On Tuesday, February 12, the students of Ursuline Academy in Dedham bore witness at the funeral of Donald Benson, a 74-year old Navy veteran who was experiencing homelessness at his passing and had no known family. When school administrators were asked by Bill Lawler P’13 ‘15 ‘16 of Lawler & Crosby Funeral Home in West Roxbury, they agreed to host it without hesitation.
As an honor guard of students lined the walkway to The Reynolds Family Athletic and Convocation Center, the casket was accompanied into the building by student pallbearers. A funeral Mass was celebrated by Fr. Donald MacMillan, S.J., associate pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Chestnut Hill, with the Ursuline choral group providing the music, and senior peer ministers serving as lectors and cross and candle-bearers. Remarks by Principal Mary-Kate Tracy reminded those in attendance of the dignity and humanity of the deceased. Later, Kate Levesque, president of the Academy, noted that the Ursuline community had come together and “acted as we are called to do, offering Mr. Benson the blessings of his Christian family.”
After the Mass, a military honor guard played “Taps,” and a solemn moment of silence was held in respect to the deceased for his service. The flag from Benson’s coffin was given in appreciation to Ms. Levesque and the school. Students were visibly moved by their participation in the funeral, and many spoke of the privilege they felt at being part of the service.“I felt honored,” said senior Kathleen Ryan, “because he served his country; he served us. We shouldn’t forget that.” Echoing her remarks, senior Kristina Canale agreed, “He may have been homeless, but today, we were his family. I hope he rests peacefully.”
For video highlights, see this newscast from WBZ-4.
Globe columnist Kevin Cullen covered the funeral in his February 15 column.