Simple Memorial, Profound Ministry
Somonauk Parish Remembers Unborn
Bishop David Malloy stands before a stone bench that sits opposite the new memorial to the unborn in Somonauk as parishioners gather around for the blessing. (Observer photo/Amanda Hudson)
Parishioners gathered outside St. John the Baptist Parish in Somonauk are reflected in the memorial to unborn children that was blessed by Bishop David Malloy on May 24. (Observer photo/Amanda Hudson)
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
June 1, 2017

SOMONAUK—The idea came from diocesan representatives at a cemeteries meeting where they discussed dedicating a section in parish cemeteries in memory of preborn children who had died through miscarriage or abortion.

That idea “spoke to the hearts” of several parishioners at St. John the Baptist Parish, here, said an information sheet handed out at the May 24 dedication and blessing of just such a place.

“Mary’s Garden of Holy Innocence” at St. John the Baptist Cemetery features a memorial stone and bench along with space to hold up to 1,500 small, padded caskets, called burial cradles, for preborn children lost before 21 weeks into the pregnancy.

Families now have the opportunity to work with a funeral director to obtain and inter their baby’s remains. The service is available to parishioners and any family in the community, says the parish, regardless of faith. The cost of the burial site, burial vault and service is covered by the parish.

“Our prayer is that Mary’s Garden will be a place that mothers, fathers and families who have suffered a loss will be able to come and grieve, as well as remember and celebrate the brief life of their child,” says the parish flyer.

Bishop David Malloy reflected on those brief lives during his homily at Mass celebrated before he, along with the parish’s pastor, Father Kevin Butler, and several parishioners traveled to the cemetery for the dedication.

The bishop spoke of the sorrow at the loss of “those our Lord took to Himself,” and of the joy at “the opportunity for life eternal.”

The Greeks in the first reading “did not understand the reality of the world around them” as they worshipped their multiple gods, he said, adding, “We have the blessing. We know the truth ... We know there is one, true God (and that) none of us is merely an accident ... there is a whole plan for each and every person.”

Faith tells us that God “called them to Himself at a very early moment,” he said. “That child isn’t lost, (but) entrusted to God.

“They are as alive as all who have gone before us. God loves them, and He loves us ... on that last day we will actually see them, laugh with them ...  Perhaps it was His gift to them to go (so soon) to heaven ... “How blessed we are that we can have so much hope and the expectation of joy ... There is a mystery here that we (must) wait to have revealed to us.”

Bishop Malloy called the memorial garden “a reminder for us to pray for the parents, especially the mothers,” calling the bond between children and parents a grace from God.

Whether or not their child is physically buried at the cemetery, parents have the opportunity to have their baby’s name and birth year or their family name engraved on the memorial stone. There is a cost associated with the engraving.

Information from the parish office, 815-498-2010.