Resurrection Cemetery buries fetal remains

| October 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
Fetal remains

This marker for fetal remains is located in a special section at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Four times a year, remains of stillborn and miscarried babies arrive at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights, coming from two hospital networks in the Twin Cities.

The Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has worked with Fairview and HealthEast hospitals for more than a decade to ensure proper burial for fetal remains. Resurrection Cemetery, part of The Catholic Cemeteries, hosts a communal fetal committal and burial service quarterly for families who have lost a baby due to stillbirth or miscarriage. Gill Brothers Funeral Service and Cremation of Minneapolis receives the fetal remains from the hospitals and brings them to Resurrection Cemetery.

Sister Fran Donnelly, a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Director of LifeTransition Ministries at Resurrection Cemetery, said the number of babies buried averages around 100-125 per service.

Families need not be Catholic to have their fetus’ remains buried in the service.

“We’re really serving people of all different faiths by this service,” Sister Fran said. “No que stions are asked about people, so I think for most, they believe this is indeed a baby, a viable person.”

Sister Fran said the prayer services and burials are about the dignity of the unborn, a tenet of Catholic social teaching on respect for human life.

“It says something about our belief and passion about respecting all of life, from conception to death,” Sister Fran said. “It’s a person regardless if it’s six weeks gestation or 20.”

Sister Fran said the special burial ties into the cemetery’s mission to bury the dead “in whatever form that is,” a corporal work of mercy.

Although in some cases the remains of the miscarried babies might be very small, Sister Fran said, the hospitals treat them with dignity. She compared the burial of the unborn to those who have lived much longer.

“Gill Brothers treats it like they’re picking up an 85-year-old man’s body, and we treat it like this is the same,” Sister Fran said.

Parents of stillborn or miscarried babies who want a Catholic burial have other options beyond working with their hospital to send the remains to Catholic Cemeteries. Sister Fran encourages parents to contact their pastor in the event of a stillbirth or miscarriage. She said most parish cemeteries can bury stillborn babies, but not always miscarried babies.

Mothers at Fairview and HealthEast hospitals can choose what to do with the remains, Sister Fran said, including cremation.

“Otherwise, the default for Fairview will be the group burial,” Sister Fran said. “Neither one of those healthcare systems just disposes of those remains. They’re either buried with us or the family can take them.”

Regardless of the hospital where they received their care, parents can also bring fetal remains to Gill Brothers’ mortuary, which works with Catholic Cemeteries, after contacting Sister Fran. Those families can also participate in the quarterly prayer and burial service at Resurrection Cemetery.

Gill Brothers receives the fetal remains from Fairview and HealthEast and then places them in small, sealed caskets. At the burial service, the caskets are interred at Resurrection Cemetery. The cemetery staff places a stone marker engraved with the burial date, an angel and a faith-based phrase. The cemetery keeps a record of the mother’s name, so a family can visit the plot that includes its baby’s remains.

“We’re able to say to people, ‘You’ll always be able to locate your baby’s grave,’” Sister Fran said.

Volunteers from nearby St. Peter in Mendota offer flowers for families to place with the caskets and provide hospitality following the burial.

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Category: Featured, Funeral & Hospice Planning