You know the shallow twaddle about “pro-life Christians” only caring about babies until they are born? Well, it’s flatly a lie, always has been. And this stirring testimony by an American Roman Catholic Deacon confirms this truth …
Let me preface this by noting that “tooting my own horn” makes me extremely uncomfortable (although I’m not sure this qualifies as tooting – it’s really more of a commentary on how the media works today than anything else). But Mom urged me to do this, so here goes:
Some of you may know that I’m involved with a group here in Illinois called Rest in His Arms. Our mission is a little unusual, but we’ve found that it’s tragically necessary: whenever an infant or a child is abandoned by its parents and subsequently dies, the child’s remains end up in a county coroner’s or medical examiner’s office. If no family comes forward to claim the child’s body, it can remain in “cold storage” for very long periods of time – sometimes years. Eventually, if nothing is done, the county may bury the body anonymously in a potter’s grave. What makes these abandonments even more tragic is that Illinois, like every state, has a Safe Haven Law that provides a no-questions-asked way for a parent who no longer wishes to care for an infant to hand it over to a hospital emergency room, police station or staffed fire station (from there the child is put into foster care and, hopefully, is eventually adopted).
Our little group takes possession of the baby’s remains after a legally-specified period of time, and we have a funeral and burial for it. Over the past few years, we’ve buried over 30 children in the Chicagoland area. We do this because we believe that all of God’s children, even these little abandoned and forgotten ones, have the same basic human dignity that all of God’s creatures have. We recall that burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy. As I say, it’s a bit of an unusual ministry, but it seems to resonate with a lot of people, with many different points of view: pro-life advocates, police and public safety officials, children’s-safety advocates, and many others.
We had a funeral for our most recent baby, little Mya Edwards, last week. As sometimes happens, the funeral received local media coverage. Frequently this is because discovering the body of an abandoned child is considered newsworthy, so local media report the story of the discovery and then keep tabs on the criminal investigation. The day of Mya’s funeral must have been a slow news day, because, much to our amazement, the story grew legs and traveled. Huffington Post picked it up, as did the NY Daily News and the UK Daily Mail. If you scroll through the emails below, you can see some of the links. Here is the uncomfortable part for me: for whatever reason, a number of these stories have quotes from my funeral homily, as well as pictures and video of me in my vestments. For someone who preaches, this is not the norm; we get excited if anyone can remember at the end of mass what we talked about in the homily. Anyway, check out the links below if you’re interested.
Deacon Jim P
A few more stories on Mya:
The Huffington Post, a very widely read news aggregation site, picked up Mya’s story:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/01/mya-edwards-funeral_n_5642084.html?ir=Impact
The New York Daily News, which I believe is part of the Tribune’s newspaper family, ran a story on Friday:http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/mourners-turn-droves-honor-illinois-baby-allegedly-starved-parents-article-1.1888771
Her.ie, which describes itself as “the Website for Irish Women”, ran a story earlier today:http://www.her.ie/news/150-strangers-turn-up-to-funeral-of-baby-starved-to-death-to-show-her-love/
Another Irish website, mummypages, which is “Ireland’s largest family life website with over 160,000 unique users a month and a social media following of over 55,000” also posted a story (no byline nor attribution of the source of info): http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/mourners-turn-droves-honor-illinois-baby-allegedly-starved-parents-article-1.1888771
This site, actu, reprinted the HuffPost story, and includes 100 or so pretty pointed comments from readers, mostly directed at Mya’s parents: http://en.actu.net/p/to-show-her-she-was-loved-150-strangers-attend-funeral-for-baby-who-was-starved-to-death
There are several other websites that have stories as well. I am not sure how we would measure the number of people who have seen these news stories, but surely thousands of people (maybe many thousands) have now been exposed to Mya’s story. It’s all pretty amazing.
The Chicago Tribune has a really nice article and video: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/barrington-area/chi-barrington-baby-funeral-20140731-story.html
Amazingly, the story has been picked up by the UK Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2712824/150-strangers-join-sole-relative-funeral-baby-girl-starved-death-fears-no-one-attend-funeral.html
I’ve found at least a couple of other national/international outlets that have picked up the same Daily Mail story. Here is one: The Deacon’s Bench, a widely read blog maintained by Deacon Greg Kandra:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2014/08/dozens-of-strangers-turn-out-for-funeral-of-baby-girl-in-chicago/.
Here is mySuburbanLife.Com’s story: http://www.mysuburbanlife.com/2014/07/30/community-remembers-baby-mya-edwards/afvcun4/
The Daily Herald has a story and a nice video: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140731/news/140739679/
The Barrington Courier-Review, which seems to be part of the Sun-Time family, has this story and a short slide show of photos: http://barrington.suntimes.com/2014/07/31/funeral-held-infant-girl-died-starvation-barrington/
This brief story is on Channel 7’s website: http://abc7chicago.com/news/funeral-held-for-barrington-infant-allegedly-starved-to-death-by-parents-/230958/
I looked on the Tribune’s website but didn’t find anything. I’ll Google again later tonight or tomorrow morning.
Thanks to everyone for all your help and your presence today.