Memorial Mass for Children Who Died Before Baptism offers peace to grieving parents

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

October 9, 2014

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Pat and Chuck Pelletier view the worship aid used during the Memorial Mass For Children Who Died Before Baptism held Oct. 4 at St. Mary of the Assumption Church. (Photo by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen / NTC)

Maria’s eyes moistened at the mere mention of the baby she lost more than 15 years ago. Despite giving birth to seven other children, the Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner still mourns the loss of that one soul.

A special Memorial Mass for Children Who Died Before Baptism gave the grieving mother a sense of peace.

“My pastor suggested I come,” she murmured, surrounded by her youngsters. “It helped.”

Held Oct. 4 in St. Mary of the Assumption Church in South Fort Worth, the noontime liturgy is planned each year to comfort parents who lost children to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. It is scheduled as close as possible to the feast day celebrating Our Lady of the Rosary. During the Mass, participants place roses, in memory of their babies, on a side altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary — the mother of all humanity. The Knights of Columbus serve as an honor guard for the ceremony.

“This is like a funeral for the moms who lost their children,” said Pat Pelletier, who organized the annual Mass with her husband, Chuck. “It’s an opportunity for them to symbolically place the baby at the altar of the Blessed Mother.”

The Pelletiers are co-founders of and Catholics United for Life — organizations that have sponsored the event for the past 20 years. Following the Mass, parents are invited to a reception where a light lunch is served.

“It’s like a funeral brunch where people gather together to talk and support one another,” she added. “This Mass has been a place of great healing for women who have lost their children.”

No distinction is made between children who are miscarried, stillborn, or aborted.

“That is not what this is about. This Mass is to acknowledge those babies and place them in the arms of the Church,” Pelletier stressed.

Bishop Michael Olson concelebrated the Mass with Father David Bristow, St. Mary’s pastor, and Father Christopher Stainbrook, pastor of St. Timothy Anglican Ordinariate Community which uses St. Mary’s facilities. In his homily, the bishop asked the congregation to be people of hope.

“Oftentimes, in the world today — when we’re dealing with the mystery of death — we tend to approach it simply with a certitude of faith,” he said. “We should approach it with the certitude of hope — the hope of God’s goodness, mercy, and love.”

Christians have hope and confidence that those who have died are with Christ.

“We have the confidence and hope that Christ will not let one of us perish,” he added. “Confidence and hope does not leave room for fear, but is emboldened with courage.”

A life does not have to be long on earth to accomplish Christ’s mission, the bishop pointed out.

“So we pray for the consolation of hope that only Christ can give us,” he said in closing. “A hope that is vibrant, alive, and more powerful than sin, sickness, or death.”

Mariana Schroeder came to the Mass with daughters, Mariana and Lucy, to pray for two other girls who were never born: a friend was six months pregnant when she miscarried, and the child of an acquaintance was aborted.

“We couldn’t save them,” she said sadly. “So we offered this Mass for two little girls who are in heaven now.”

Maria’s eyes moistened at the mere mention of the baby she lost more than 15 years ago. Despite giving birth to seven other children, the Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner still mourns the loss of that one soul.

Published (until 12/12/2031)
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