|Death: ||Nov., 2010|
Even their names, Andrew and Nicholas, were gifts from the Franciscans who placed two teddy bears — each adorned with miraculous medals — on a linen shroud that covered a pair of white coffins not much bigger than shoeboxes.
Some 16 people made their way to a private chapel in St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston to mourn and pray for the two infants at the heart of a different kind of Nativity story.
There were no headlines when they died, no press releases, no investigations — really no public awareness at all. They were each stillborn in Boston hospitals, one in October, the other in November, then abandoned by families who either wouldn't or couldn't send them from this world in a dignified way.
Which is why they were here, because the Franciscan Friars of St. Anthony Shrine see it as a key part of their mission to provide dignity in death — dignity to abandoned infants, dignity to loners whose bodies go unclaimed, dignity to homeless people with no one to celebrate their lives and see them to their graves.
They heard Father David Convertino eloquently grapple with the inexplicable in his homily. "Some people say that these babies' death at this time was God's will. Don't believe them," said St. Anthony's executive director. "The God we worship, the God who watches over us, doesn't will the death of babies or the pain of parents.
"While I believe God has welcomed these babies into his kingdom, I am sure God did not want them to die right now so that He could have them there. God does not will grief and pain," the friar said. "But God is with us in the midst of all the pain and tears."
Baby Andrew and Baby Nicholas were the fifth and sixth abandoned infants — their tiny bodies left alone in a hospital — whose brief existence was celebrated with a poignant Mass of Resurrection at the Arch Street Shrine this year.
But as part of St. Anthony's Lazarus Program, they belonged to a larger community of forgotten souls that Father David calls "the unwanted dead." They include everyone from a homeless Vietnam vet named Florence who lived in South Station to infants who are discarded in Dumpsters.
After yesterday's final hymn, Sister Pat Barrett, who spent many of her 50 years as a Franciscan missionary delivering babies in Africa, softly touched the two teddy bears atop the caskets. "I thought about how all of us who had the privilege of attending this Mass became family to Andrew and Nicholas," she said. "And I also thought of those parents we were replacing who, for whatever reason, weren't able to be here today. I prayed for them as well."
About an hour later, at the site of a donated grave in Mattapan's Mount Calvary Cemetery, undertaker Craig Dolan and his son Jed each guarded a tiny white coffin against the winter's chill.
Brother Gary Maciag spoke the words: "The life given to Andrew and Nicholas by their parents is not destroyed by death."
Then, Brother Gary, Craig and Jed Dolan all blessed themselves, as did the grave diggers approaching the small plots surrounded by ancient tombstones. Nine days before Christmas, Nicholas and Andrew were lovingly returned to God.
Mount Calvary Cemetery
Created by: AngelWings
Record added: Dec 15, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 62946803