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The Deceased Children’s Memorial is dedicated to the memory of all children who have died through abortion, stillbirth, miscarriage, accident, illness or injury. The memorial is at St. Mary Magdalen Church in St. Louis.
The Deceased Children’s Memorial is dedicated to the memory of all children who have died through abortion, stillbirth, miscarriage, accident, illness or injury. The memorial is at St. Mary Magdalen Church in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Deceased Children’s Memorial brings comfort, healing

People are welcome to add names to the memorial at St. Mary Magdalen Church

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

To 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.).

St. Mary Magdalen Church is located at the intersection of Kingshighway Blvd. and Bancroft Ave. in St. Louis. For more information, visit www.deceasedchildrensmemorial.org.

The Deceased Children’s Memorial is dedicated to the memory of all children who have died through abortion, stillbirth, miscarriage, accident, illness or injury. The memorial is at St. Mary Magdalen Church in St. Louis.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston

Parish support is crucial when dealing with the loss of a child

Supporting families is an opportunity to uphold the dignity of each child

By Heidi Indahl | Catholic News Service

As a mother, the Lord has asked me to do many difficult things. None moreso, however, than returning five of my children to His embrace only shortly after they were received into our family. In 17 years of marriage, we have experienced three first-trimester miscarriages, a stillbirth at 30 weeks and an infant death following poor prenatal diagnosis.

In each of these losses, we have been surrounded by a community of friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and people from our church. Compassionate support has seen us through many ups and downs. Through abundant caring, we have been able to integrate our losses into an authentic piece of who we are as individuals, as a couple, as parents and as Catholics.

Here are three things that can make a difference in your parish community.

• Have a permanent community-based memorial. This could be as fancy as a bench in an outdoor garden, a plaque on the wall or just a simple bulletin board. The idea is that men and women see the reality of pregnancy and infant loss represented in their faith community, ideally before suffering loss themselves.

Feeling comfortable and aware of the parish support for families of pregnancy and infant loss increases the likelihood that the couple will turn to the church for support in their time of need.

• Know and offer sacraments and rites. A mother in the middle of a miscarriage should request a blessing. A baby in danger of death can receive not only baptism but also in many cases confirmation. There are funeral, Mass and rite options for losses with and without a body.

• Give time and space, but not too much. The emotional and physical recovery time for pregnancy and infant loss is much longer than most people realize. Don’t expect the family to be “back to normal” in any quick time frame.

Following pregnancy or infant loss, families face a variety of messages from the culture, and even from their doctors, that say their child was not important or their child had somehow less of a life. As Catholics, we know a different reality.

Supporting families through pregnancy and infant loss is an opportunity to minister in real time and uphold the dignity of each child from conception to natural death — no matter how little time has passed between the two.

Heidi Indahl is a pregnancy and infant loss author and speaker from southeastern Minnesota. She is the author of “Blessed Is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections for Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Loss.” Her website is pregnancyloss.workandplaydaybyday.com.

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