The name of the ministry comes from Joseph of Arimathea, who appears in all four of the Gospels.
When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the Kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died. And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. Having brought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, watched where he laid.Mark 15, 42-47.
At each funeral Mass, there are usually two Arimatheans who perform the following tasks:
Light all the candles including the Paschal candle
Assure enough seating for priests and deacons
Prepare the gifts and the incense for Mass
Precede the celebrant(s) with the cross and Holy Water
Assist the celebrant as altar servers
Serve as lector and as Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Communion, if necessary.
With each funeral Mass, Arimatheans hope to do their small part in comforting a grieving family in the example of their namesake, who must have comforted Mary with his care of the body of Jesus.
Ideally, an Arimathean is someone with flexibility in their work schedule or retired, a fully initiated catholic and a desire to serve. Training is provided. There are several who have volunteered for this ministry so there is no pressure to serve unless you are able.