GENESEE DEPOT — Although limited by a portable oxygen tank that accompanies him wherever he goes, Steve McLain, a parishioner at St. Paul Parish in Genesee Depot, can still get around and make his voice heard.

However, for McLain, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it’s not just been about his voice, but the voices of the millions denied their own right to speak before they were even born, their lives ended by abortion. The result of his passion is illustrated in a monument of living water at St. Paul, a cast bronze baptismal font, created by Wanner Sculpture Studios, Milwaukee, and memorial plaque to the unborn, reminding all who bless themselves about those who were never given the opportunity to be baptized.



Steve McLain, pictured next to the monument of living water at St. Paul Parish, Genesee Depot, holds a memorial plaque to the unborn, reminding all who bless themselves about those who never had the opportunity to be baptized. McLain hopes similar memorials to the unborn can be erected in Catholic churches across the country. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)

The plaque reads, “Welcoming newborns to new life in Christ and commemorating the unborn who die – unable to pass through the waters of Baptism.”

While the McLain family – wife, Lyn, and their five children – isn’t mentioned on the plaque, it is largely responsible for the font and its special meaning beyond baptism.

“I didn’t want a permanent ‘atta boy’ hanging on the church wall,” McLain said. “I wanted more for people to focus on what the memorial is about.”

As a lifelong Catholic, including grade school at St. Bernard in Wauwatosa, Marquette University High School and Marquette University, McLain, a retired Oster employee, said he has always had a pro-life attitude and had a respect for all of God’s creatures. However, he explained, he felt the church was turning its focus away from some of the most basic social sins as taught in the Old Testament.

“We preach the Gospel, but we seem to be forgetting about those social sins like ‘Thou shalt not kill,’” he said.

McLain admitted he initially didn’t realize the impact of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which made abortion legal in the United States.

“I was probably like a lot of people – we had no idea how big of an issue this was, how evil this issue is, and perhaps the fear of appearing too political led the church to not preach about it so much once the decision was made,” McLain said. “It felt like the attitude of people was that they didn’t want to know about it, that it was too unpleasant to talk about.”

Despite a focus on Catholic social justice teaching, with issues of immigration, workers rights, unemployment and poverty part of the headlines every day, McLain sees abortion as the social justice issue that has been pushed to the back seat.

McLain struggled with how to turn this around, and came upon the idea while talking with an aide to one-time candidate for president, Alan Keyes, during his visit to Wisconsin during the 2004 election.

“We had been talking about (Keyes) strong anti-abortion position, and I said to her, ‘Everywhere we have memorials, but those are for past wars, and there aren’t any for the biggest war that is still going on against the unborn,’” McLain recalled.

After some research, McLain found that Sacramento, Calif., and Chattanooga, Tenn., had memorials, but he wanted to start close to home.

With plans for a new church to be built in Genesee Depot, McLain saw an opportunity. Realizing the baptismal font was open for sponsorship, he approached then pastor Fr. Bob Gosma (now retired) with the idea to commemorate the font to the memory of the unborn. Fr. Gosma gave McLain his blessing.

McLain now wants to reach other parishes with the hope that someday every church would have some memorial to those babies lost to abortion.

“I had really prayed over it, and then I found out that I was going to be interviewed for the Catholic Herald,” McLain said. “It felt just like the Lord came along and just picked me up.”

McLain described the experience of bringing the font and the memorial to fruition as humbling, and said that all he wanted to do was gain attention for the abortion issue.

“The ultimate hope is to have this memorial placed somewhere near the baptismal font in every parish because these poor souls aren’t getting baptized,” he explained, and stressed again, “People need to realize how big of a problem this is. We had 50,000 soldiers who died in Vietnam over many years – that number only represents how many babies die in about a half of a month. Where’s their monument?”