Pro-life Doctor, Researcher Named ‘Venerable’ in 2021
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
October 14, 2021
VATICAN CITY—The cause of pro-life French geneticist Jerome Lejeune took a step forward on Jan. 21 this year when Pope Francis formally recognized his heroic virtues.
One person who was especially happy to hear the news was Margaret Brechon of St. Patrick Parish in Dixon.
“When I learned that Dr. Jerome Lejeune was named Venerable,” she says, “I remembered my one encounter with him many years ago at a pro-life conference where he spoke.”
The Right to Life
“At two months of age, the human being is less than one thumb’s length from the head to the rump. 
He would fit at ease in a nutshell, everything is there: hands, feet, head, organs, brain, all are in place. His heart has been beating for a month already. 
Looking closely, you would see the palm creases and a fortune teller would read the good adventure of that tiny person. With a good magnifier, the fingerprints could be detected. Every document is available for a national identity card.”
Dr. Jerome Lejeune’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary subcommittee in 1981; as taken from the Illinois Federation for Right to Life newspaper.
Although best known for being one of three researchers who discovered the extra chromosome in Down syndrome babies, “his accomplishments and honors were many and outstanding,” she says. 
“As I listened as he shared with us (at the conference) his research into spina bifida, I felt as if I were being invited to personally witness this important discovery,” Brechon says. 
In that case, folic acid was the key Lejeune discovered.
“Now folic acid is routinely prescribed in the prenatal vitamin regime for pregnant women,” Brechon explains. “I learned from the book, ‘Life is a Blessing,’ by his daughter Clara Lejeune, that research funding (had been) almost eliminated for folic acid because it was deemed useless.”
Born in 1926 in Montrouge, France, Lejeune’s research was recognized early on.
In 1962, he was honored by U.S. President John F. Kennedy with the first Kennedy Prize for his research into intellectual disabilities. That was the first of many prestigious awards. 
A member of numerous professional societies, Lejeune maintained his commitment to life. At an international conference on health in New York, he stood alone in a debate about the “advantages” of abortion.
Brechon quotes from Clara Lejeune’s book that he “took the podium and spoke of the unique child, the likes of whom would never again exist, whose life was being jeopardized by the proceedings going on at that moment, (asking) ‘Is life a fact or desire?’ 
He affirmed, ‘Here we see an institute of health that is turning itself into an institute of death.’ … That evening as he did every evening, he wrote to Mama and confided in her, ‘This evening I just lost my Nobel Prize.’”
“Clara’s book is important because it portrays a passionately loving husband and father while providing a window into his family life and some of his professional achievements,” Brechon says, adding, “He was a person who was unfailingly kind and compassionate. He always took every phone call, even if they were not his patients.”
After discovering the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome, Lejeune devoted his life to protecting unborn children with Down syndrome from so-called “therapeutic abortion,” which he regarded as a grave corruption of medicine.
He established the first specialized clinic for Down syndrome patients at Necker Children’s Hospital near Paris, and he also strongly opposed unrestricted experimentation on human embryos.
In 1989, he established the Jerome Lejeune Foundation to continue his research, advocacy and health care for those with intellectual disabilities.
Dr. Jerome Lejeune died of lung cancer at the age of 67 in 1994 on Easter Sunday, 33 days after Pope John Paul II had appointed him to be the first president of the Pontifical Academy pro Vita.
Brechon quotes from the pope’s letter written that day to Lejeune’s family:
“We are faced today with the death of a great Christian of the twentieth century, of a man for whom the defense of life became an apostolate. It is clear that, in the present world situation, this form of lay apostolate is particularly necessary. 
“We want to thank God today ... for everything that Professor Lejeune has been for us, for everything that he did to defend and promote the dignity of human life.”
Noting that Lejeune took the initiative in the creation of the Pontifical Academy pro Vita (for life), the pope added, “We are sure that henceforth he will pray to the Divine Wisdom for this institution, which is so important and which in large measure owes him its existence.”
Lejeune’s cause needs two miracles for him to be declared first a Blessed and then a Saint.
Brechon encourages “all who are impacted by Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) or who are involved in the pro-life movement” to pray to Dr. Lejeune “that he may be declared a saint and patron for these two causes which were so near to his heart.”
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