The family lived in a refugee camp in Austria around World War II when their baby contracted a disease and died at eight months.
But the baby’s siblings didn’t forget. Their brother’s name is inscribed on the Deceased Children’s Memorial inside St. Mary Magdalen Church in St. Louis. The memorial is dedicated to the memory of all children who died through abortion, stillbirth, miscarriage, accident, illness or injury. The memorial features a wall-mounted statue of the Holy Family surrounded by several children.
Dedicated five years ago, the memorial lists 905 names affixed to plaques, with submissions from people in 17 states. Another 17 names are in the process of being added.
“Our goal was to find a way to reach out to all families, not only to share in their loss but also to try to bring peace, comfort, healing and, in some instances, closure to their experiences,” said Msgr. John Borcic, pastor of St. Mary Magdalen.
Along with the memorial, the parish hosts a Mass of Remembrance in September followed by a reception attended by more than 400 people. Keith Ballentine, music director at the parish, composed a hymn, “Children of Our Father,” for the Mass. The words of the song are printed on a holy card commissioned for the dedication and given to everyone who submits a name for the memorial.
At the dedication five years ago, Bishop Edward Rice commended the memory of all deceased children to God’s love and care. He also prayed for all who suffer due to the death of the children, asking that they be comforted and receive peace of mind and heart.
The people who planned the memorial, John Dereak from the Knights of Columbus council at the parish, Nancy Sewester of the Knights’ ladies auxiliary, and Marisol Pfaff of the pro-life committee at the parish, each had a connection to a child who died. A relative of Msgr. Borcic had a miscarriage, and he saw the sadness and suffering it leaves and the need to help with that grief, to share the loss and bring comfort and peace. He also saw the need from his priestly ministry and work as a fire department chaplain.
Fran Voss, who grieves a grandchild who died tragically at age 3 and another who died from a miscarriage, said the memorial helps keep the children close to her heart. “It helped with the grieving process a whole lot,” she said. “It’s nice to see their names up there.”
The organizers hope that the children’s memorial will be a way to help families realize that these children, who now rest in the arms of their Creator, are praying for them from above, and, by all who visit, that the entire Church joins in praying for those who loved them.
Msgr. Borcic has a stack of cards and notes from people expressing their thanks for the memorial and annual Mass. “This day brings love and hope to all in attendance,” one woman who has attended each of the memorial Masses wrote.
Msgr. Borcic recalled that he sought the counsel of his spiritual director, Vincentian Father Oscar Lukefahr, about the idea of constructing the memorial. The Vincentian priest strongly encouraged Msgr. Borcic to follow through with the initiative, telling him: “One moment in God’s presence gives these children more knowledge and love of God than we gain in a lifetime.”
>> The memorial
There are no restrictions on age
or the number of names submitted for the Deceased Children’s Memorial. A
child’s name will be accepted whether they died prior to birth or at
any later time.
To submit a name visit www.bit.ly/2MZU3Cp.
The memorial is open at any time St. Mary Magdalen Church is open for Mass or eucharistic adoration:
• Saturdays: 3:30–5:45 p.m.
• Sundays: 7:30–11:30 a.m.
• Monday–Friday: 7:30–8:30 a.m.
• First Fridays: 8:30 a.m.–noon
arrange a visit, call the St. Mary Magdalen Parish office at (314)
352-2111 ext. 4, Monday through Friday (8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Mary Magdalen Church is located at the intersection of Kingshighway
Blvd. and Bancroft Ave. in St. Louis. For more information, visit www.deceasedchildrensmemorial.org.