Franciscan Health holds memorial for unborn babies


On a warm, summer afternoon about 14 staff members from Franciscan Health Olympia Fields gathered around a burial marker to remember the lives of 27 unborn babies.

The Little Angels Memorial Service Wednesday at Assumption Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum in Glenwood was one of two held each year for families who lost a child that did not survive past 20 weeks in the womb. The second service is held in October during National Respect for Life Month.

Laurie Crosby, executive director of the Franciscan Health Foundation, said this was the hospital’s 17th memorial service in nine years. She said the service supports the values of the Franciscan Alliance’s health care ministry, which respects life at all stages, including unborn and newborn children.

“It’s just part of our Catholic tradition, just to care for every soul, so it was important to do something … to kind of commemorate their life, as short as it was,” Crosby said.

Next to the burial marker in the infant and children’s section of the Glenwood cemetery was a bouquet, surrounded by 27 white roses to symbolize purity and a life taken too early, one for each lost baby.

Laurie Crosby, of Franciscan Health, lays a few of the 27 roses June 12, 2024, placed in memoriam the 27 unborn babies who did not survive past 20 weeks in the womb, at Assumption Catholic Cemetery in Glenwood. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Laurie Crosby, of Franciscan Health, lays a few of the 27 roses June 12, 2024, placed in memoriam the 27 unborn babies who did not survive past 20 weeks in the womb, at Assumption Catholic Cemetery in Glenwood. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)

A nearby memorial bench built to honor the lost babies is engraved with a Bible verse from the book of Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you.”

Although there were not any mothers present Wednesday, Crosby said they sent letters to each woman who lost a child at their hospital, inviting them to attend. Crosby said while it may be difficult for mothers to attend the service, she believes it is important for staff members to honor the newborns’ lives in their place.

Employees of Franciscan Health attend a memorial service Wednesday on behalf of babies who did not survive past 20 weeks in the womb. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Employees of Franciscan Health attend a memorial service Wednesday on behalf of babies who did not survive past 20 weeks in the womb. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)

“I think for a lot of them, it’s comforting to know that someone’s praying for their baby and taking care of them the right way,” Crosby said.

A Franciscan Health priest, the Rev. Phil Cyscon, led with an opening prayer, a psalm, a few gospel readings, a reflection and a petition. Then attendees blessed the burial site for the lost newborns and a letter for the parents was read. The service closed with a prayer.

“Everybody who comes to our door is a family,” said Dobaro Dogisso, director of spiritual care for Franciscan Health Olympia Fields. “So if one of our family members loves the baby, that is how we’re feeling.”



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