by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Katie and Patrick Leis attended their first Mass of Innocents, they were suddenly called upon to do something they’d never considered doing before: naming the children they had lost.
It could not have made a deeper impression.
“Archbishop Naumann called us forward to name our children [in a book of remembrance]” said Katie.
“It was so powerful and helpful to us in moving through the losses of our other children,” she said. “And it’s so helpful to our other children to be able to think of their siblings by name, as a person, and not just as a ‘thing.’”
The Leises, members of Holy Family Parish in Eudora, have a large family: six living children, and five lost to miscarriage and one after birth.
This year, they will attend — as they have every year since 2005 — the annual archdiocesan Mass of Innocents. It will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 at Holy Spirit Parish, 11300 W. 103rd St., Overland Park.
“Our children are our children from the moment they are conceived,” said Katie. “It doesn’t matter how long they are with us, they are still our children.”
“The pain of that loss is able to be reconciled, and can be coped and dealt with,” she continued, “but it’s a pain that is deep within you always when you lose a child.”
It’s not only the parents who feel the loss, but also grandparents and siblings.
“We lost our baby at almost 20 weeks, and it’s heartbreaking,” said Betty Battson. She and her husband Brian are members of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. “You give birth to a baby and you go home, but you don’t take that baby with you.”
“We have five kids, who range from age 5 to 18,” she continued. “They know they have a big sister in heaven. There are times they ask, ‘Why did Catherine have to go to heaven? Why couldn’t she stay with us?’
“It’s difficult for the little ones because they feel that loss, too.”
Maureen and Shaw Leach, members of Holy Spirit Parish, lost a child to miscarriage last year. This will be their first Mass of Innocents.
“There are a large number of families who have suffered a loss like this, and [the Mass of Innocents] is a way to celebrate that life and memorialize it in light of our Catholic faith,” said Maureen, parish director of religious education.
It can be difficult for people who haven’t had this kind of loss to understand what it can be like.
“My husband and I are so blessed with six living children, but we still grieve the six we lost,” said Katie. “[The grief] is not lessened because we have living children.”
So, she finds it tremendously comforting when relatives and friends accompany her family to the Mass of Innocents. They don’t have to say anything — just being there is enough.
The Mass of Innocents brings families together in another way as well.
“In the archbishop’s homily [one year], he said something really powerful to me,” said Katie.
“He [said that] during the celebration of the Eucharist, we are united with all those who are in heaven. So, every time we go to Mass, we are united with the children we have lost,” she added. “It has transformed the way I attend Mass every time I go. I know at the moment of consecration I am there with my children.”
All who have experienced this kind of loss are welcome to attend the Mass — whether the loss was recent or many years ago. Those who wish to support families are also welcome.
For more information, contact archdiocesan marriage and family life consultant Brad DuPont at (913) 647-0301 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.