b Arimatheans Celebrate 25 Years with Founder's Visit -b

They serve the dead. They are strangers to the grieving. They usher, they read, they sing, they pray. Then, they bury the dead. They are the Arimatheans, who work corporal works of mercy at Ft. Myer?s chapels as families say goodbye to their loved ones. Last week, the group celebrated its 25th anniversary with a Mass and luncheon at the EDW Knights of Columbus Hall in Arlington. Father Walter Wichmanowski, founder, traveled from Pittsburgh to join them at a luncheon. The Arimathean Society, named after Joseph of Arimathea, is a lay organization that assists Catholic military chaplains with funeral Masses at the Ft. Myer chapels and burials at Arlington National Cemetery. They act as lectors, acolytes, Eucharistic ministers and musicians. In his homily, Father Wichmanowski referred to Matthew?s description of the end times when graves will be opened and the Lord will return as king and judge to separate the sheep from the goats. "As Arimatheans, you are making a sound and profitable investment, of being with the sheep," he said. "I am grateful and extremely proud," said Father Wichmanowski. "Take great comfort and consolation in performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy of praying for the living and the dead and burying the dead." Father Wichmanowski first began the Arimatheans in light of a two-fold problem. He saw that most priests, during funerals, celebrated Mass alone. The second part was the Vatican II document describing the involvement of the laity in the Mass. "It was a real need and a desire to be consistent with Church doctrine," he said. After pointing out the need, Father Wichmanowski wrote an official document that went through the proper military channels for approval. The group was offered a $1,300 grant and from that it grew. One of the first things he did was address the retiree?s council and send brochures and letters to 1,400 retired Army personnel. "The first group was 60 in strength," he said. They were invested on April 13, 1979, Good Friday that year. "I didn?t think we would last 13 years, much less 25," he said referring to the last time he attended the local Arimathean luncheon. "It is a wonderful ministry," said Jack Sullivan, administrator of the Arimatheans. "It?s a chance to perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which is what we?re supposed to be doing. Each funeral is different." According to Father Wichmanowski, the Arimatheans participate in approximately five funerals a week and about 300 a year. They "have done God?s work" in 7,500 funeral Masses. In honor of their 25th anniversary, the Arimatheans donated a new ciborium, chalice and paten to Ft. Myer chapel. "It was time that we get a new one," said Msgr. Joseph Goudreau (Lt. Col.), chaplain at Ft. Myer, who attested to the great gift the Arimatheans are to him in his ministry. He receives many thanks from the families after the funerals. They are usually amazed that a complete stranger would offer so much help. Msgr. Goudreau described the group as generous and hoped that they would be around for many years to come. "They?re unbelievable," he said. In his welcome to Father Wichmanowski, he said, "I wish I could have been able to thank him many times for starting the Arimatheans." This year, Msgr. Goudreau and Sullivan presented Father Wichmanowski with a commemorative plaque celebrating 25 years in service to the Church. Father Wichmanowski also offered a word of caution to be wary of the group?s future. It is his hope that in another 25 years, there will be a new group of Arimatheans to continue the work. "If each one of us members could try to get just one more member, then in five years we will have great numbers," said Sullivan. "It is a remarkable and necessary work of burying heroes and their families in Arlington National Cemetery," said Father Wichmanowski. "Take comfort and courage to know that it will continue to happen because it is God?s holy work."

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