Infants remembered at prayer service

Record Photo by Ruby Thomas A group of students from St. Francis of Assisi School looked on as Katie Stivers and her husband B.J. prepared to sprinkle holy water over the grave of their infant son, Trey, during the infant prayer service at Calvary Cemetery April 29. The Stivers attend the monthly service as a way of honoring their baby’s life.

Record Photo by Ruby Thomas
A group of students from St. Francis of Assisi School looked on as Katie Stivers and her husband B.J. prepared to sprinkle holy water over the grave of their infant son, Trey, during the infant prayer service at Calvary Cemetery April 29. The Stivers attend the monthly service as a way of honoring their baby’s life.

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

Two young families gathered April 29 at Calvary Cemetery on Newburg Road to pray for the souls of their infants who are buried there.

Six students from St. Francis of Assisi School prayed with the families and sprinkled holy water on unmarked infant graves in the Holy Innocents section.

They were all taking part in a monthly infant prayer service sponsored by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Catholic Cemeteries.

Over the past 10 years, families that have lost babies have come to Calvary Cemetery on the last Wednesday of each month to pray and bless the graves of those infants. And the students have started attending to help bring comfort to these families.

B.J. Stivers and his wife Katie have been attending the prayer service every month since December, when they lost their son, Trey, who was born prematurely at only 18 weeks.
For the Stivers, the prayer service has been a way of keeping baby Trey’s memory alive.

“Most people get to make memories of others,” said Stivers. “We didn’t get that, so this is a way of honoring him.”

The April 29 service was led by Deacon Patrick Wright, director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s diaconate office. But usually Deacon Robert Markert, chaplain of Catholic Cemeteries, presides.

Deacon Markert said during a phone interview that he knows first-hand the comfort these services bring because he, too, lost a child.

He noted that some of the families lost babies years ago, but they “have the same torn heart” as those who lost their child only recently.

Deacon Markert said that many parents have been attending the prayer service for years and “have become a shoulder to cry on” for those whose grief is still fresh.

“They are able to reach out through their own grief and minister to others,” he said.

Deacon Markert said he has also witnessed the birth of new children in these grieving families. He’s aware of six babies who have been born to these parents.

“It’s extraordinary that in their grief for the one they’ve lost, they have a new life to share,” he said.

During the service, the deacon prays for all babies who have died, and prays over the graves of the babies whose families are present.

The parents also have the opportunity to sprinkle holy water over their child’s grave.

The St. Francis of Assisi students who attend “are a marvelous witness to grieving parents and to the church’s care for them,” said Deacon Markert. “Hopefully their presence supplies a sense of support, comfort and solidarity.”

Javier Fajardo, executive director of Catholic Cemeteries, said this ministry underscores the church’s belief that every life is important.

“We care about life regardless of the length of that life,” he said.

Fajardo noted that many infants are laid to rest without prayer at the time of burial; this service provides the respect each life deserves, he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *