No one ever expects to lose a child. But all too often, in the midst of planning a nursery and picking names, there can be a miscarriage. For those who miscarry at home, this was once even more difficult. While some hospitals would take care of burial for a baby miscarried there, parents who suffered a miscarriage outside of the hospital or in a hospital without a burial simply didn’t know where to turn. This was the impetus for the Holy Innocents Ministry.
Reverend Patrick Carrion, Director of the Office of Cemetery Management, and Johanna Coughlin, former Director of the Office of Respect Life, worked together to form this ministry and to establish an endowment to support it, The Holy Innocents Endowment for Burial upon a Miscarriage. Father Carrion, who also serves as the pastor of St. Bernadette parish said, “Being a pastor I received many calls from people who miscarried at home.” Other pastors often faced the same situation. Father Carrion felt the Archdiocese needed a ministry whereby parish priests and staff could immediately respond to the family who is calling to say YES we can bury your child. The parish can call Holy Innocents Ministry on behalf of the family or refer to the family to us.
Now, when families are faced with this painful circumstance, they have help available to them. Coughlin said, “You’re recovering. You’re emotional. You’re dealing with grief and loss. The last thing you need to deal with are details of burial.”
Solace comes in the form of Holy Innocents pastoral ministers who go into the home and pray with the family. Amy Erardi, Coordinator of Pastoral Care for Holy Innocents, said, “Families are very grateful. It brings them some comfort in their time of grief.”
Holy Innocents ministers then bring additional relief by taking custody of the child and bringing it to the State of Maryland Anatomy Board, which holds the child until a time can be arranged for internment. Families who are mourning this loss gather twice a year to attend a burial at Holy Cross Cemetery.
Of the ritual, Coughlin said, “There’s just something very meaningful about acknowledging that child’s life, even though it was short. It’s the church’s way to publicly celebrate that child.”