For the second time in two years, the Diocese of Buffalo bid farewell to an abandoned deceased baby. On Feb. 27, Bishop Richard J. Malone and Father Jeffrey L. Nowak presided over memorial and burial services for Baby Bernadette, a girl 27 weeks along in gestation.
At the memorial service, Bishop Malone quoted Psalm 22 in thinking about Baby Bernadette, "'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?' Could not those been the words of this infant, Bernadette? But because of you and our faith and all of our confidence in the wisdom of the Lord and His promise of eternal peace, Bernadette is forsaken no longer."
He pointed out that the Church no longer teaches that an unbaptized child will end up in Limbo, somewhere between Heaven and Hell.
"We simply say we trust the unbaptized who die into the mercy of God."
Moved by the nearly 50 people who attended the memorial service at Amigone Funeral Home's Delaware Avenue location, the bishop thanked those who came.
"By being here, of course, we do several things. First of all, we, by our very presence, profess our deep Christian reverence for the dead, for the human body, which is the temple of our spirit. We profess, also, our faith in the resurrection of the dead and the mercy of God," he said. "Also by coming here, we, in a quiet peaceful way, we make an act of resistance; resistance against what Pope Francis calls 'the throwaway culture,' the symptoms of which we sadly see in so many areas of life."
Finally, he asked that no one make judgments about the parents who abandoned Bernadette.
"Who can imagine whatever was the trauma, whatever was the upset, whatever was going on in the parents of this child that her little body was abandoned in this way?' So, in our prayer today, as we simply thank God for His mercy, we know that He takes Baby Bernadette into His loving arms forever, I'm going to ask you to keep in your prayers her parents. We don't know who they are. We never will. But they need our prayer."
Father Nowak led the Rite of Committal at Mount Olivet Cemetery's Holy Innocents section, saying, "The life which this child, Bernadette, received from her parents is not destroyed by death. God has taken her into eternal life. As we commit her body to the earth, let us comfort each other with the assurance of our faith, that one day we will be reunited with her."
This is the second time Cheryl Calire, diocesan director of Pro-Life Activities, has organized burial services for "lost babies."
In March 2015, Baby Jesse was buried in St. Mary Cemetery in Dunkirk. Baby Jesse was the male fetus discovered in August 2014 along the shoreline of Lake Erie State Park. Bishop Malone and Calire, wanted to make sure the remains of the baby were treated with respect and given an appropriate burial, if no family was found or came forward to do so.
The Erie County Medical Examiner's office contacted Calire after Baby Bernadette was turned over to the county.
"We got a call because they had read the story on Baby Jesse in the past, they had a baby that had been abandoned and asked if I would be interested in taking guardianship of her," Calire explained. "Of course, I agreed to do so and really had a day or two to make arrangements to give her a proper burial. But, everybody cooperated together - Amigone, Catholic Cemeteries and Maureen's Flowers. We were able to give her a beautiful service and a beautiful burial."