith in God.  After the Mass, representatives of both “sides” hugged and prayed over the cremated remains of the victim.  Many Lazarus volunteers, who have come to be known as the “extended family” of the deceased, attended the Mass to show support for the family and friends of the victim.

The second funeral was for a 4 day-old baby girl, formerly Baby Jane Doe, but now known as Baby Ashley, who was abandoned by her mother.  After delivering the baby prematurely, the mother abandoned the baby at the hospital.  In turn, hearing about the Lazarus Program, the Boston Medical Examiner’s Office called and asked the Shrine to offer a dignified and proper burial.  David celebrated this Mass in the friars’ chapel and many friars and staff attended.   The small white coffin was buried in one of the donated graves supplied to the Lazarus Program.

The third funeral was for a 50-year-old man who died in 2006.  He was one of the “unwanted dead” that the Lazarus Program deems so dear to its mission.  Only knowing his name, and that he was a homeless man on the streets of Boston, Philip O’Shea celebrated this Mass of Christian Burial. Many Lazarus volunteers attended this Mass as “extended family” and participated in the committal at the donated grave.

At the funeral of the baby, one of the staff members said, “Baby Ashley had no family members present, but she certainly had her ‘new Franciscan family’ present today.”

The Lazarus program, considered by many to be a very important ministry at St. Anthony Shrine, was featured in the April 8 issue of the Boston Globe.

The article described the “flock of devoted volunteers who regularly attend funeral services for the poor and homeless provided by the Lazarus Program.” The article also noted that since the program began several years ago, 62 men and women from all religious denominations have been provided burial through the program which receives donations of graves, markers and funeral home services from donors and funeral directors.

—  Gary has directed the Shrine’s Lazarus Program since its establishment three years ago.