One local family had three times the blessings to count during Thanksgiving, with the baptisms of triplets Aubrey Marie, Caleb Joseph and Hannah Cecelia Eskau taking place on Saturday, Nov. 25, at St. James in Menomonee Falls.
The event proved not only to be a beautiful testament to the family’s faith, but the perfect moment to give thanks for the good health of the triplets, who were born at just 30 weeks on July 30.
“It was a fantastic time,” said the triplets’ mom, Theresa Eskau. “The kids are so loved.”
Simply because of the number of godparents, attendance was a little higher than the typical baptism — dozens of aunts and uncles, both sets of grandparents, cousins and one great-grandfather put the number at about 50 people who watched as the babies became members of Christ’s body and received the renewal of the Holy Spirit.
“I think everyone at the Saturday evening Mass was concerned when Father announced that there were triplets to be baptized — thinking, ‘Oh, no, it’s going to take forever,’” joked Eskau’s father, Jerry Voors (the congregation needn’t have worried: the baptism took place after Mass). “It gives you a sense of what being a celebrity might be like. You can’t go anywhere with those three babies without everybody looking and pointing.”
The celebration of the triplets’ baptisms bore a poignant dual theme of family and faith. Not only were the threesome baptized by their great-uncle, Fr. Dave Voors, a priest in the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (Indiana), but each baby also wore an heirloom baptismal gown handed down through generations of faithful Catholics.
“Of all the triplets’ sponsors, siblings, parents, and cousins present to celebrate the baptisms, nearly all of them had been baptized in one of these three gowns,” said Jerry Voors. Each baby also wore a bib created from Theresa Eskau’s First Communion gown.
The gowns all had relevance to each of the triplets’ middle names. Little Aubrey Marie wore an heirloom dress from her paternal grandfather’s family, sewn for her great-grandmother Mary E. Metker in 1923. Caleb Joseph sported a 115-year-old gown from the Eskau family, a nod to his middle name, which honors his father’s grandfather. Hannah Cecelia’s gown was first worn by her maternal great-grandmother, Eskau’s beloved “Oma” Cecelia Fitzgerald in 1930. There’s an interesting story attached to Hannah’s gown; it was actually handmade by an order of nuns living in Karachi, India, where Cecelia Fitzgerald’s father was stationed for work, and gifted to her pregnant mother as a parting gift when the couple returned home to Wisconsin.
In another touching coincidence, the grandfather of Luke Eskau actually donated the property for St. James’ church, the very land his great-grandchildren were baptized upon, said Theresa Eskau, who added that she is proud of the enduring Catholic faith of both her family and her husband’s.
“Everyone still has that strong faith background,” she said. “Everyone was really excited for this baptism — a lot of people traveled for it.”
“It’s so much fun to have kids who are very active in the Catholic faith,” said Jerry Voors. “This is really important to them — it wasn’t just, okay, we have to get married in the church and we have to get the kids baptized. Theresa and Luke are very, very involved at St. James and their religion is very, very important to them.”
It was that faith that helped to see the couple through the 10 weeks their infants had to spend in the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. As a nurse at Children’s Hospital herself, Theresa Eskau was shocked at how smoothly her triplet pregnancy was going — until she went to the hospital for her 28-week appointment, fresh off of a string of three 12-hour shifts.
“We were really thrown for a loop — the appointment was basically done, and they checked my cervix and said, you’re done with work. Ten minutes later, the nurse came back with an attending and booked me into the hospital,” she said. Going into early labor that night was terrifying, but after a night of “many Hail Marys,” the babies stayed put for another week.
“They had lots and lots of prayer coverage,” said Jerry Voors.
Though tiny at the time of their birth, no major medical issues presented in Aubrey, Caleb and Hannah — but the two-and-a-half months in the NICU was grueling for the young couple and their families.
“We were fortunate that every night they could sleep at home, but Theresa never wanted the kids to be alone before they went to bed,” said Jerry Voors. “A couple times, I got to stay with them, and every night she made sure that I remembered to say their prayers with the kids before they slept. As a dad, I just felt, wow, I must’ve done something right.” And when Hannah had to stay at the hospital six days longer than her siblings, she was never without one of her grandparents by her side.
Now that the babies are home and healthy, the Eskaus are still relying on the loving support of their families.
“I think the longest we’ve gone alone with them when they’re awake is two hours,” said Theresa Eskau. “We’re blessed. We have an army.”