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Catholic Memorial School eulogizes homeless Army veteran

The Patriot Ledger - 1/11/2019

Jan. 11--Catholic Memorial School senior Patrick Manning of Weymouth said serving as a pallbearer during a funeral for a homeless Army veteran with his basketball teammates is a reminder, "to not take anything for granted."

"We think we are doing hard work on the basketball court, but there are people out there sacrificing their lives for this country," he said Thursday, Jan. 10 following a funeral Mass in the school chapel for Army Specialist Timothy G. Fowl, who recently died while homeless.

Fowl served as an Army medical specialist from 1963-1983. He died homeless with no identifiable family or friends, according to school officials.

The funeral Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Peter Stamm of St. Joseph Parish in Needham.

An obituary published by Robert J. Lawler & Crosby Funeral Home listed no surviving family members or friends of Fowl. The notice stated Fowl would be buried with full military honors at Massachusetts Veterans Military Cemetery in Winchendon.

Manning's teammate Ikenna Azums of Hyde Park said it was a privilege to honor Fowl by serving as pallbearers.

"There are not many people who die who don't have friends or family not come to their funeral," Azums said.

Manning said he hopes the willingness of his teammates to serve as pallbearers for a homeless veteran would inspire middle school students at Catholic Memorial to help others in need.

"It sets an example for any of them who look at us," he said.

Catholic Memorial student Brendan Ryan said the funeral Mass was an opportunity for his team and students to honor the dignity of Fowl's life.

"As we know, Timothy was a soldier," said Ryan, a Milton resident. "The priest said the (Roman) centurion recognized the sacrifice of Jesus."

Ryan's teammate Spencer Aronson of Holliston said serving as a pallbearer for Fowl helped him appreciate the people who are part of his life.

"I feel thankful for all the people I have around me," he said.

Ryan said his involvement as a pallbearer helped him realize how much homelessness is a problem in society.

"It shows the problems of our society and how we can help them and not just by holding a funeral for them," he said.

"We come together to honor a man, to pray for him and to reflect on the importance of every human life," Stamm said during the Mass to a gathering of students. "Everyone who has been a soldier understands a willingness to lay down his life. Every soldier must have that willingness and Timothy was such as a man."

Stamm said Fowl's willingness to serve as a soldier and give up his life if necessary, is an example of Jesus Christ's love when he died on the cross to pay the penalty for people's sins.

"Jesus said there is no greater love than laying down one's life for another," he said.

Stamm said a soldier has a unique perspective with valuing the importance of sacrificing their lives to help others.

"The Roman centurion recognized Jesus as the Son of God when he died," he said. "As a soldier, he recognized the value of sacrifice. Timothy reminds us to use our lives well. Let us love God and our fellow man in this life."

School president Peter Folan said honoring Fowl for his service to the country is a fulfillment of Catholic Memorial School's mission of inspiring students to serve their country and the community.

"We are here to honor a man who dedicated his life to his country which is part of our mission," he said to the gathering. "To whom much is given, much is expected. We all have opportunities to do for others and to be mindful that the world needs each of us to do more. Have a wide vision for solving problems."

Folan said it is crucial for teens to realize the larger world around them.

"In our adolescence, we can focus so much on ourselves and not see the people around the bend who don't have what we have," he said. "Be compassionate and loving to people you know in your community. It is important to embrace humanity and service to others. I pray we always live Jesus in our hearts forever."

The Mass concluded with Fowl's flag-draped casket being carried to the hearse by the student pallbearers, who were led by Kurtis Henderson of Brockton and Aronson.

Pallbearers taking part in the procession included: Ayobami Ogungbadero of Stoughton, Declan O'Sullivan of Quincy, Jalen Jordan of Hyde Park, in addition to Ryan, Manning, and Azums.

The pallbearers stood at attention next to the hearse alongside the coffin, while an Army honor guard folded the flag and played taps.

A soldier then gave the flag folded in the traditional triangular form and presented it to basketball coach Denis Tobin

The basketball players' service as pallbearers is a fulfillment of Catholic Memorial's mission to support homeless veterans who die without any living friends or family, according to Michael Kotsopoulos, assistant director of communications for the school.

Kotsopoulos stated Catholic Memorial has hosted funerals for five homeless veterans who died during the past year without any living friends or family.

"As pallbearers, the basketball team carries on Catholic Memorial's mission of solidarity with those on the margins," Kotsopoulos stated in a written summary. "In November of 2017, Catholic Memorial began hosting funerals for homeless veterans when the school laid to rest Army veteran John T. Fitzmaurice, who died with no living friends or family. Most recently, the Catholic Memorial football team laid to rest Air Force veteran Markham Lyons before a Sectional playoff game this past November."

Catholic Memorial holds one funeral in its chapel for a homeless veteran during each quarter of the academic year as part of the school's campus ministry program.

Students are required to collectively complete 15,000 hours of service in the greater Boston area at homeless shelters, food pantries and the Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Roxbury through the campus ministry program.

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