By Jill Ragar Esfeld
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – Leon and Maureen Suprenant had just moved to the area when they attended a Mass that allowed them to heal in a way they had never before experienced.
The annual event held here in the archdiocese, called the Mass of the Innocents, is open to all who have experienced loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS and other types of infant death.
“Supporting families that are open to life and struggle with miscarriage is pro-life in the best sense,” said Leon, who is the archdiocesan pastoral associate for the administration of the permanent diaconate program.
“You’re affirming the life of a child and the grief of suffering a loss,” he said.
During the Mass, celebrant Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann will encourage parents to give their deceased child a name and come forward to record that name in the Book of Remembrance.
Deacon Tony Zimmerman, lead consultant for the archdiocesan marriage and family life office, believes that that act “gives people a chance to get in touch with those [feelings of loss] — to grieve and to seek some sort of closure.”
Closure is a commodity these parents have often lived a long time without.
“With miscarriage,” explained Leon, “the grieving process is short-circuited.”
“You don’t go through a funeral Mass and burial,” agreed Maureen. “In many early miscarriages, there’s nothing to bury. There’s no process for dealing with your grief.”
Brad and Libby DuPont, consultants for the marriage and family life office, who are coordinating the Mass, know exactly what the Suprenants mean.
“We lost our first child six years ago, and our daughter about 4 years ago,” said Brad.
“In our case, we got to hold our kids and take pictures,” said Libby. “People got to be with them, and we had a funeral.
“For someone who has had a miscarriage, they don’t have that benefit. People may not even know.”
“This is a way to really acknowledge the personhood of these children that we believe are with us, praying for us,” said Leon.
And it is never too late to come to the Mass and experience the healing.
“We’ve had women who have been in their 70s at the Mass, saying they have never grieved, tears rolling down their cheeks,” said Mary Anne Kierl, administrative assistant for the marriage and family life office.
All are welcome, including extended family. The Suprenants attended the Mass with their six living children.
After the Mass of the Innocents, families gather to share a meal and fellowship.
“That component is very good because it helps to bring people together who have experienced this loss,” said Deacon Zimmerman.
“It forms a unique fellowship,” added Brad. “People that you wouldn’t meet under normal circumstances, you have an immediate bond with, because of the nature of the gathering.”
The DuPonts urge anyone who has lost a child in infancy, or through miscarriage, to attend the Mass of the Innocents. No matter what stage of grief they’re experiencing.
“Their grief and their suffering matter to the church,” said Brad. “Even if the whole world has forgotten, Christ in the church does not forget their suffering and is there to offer a healing touch.”
The Suprenants agree.
“Anybody who is going through this will come out affirmed and strengthened,” said Leon.
“It made [our children] part of the church, part of the community,” said Maureen.
Mass of the Innocents
Archbishop Naumann invites all who have experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or in early childhood death to join him in a Mass of Remembrance on Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. at Savior Pastoral Center, 12601 Parallel Pkwy., Kansas City, Kan.
For information, please contact the archdiocesan marriage and family life office at (913) 721-1570 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grief and loss support program
Mary Helen Dennihan, a licensed marriage and family therapist, has developed a four-session grief and loss support program for persons encountering the loss of an infant due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or early infant death.
The program is being offered on four Thursday evenings — Sept. 27, Oct. 4, 11 and 18 — from 7-9 p.m. in the St. Joseph Room at Church of the Nativity, 3700 W. 119th St., Leawood.
Call Dennihan at (913) 491-4268 for reservations.
Prayer for the Innocent
Trusting in Jesus, the loving savior of the world, who gathered children into his arms and blessed the little ones, we now commend our child to that same embrace of love.
May the angels and saints lead our child to that place of light and peace, where one day we will be brought together again.
Lord Jesus, bless our child.