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Families remember lost children, feel support

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)


Walking to the front of Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City, Estela Cancino-Magana had tears in her eyes remembering the babies she has lost.

This Cathedral parishioner has lost one child to miscarriage and two of her children died a short time after birth. Attending the Memorial Mass for Babies Who Died Before Birth was her way of mourning the loss of her children.

“I had never heard about the Mass,” said Cancino-Magana, whose mother and daughter joined her at the Mass. “When I heard about it, I decided to come because I know that you always need that support. When I walked in here and saw everyone, I thought, ‘I am not alone. I am not the only person this happens to.’ There are other people who share my experience.”

Mothers, fathers and other family members remembered babies who died before being baptized during this special Mass on March 12 at Cathedral.

Sponsored by the diocese’s Office of Family Life, the Memorial Mass for Babies Who Died Before Birth was offered for the third consecutive year. Bishop Walker Nickless celebrated the Mass. He was assisted by Deacon Richard Port and Father Brent Lingle, master of ceremonies.

Support

Bishop Nickless addressed all those who are grieving a loss during the homily.

“For those of you who have lost a baby or an infant, it takes a little bit of courage to come to an event like this,” said the bishop. “In some ways, it brings back all the sadness, all the grief, all the pain that you feel. We are here tonight to pray together and make it a little easier.”

He recited a verse from the Book of Revelation saying, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain for the former things that have passed away.”

“It sums up, in a way, the meaning for our presence here tonight,” said Bishop Nickless. “It is used as the opening verse at a funeral Mass for a child who has died before baptism. The pain and the loss of a child, especially one who has died before baptism, through miscarriage, still birth, abortion, is perhaps one of the greatest pains a person can feel.”

As a mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent or other friend or relative who have experienced a loss, he said the feelings are varied and mixed “no matter how long it has been. Sadness, anger, guilt and lack of understanding are part of what we feel.”

People continue to ask questions such as why, what did I do, why did God permit such a thing to happen, why continue on and have faith, said the bishop.

“The reason we gather at this Mass is to support one another in our prayers to him,” he said. “In the end, it is only our love in God who can make sense out of all of this. We pray tonight for strength, support, guidance, forgiveness, understanding, reassurance and hope.”

In this Year of Faith, established by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the bishop said “it is our faith and in that faith that we can begin to move forward, to trust a little bit more and to know that we are not alone.”

“You, who have gathered here tonight, are signs of hope and encouragement for each other,” said Bishop Nickless. “You know firsthand the pain and the sense of loss. You might not have all the right words to say or the understanding that you desire, but you know how the other feels. As your bishop and shepherd of this diocese, I want to assure you that the church is with you.”

He said that each of the children who were lost are “loved by God. He will show them that you love them, even now. May God hold them in the palm of his hand and bring them close to him in everlasting joy.”

Remembering

After the homily, there was a remembrance of each child by calling their names, 28 in all. One of the parents or a family member signed the babies name in the book of remembrance. Then a candle was lit for each child and their parents were given a certificate of remembrance and a rose.

“I think it went smoothly,” said Justin Frato, assistant director of adult catechesis and family life. “The parents were very appreciative of this opportunity to remember and grieve for their lost child.”

He added that this annual Mass “signals to those in our diocese who have lost children before baptism that we want to be there to support them and help them heal.”

“Holding such events helps all to be reminded that these babies where human beings and not just ‘tissue,’” said Frato. “We encourage the parents to even name their baby if they have not yet done so to increase their sense that this was a person.”

Cancino-Magana said it means a lot to her that the diocese holds this Mass because “I never felt support like I did today. I don’t think there is anything stronger than prayer while you are going through a loss.”

When the babies’ names were called, it brought Cancino-Magana “back to the day when I lost them. It brought me back to the couple days after, the sorrow and the sadness.”

“At the same time, it gave me hope,” she said. “I now feel that they (the babies) are with God and that they are happy.”

Babe McBride, a parishioner at St. Mary’s in Danbury, attended the Mass with her husband, Jerry, and son, Travis. They were there remembering Michael McBride.

The family chose to attend the Mass “out of love and remembrance” for Michael, said McBride.

“It (the Mass) gives closure to those who have lost the babies that they were never able to see or to hold,” she said. “I felt that the babies little souls were there amongst the parents and families. Even though we can’t see them, we know that our Lord still has them around us. They deserve to be recognized.”

Following the liturgy, a reception was held in the parish hall.

Frato mentioned that if anyone continues to grieve over the loss of a child, Catholic Charities is available for counseling and support. Catholic Charities in Sioux City is located at 1601 Military Road and the phone number is (712) 252-4547.

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