Unnamed and largely unknown, more than 3,300 babies are lost to abortion every day in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
To honor these innocents, recognize their human dignity and build awareness of the number of lives lost—more than 1.2 million a year in the U.S.—the Archdiocese of Denver will observe its first National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children with a prayer service 11 a.m. Sept. 10 at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish’s Memorial Wall for the Unborn.
The ashes of some 5,500 aborted babies are buried at the parish’s Memorial Wall, located at 6379 S. Boulder Road, Boulder.
“It’s the most historic and poignant place of burial for aborted children in the entire metro-Denver area,” said Lynn Grandon, Respect Life program director.
All are invited to the prayer service, which will include a blessing of the site, Scripture readings and a talk about the Memorial Wall by Susie LaVelle, who co-founded it and oversees the ministry.
Dedicated in 2000, burials of aborted children started in the parish cemetery in 1996 when a Boulder mortuary contacted the parish asking if it would bury human remains it had received from a local abortion clinic that specialized in late-term abortions. Colorado law requires “incineration or internment” of recognizable human remains and forbids such remains from being dumped in landfills. Chuck Myers, the Seventh Day Adventist director of the mortuary at the time, recalled for the National Catholic Register the first experience working with the abortion clinic’s remains.
“[The clinic] told us it was ‘tissue,’ but it wasn’t,” said Myers. “I won’t get specific, but what we saw was very disturbing to our staff. It was just very hard.”
Former Sacred Heart of Mary pastor Father Andrew Kemberling told Myers the parish would bury the remains, which it did under a statue of the Risen Christ in the church cemetery. The parish periodically buried remains from the mortuary for two years, until Myers moved to a different mortuary. In 2001, another mortuary contacted the parish with the same request and the burials resumed for another four years. Today, individual burials of aborted children continue at the site, as well as burials of babies lost to stillbirth and miscarriage. Mass burials are available upon request.
“Those folks [at Sacred Heart of Mary] are so faithful to do what they did and to honor the lives of those children who otherwise would be unknown,” Grandon said, adding that Father Kemberling, Father Dorino DeLazzer who co-founded the wall, and current Sacred Heart of Mary pastor Father Cliff McMillan, will all take part in the liturgy.
Those folks [at Sacred Heart of Mary] are so faithful to do what they did and to honor the lives of those children who otherwise would be unknown.”
The Memorial Wall for the Unborn bears brass plates with the names of babies lost through abortion, stillbirth and miscarriage. Naming an unborn child, LaVelle said, both honors the child and helps grieving parents heal and find forgiveness.
“It’s a holy moment when a woman finds that she has been forgiven by God and that she has a child waiting for her in heaven,” said LaVelle, who received Endow’s Julia Greeley Award in 2006 primarily for her work with the Memorial Wall.
Boulder’s Memorial Wall for the Unborn and the Memorial for the Unborn at St. Louis Parish in Englewood are among 50 such gravesites across the United States. (A rosary, which is open to all, will be prayed at 10 a.m. Sept. 10 at St. Louis’ memorial, located at 3310 S. Sherman St., Englewood.) There are an additional 558 memorial sites honoring aborted children across the nation, including five at parishes in the archdiocese.
LaVelle has said most people in the archdiocese are likely unaware that the abortion burial ministry exists at the Boulder parish. Organizers hope the prayer service will raise awareness of the ministry among all those seeking healing from the loss of an unborn child.
“We’d like to make this an annual event,” Grandon said.
The first National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children was held September 2013 in Milwaukee, Wis. Always held on the second Saturday in September, some 129 memorial services are scheduled across the country this year.
Sat., Sept. 10, 11 a.m.
Sacred Heart of Mary Cemetery
6379 S. Boulder Road, Boulder