Newborn found at Cathedral of St. Paul

| January 5, 2017 | 8 Comments

Nathan Leonhardt, a maintenance staff member at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, points to the spot in the church’s foyer where he found an abandoned newborn Jan. 4. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

A custodian found a newborn at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul Jan. 4 about 6 p.m. while locking up the building following the evening Mass. The baby was left in a plastic laundry basket between the exterior and interior doors of a Dayton Avenue entrance.

The custodian immediately alerted Cathedral Rector Father John Ubel, who called 911. Father Ubel and the custodian, Nathan Leonhardt, brought the baby to the sacristy where Father Ubel baptized him while they awaited police. By 6:30 p.m., the infant was in an ambulance. He was admitted to Children’s Hospital.

Father Ubel said he hopes the boy, whom he christened Nathan John, will be adopted by a Catholic family. He finds it significant that the baby was left at a Catholic parish. The baby is now in the care of Ramsey County Child Protective Services.

Police are not pursuing the abandoned infant as a criminal matter, according to Sgt. Mike Ernster of the St. Paul Police. In Minnesota, it is legal to leave a newborn in a safe place within seven days of his or her birth. The state’s safe haven law lists hospitals and urgent care clinics as safe places, where a mother can leave the child without answering any questions. Under the law, an ambulance can also be called to receive a baby, no questions asked. Unlike laws in some other states, a church is not an official safe haven in Minnesota.

Father Ubel hopes, however, that the baby was left at the Cathedral because the mother knew the baby would be safe and cared for with the parish’s help.

The baby was found naked, wrapped in a green, fleece-tied, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles patterned blanket and a thin, gray women’s hooded sweatshirt. Leonhardt first thought someone had left a basket of laundry on the landing at the top of the foyer steps. He heard a noise come from the basket, and thought it might be a puppy.

He moved the blanket and saw the baby’s face. He appeared to be recently born, as he was still had blood and mucus on him from birth, and had not been washed. His umbilical cord was cut and clamped with a binder clip.

“I was speechless,” he said. “I froze for what seemed to be 10 seconds, but it was probably more.”

He picked up the baby, called Father Ubel, and told the priest to call 911. The baby was warm, but his hands and feet had a purple tinge.

Father Ubel said his first concern was for the baby’s health, and he wondered how long he had been left there. For a moment he questioned whether he should baptize the baby, and immediately decided he should. He used holy water from the cruet used in Mass.

He visited the hospital later in the evening. Although he wasn’t able to see the baby, he wanted to show his concern and support for him.

Police have informed him that the baby was likely born slightly premature, weighed about 5 pounds, and is in good health.

Father Ubel said he is grateful that the mother chose not to abort the baby. His is also proud of Leonhardt’s quick actions. He is also impressed by the St. Paul Police who responded to his call. He was told some of them bought baby items for the newborn.

“The fact that this child was left off at a Catholic church is not an insignificant detail to me,” Father Ubel said. “Absent any other information forthcoming, I think it’s important that this child be given up for adoption, and there would be many willing Catholic couples who would welcome this child into their home.

“I hope that there’s a way that we could play some part in facilitating that,” he added. “I understand that there’s a process and that needs to play out, including an investigation and all that, but at the end of the process, I would hope that there would be an openness on the part of the county to take this into account.”

Police are concerned about the mother, who apparently gave birth without medical attention, Ernster said. They are encouraging her to seek medical help if she needs it without fear of criminal charges.

Like Father Ubel, Leonhardt also hopes the baby can go to a good home.

“They picked a good spot to drop him off,” said Leonhardt, 26, a parishioner of St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights.“It’s a church. We love children.”

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  • Rosemary Bogdan

    What a blessing that this baby has lived and that Father has baptized him.

  • CLQ24

    Thank you Fr. Ubel for taking such good care of this little one and for making sure to baptize him just in case. I pray that he will be alright and find a family soon.

  • Teresa Nilsson

    Blessed be this child. What a selfless and merciful act on behalf of the birth mother. We would love to be in contact with anyone who could help us adopt baby Nathan. Our daughter joined our family through adoption 6 years ago and we thank the Lord everyday for her.

  • Maureen

    Prayers for Nathan and prayers that he be led to the family who will love him and make him their own.

  • SaL

    way to go mom for choosing life- and leaving this baby in a safe place!

  • Michelle Gagnon

    Great man Fr. Ubel. The Cathedral is so lucky to have him. Any one who knows him knows he is a Saint in the making. This mother picked a perfect place to care for her son.

  • Dominic Deus

    Never underestimate the debt of gratitude we all owe to custodians. They have a patron saint Theobald of Provins. Amazing what you can learn from the Catholic Spirit. After thought:maybe we should suggest the baby be named Theobald.https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b4f9bfbb71fb456294a99b0bde8c4c70953b3c7b9d3c9ca3289af8898f3f82b2.jpg