Catholic Herald Staff
The Infants’ Memorial in the St. Francis Cemetery in Cedarburg depicts a mother holding a baby close, their bodies forming the shape of a heart.
As Fr. Patrick Burns blessed the memorial Sept. 14, an errant sprinkle of holy water softly landed on the mother’s cheek, and for a brief moment, imaged a tear on the stone memorial dedicated to 46 infants buried in unmarked graves.
In 2018, ground penetrating radar revealed 46 infants were buried in the northwest corner of the cemetery, in addition to other unmarked graves throughout the grounds. Seeing that some Milwaukee families had no money to bury their infants, in 1967, Fr. Leo Zingsheim invited those families to lay their children to rest in the St. Francis Cemetery. Yet, the graves were not marked and names never recorded.
The Knights of Columbus Council 4520, who arranged the radar, were quite surprised to discover the infant graves of children who were stillborn or lost through miscarriage. They decided to do something to honor the children in their final resting place.
They proposed the idea of a memorial to St. Francis Borgia Parish and once again were surprised — through the generosity of the parishioners, they received more funds than needed and now are able to use those funds for other projects around the cemetery.
They collaborated with Miller Monument and installed the memorial earlier this summer, raised on a stone pillar and complete with a plaque. The memorial intentionally matches the pillars at the entrance to the cemetery, drawing visitors in to approach and learn about its purpose and history.
On Saturday, members of St. Francis Borgia Parish and the Knights of Columbus gathered in the St. Francis Cemetery for the dedication of the recently erected Infants’ Memorial and to pray together on the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children.
The seventh annual day of remembrance recognizes those children whose lives were ended before they exited the womb through prayer services at 52 abortion memorials throughout the United States. The first was held in September 2013, the 25th anniversary of the burial of 1,500 abortion victims in Milwaukee.
For the past two years, the St. Francis Borgia Respect Life Committee has hosted a prayer service at their statue of Rachel weeping, acknowledging the 60 million-plus babies who have been killed by abortion since 1973.
This year, the event is two-fold, Tobey Neuberger from the committee said. “It is recognizing and giving dignity to those babies who never had a chance, and also to the other unmarked graves.”
The ceremony included an opening prayer, Scripture reading from Mark 10:13-16 — the same verse inscribed on the memorial — a reflection from St. Francis Borgia Pastor Fr. Patrick Burns, intercessions, and the Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus before the final blessing.
Following the blessing, attendees surveyed the plaque and crosses before gathering more closely around the memorial to pray a Rosary for Life.
After the ceremony, Peter Schmidt, a Knight who helped spearhead this project, said, “today is icing on the cake,” as he cited the beautiful weather and gestured to the 75 people gathered to pray for the infants buried and all abortion victims.
Stephanie Dailey, a member of the St. Francis Borgia Respect Life Committee, explained that combining the National Day of Remembrance with the dedication ceremony for the Infant’s Memorial was a natural fit.
“It’s powerful,” Dailey said, “I shed a few tears.”
“These were somebody’s babies, and that we show honor and respect to these souls, it’s moving.”
Schmidt added, for the children buried with no names to be recognized, “These children need to be remembered, too.”
Remembering both the lives of the unborn babies whose lives were cut from the womb, and those whose lives were unexpectedly cut shortly thereafter, ever too soon, epitomizes what it means to be pro-life.
No matter the age or time of passing, all life is sacred and every death sorrowful.
The once-unmarked graves are now adorned with small white crosses in Cedarburg.
“We have no idea who they are. There is no name attached to that cross, but the Scripture on the monument, Mark 10:16, shows, they are in God’s hands,” Schmidt said.
It catches your attention, the memorial guarding the patch of white crosses. The Knights who launched this project hope that anyone visiting the cemetery will see and stop to say a prayer for the little souls now at rest under baby white crosses.
The St. Francis Borgia Respect Life Committee and Knights of Columbus were grateful for the generosity of the parishioners who made the memorial possible and joined them in prayer.
Schmidt said, “it’s been a true joy to be a part of,” jovially adding, “now what do we work on? There’s more work to be done.”