She vividly remembers the stuffed rabbit wrapped in plastic to shield it from the rain, nestled in a corner of the grave, a note attached to the paw with a rubber band.
Opening the note, a message written with feminine handwriting read:
Please forgive me and maybe someday I can forgive myself … I’ll always wonder what you would have been, what you would have become. I can’t stop hating myself right now, regretting the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life, wishing I could do it differently now. But, I can’t. I will always remember this. It was a tough lesson to have to learn … I pray to God and to you to forgive me so I can go on with my life and I swear to both you and the Lord that I will never ever do it again. Please forgive me so I can let go and go on.
The words assured Monica Miller that her efforts to bury more than 1,200 aborted babies gave them a human place in the world.
Tip leads to discovery of bodies
Involved in the pro-life movement since 1976, Miller, a former lecturer in theology at Marquette University and member of Citizens for a Pro-life Society, and her husband, Edmund, learned that the remains of thousands of aborted babies were housed on a loading dock at Vital Med in Northbrook, Ill.
After an anonymous tip by an employee of Vital Med to the pro-life group that the pathology lab was receiving bodies of aborted babies from all over the United States, the Millers and CPLS took action.
“We were told that a utility door to the loading dock in the garage was always open and that the babies were in the boxes,” she said. “So, in February of 1988, our group went to the pathology lab and did exactly what the employee told us to do. There were aborted babies stacked up in boxes and we took them.”
For a year, CPLS and the Pro-life Action League collected the bodies of aborted babies, more than 5,000 bodies in all.
“I called it a treasure house of death,” said Miller, mother of three and a professor of theology at Madonna University in Michigan. “We would stick our hands in the box and babies came out.”
Many bodies from 2 Milwaukee clinics
IF YOU WANT TO GO:
Memorial Service for the Aborted Unborn
Saturday, Sept. 14, 3 p.m.
With bodies coming from around the country, Miller and the pro-life organizations made arrangements for the burials of babies in the cities in which they were aborted. A large number of bodies came from two Milwaukee abortion clinics, Summit and Metropolitan.
On Sept. 10, 1988, CPLS organized a burial for 1,200 aborted babies at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee and was responsible for the erection of the monument dedicated to abortion victims in the infant section of the cemetery in front of the babies’ grave.
Before the burial, a wake service was held at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. More than 500 mourners attended the service where five white caskets contained the babies retrieved from Vital Med.
“I was struck by the realization that the coffins contained almost three times as many people as sat in the pews,” said Miller.
In addition to the large grave, there are other aborted babies at Holy Cross Cemetery. According to Miller, a few were retrieved later from Vital Med, and another grave contains babies found at Stericycle Bio Waste compound in Lombard, Ill., along with six babies aborted at Northwest General.
Children find ‘little people’ near Dumpster
“And very notably, the first aborted babies to be buried at Holy Cross were those found in a trash Dumpster from the now closed Bread and Roses Clinic that used to be at Third (Street) and Wisconsin (Avenue),” she said. “This was in 1984. They were found by children playing near the Dumpster. Police were called and when asked what they were doing, the children responded, ‘Nothing, we were just playing with the little people.’”
The bodies were given to the Milwaukee County Coroner’s Office and they gave them to Dan Ziedler, then president of Wisconsin Right to Life. He had them buried at Holy Cross with a grave marker that says, “Holy Innocents. Little People.”
On Sept. 14, in recognition for the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children, there will be a Memorial Service for the Aborted Unborn at Holy Cross Cemetery at 3 p.m. in honor of the more than 1,200 aborted babies buried there 25 years ago.
Lincoln bishop returns for memorial
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, retired bishop of Lincoln, Neb., Bishop Donald J. Hying, Jesuit Fr. William Kurz, professor at Marquette University, Rev. Mark Knappe, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, and Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, will be at the service.
Bishop Bruskewitz, former pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Wauwatosa, assisted with the burial 25 years ago.
“We witnessed the heartbreak of abortion, a sad result in a vivid way, and it was a time in which in prayer and reflection, we could rededicate ourselves to the scene of the pro-life cause,” he said. “It was an exclamation mark about the work we had been doing.”
In returning to Holy Cross 25 years later, Bishop Bruskewitz considers this opportunity to play a role in the service a nostalgic touch and opportunity to recall some of the emotions and thoughts he had then.
“I hope the public realizes that we are dealing with human beings that have the most fundamental right to life and hope that it will show that all human beings have inestimable dignity, not by government or social consciousness but by God, and that message goes out even beyond the church,” he said, adding he is bringing the head of the Diocese of Lincoln’s pro-life work, Fr. Leo Seiker, “to inspire him to be courageous.”
Giving respect pre-born deserve
While Hamill wasn’t at the original burial, she attended a second burial nearly 20 years ago where Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests For Life, officiated.
“That was the most touching funeral that I have ever experienced in my life,” she said. “The effect that it has on us as a society when we retrieve the babies and lay them to rest gives them the respect that we give a full grown person and continues to emblazon in our minds and melts our hearts to the fact that these tiny pre-born children are full people and deserve to be treated as people.”
Though Fr. Pavone will preside at a service in Birmingham, Ala., on Sept. 14, he has a profound recollection of the burial at which he presided in Milwaukee.
“It was an immense and moving memorial and so important to have for the public to witness,” he explained. “And starting a National Day of Remembrance like this is not a moment to soon, especially the way our society is headed with the lack of humanity in our country.”
Mentors help minister
Rev. Knappe began his ministry with pro-choice leanings.
“I came out of the more liberal progressive end of Lutheranism and that is how the seminary I came from in Chicago continues to be, and shows very little emphasis for the sanctity of life,” he said. “I kind of came out of seminary with those liberal views, but after being blessed with good mentors and theologians of all stripes, I have repented of my ways. These wonderful people placed me in a more orthodox mindset on the sanctity of life.”
He was also influenced by the writings of the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a confidant of Blessed John Paul II and later to Pope Benedict XVI.
“Through his writings and other people’s, I came to value the sanctity of the womb and I am proud to say that I am a grandparent five times over,” Rev. Knappe said.