Human Interest

Florida diocese dedicates memorial to grieve the loss of born and preborn babies

In Florida, the Diocese of St. Augustine recently dedicated a new mausoleum for babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, and abortion. This new addition to the diocese will serve as a physical burial space and also as a memorial for the children sometimes forgotten by the community.

Appropriately named the “Precious Ones Mausoleum,” it is housed in the San Lorenzo Cemetery. According to the Catholic News Agency, this was a project that the local community funded through the Office of Human Life and Dignity at the Diocese of St. Augustine. The project cost $250,000 to create, but the Church community showed no hesitation and fulfilled this goal in just six months.

The mausoleum offers a communal style of burial for its very small residents, with 12 separate crypts that will be named after various Catholic saints. A brick walkway surrounds the granite structure — and Michael Hoffman, the diocese’s director of Stewardship and Development, hopes to put in a reflection garden nearby for visitors to take time to remember their beloved little ones. 

The idea originally started with May Oliver, the previous director of the Office of Human Life and Dignity, who had observed the laws in Texas changing at the time to require a burial for all babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. The diocese already offered support for families touched by miscarriage and stillbirth (such as a burial place and Masses held in honor of children lost), but Oliver felt that better resources needed to be available for grieving families even outside of the Church.

READ: Victims of abortion remembered with 214 memorial services nationwide

The Precious Ones Mausoleum is available for use to grieving families and mothers within a wider range of circumstances, completely free of charge. This is expected to have a significant impact, particularly to regret-filled post-abortive mothers seeking to properly grieve and remember their babies. Bishop of the diocese, Erik Pohlmeier, stated, “That experience of [the] healing the power of God and the suffering of loss might come as a shock to some people after it’s too late. But of course, that doesn’t change for us at all the care and respect that we would show to both mother and child in those situations.” 

The tragedy of pregnancy and infant loss is real and often unheard.

According to the Lancet, 23 million preborn lives are claimed by miscarriage worldwide, and in 2019 alone, an estimated 2.3 million lives were lost to stillbirth worldwide. This does not include the 1,026,690 lives taken by abortion just in the United States in 2023, per the Guttmacher Institute.

“It’s really time to be talking about these things,” Maureen Shilkunas, the current director of the Office of Human Life and Dignity said. “And it’s time for us to let people know that this should be the common conversation, that we really should be able to walk through [it with] mothers and fathers.”

On April 23, the day of the Precious Ones Mausoleum’s dedication, many families of the diocese attended the Mass, united together in remembrance of the children they could not hold in their arms.

Shilkhunas reflected, “It’s a very unusual and a very unique situation to think that we all, when we go to funerals, unless it’s our own family, you really don’t know who we’re buried next to or entombed next to… But what an opportunity that today was given to these families to see all of these siblings playing together on the lawn and attending Mass together, knowing that their siblings who are home with God will also be together.” 

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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