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Linda Oppelt

Mercies in Disguise - Miscarriage and Infant Loss Support Ministry One Year Later

by Ashley Slack

COLORADO SPRINGS. Following the loss of our baby, Bernadette Marie, to an early miscarriage in Spring 2021, my family and I have found ourselves frequently walking the sacred grounds of Mount St. Francis in Colorado Springs. The presence of a large Our Lady of Lourdes grotto, complete with a kneeling St. Bernadette statue, has been of great comfort to me as I have grieved and sought healing. 

I don’t have another place to visit my Bernadette. We could not preserve her remains for burial so we have no gravesite to go to, and yet the urge to “visit” continues to grow. So, I visit her here, near the resting place of other preborn children, lovingly placed in the Holy Innocents niche of the Columbarium. This is one of several places I now know families can lay their miscarried children to rest.

It has been about one year since Heart of My Heart, the diocesan miscarriage and infant loss support ministry was launched. There has been so much fruit of this little ministry with many families helped, and one year later, this is where we find ourselves.

Because of the support of our parishes and community, four miscarriage and infant loss memorial Masses have been celebrated across the diocese, with more to come through 2022. St. Benedict Parish in Falcon just celebrated its second such Mass with a candle lighting and adoration afterwards on Sept. 8. 

Miscarriage delivery aids have also been made widely available in the diocese. A miscarriage delivery aid is a package containing a few ordinary items that assist families in recovering and preserving their miscarried child’s remains, when a miscarriage is anticipated, and occurs at home. This allows families to bury or cremate their child’s remains in accordance with our Catholic faith. Delivery aids may be obtained at no cost through the diocese and at each of the three Colorado Springs Pregnancy Centers and the Salida Pregnancy Resource Center, who have generously partnered with us.

We have a dedicated volunteer who has created baby resting gowns and pouches for miscarried and stillborn babies to be lovingly buried in. We have also obtained tiny caskets for losses under 20-weeks, and for later losses we encourage families to contact the organization, Trappist Caskets to obtain a handmade wooden infant casket. We have also consolidated information about burial and cremation options for families, of which there are several in our diocese. This information can be found on our ministry website.

Finally, we are launching a formal support group, facilitated by a professional, Catholic grief counselor. The first support group session will begin this fall and will run for 6-8 weeks. The program will culminate in a memorial Mass for the participants and their families, because we trust and believe that the greatest healing we can find is in Our Lord, through the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where Heaven and Earth literally come together.

All resources through Heart of My Heart are available at no cost to families, and we are committed to keeping it that way through the support of those who share our passion. In fact, we have only gotten this far with the ministry because of such support!

Our trips to Mount St. Francis, while healing, also serve as a reminder that our experience of needing to visit with our children is a shared one amongst many families. As we look back on all the good fruit of this past year, we also look to the future. It is our plan to eventually create a space specifically for families to memorialize their children and visit them, for those who have nowhere else to do so.

As Catholic parents our primary mission is to get our children to Heaven. We have no higher purpose, except to be saints ourselves. It is our hope that we will have a lifetime of love and formation with our children, in pursuit of holiness together. Sometimes God only gives our children to us for a moment though. They are always on loan to us, never truly ours, but fully his.

As we minister to families through Heart of My Heart, we know that we cannot take away their pain or loss overnight. Only God can heal them. We also know that while the details of God’s will, the “why” of our losses, may not be known, his mercy remains. It is a mercy that even in this most unthinkable loss, we have the hope of having raised up our children to Heaven. As parents, our mission is thus fulfilled, and hope abounds.

For more information about resources available to families through Heart of My Heart please visit us at https://www.diocs.org/Pastoral-Services/Respect-Life/Miscarriage-Support-Ministry.

(Ashley Slack coordinates the diocesan miscarriage and infant loss ministry.)

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