by Marc and Julie Anderson
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He never spoke a word.
But Joseph Anthony Krause’s mission, said his parents, has just begun.
On March 3, Austin and Mary Kate Krause, members of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Kansas City, Missouri, went to their doctor’s office around 8:30 that morning for a routine ultrasound.
By 10 a.m., the doctor’s office had called, asking the couple to come back to talk.
“I was just so confused because I had literally just seen what we thought was a healthy baby,” said Mary Kate. Now, by noon, she was in the office again. While waiting, she asked the nurse — a friend of the couple — why the doctor wanted to see them.
“She just looked at me. She told me basically that, ‘Your baby doesn’t have a brain,’” Mary Kate said, tears in her voice.
The diagnosis was anencephaly, a condition that affects approximately one in 4,600 live births in the United States. In most cases, babies are born without the forebrain and the cerebrum, which controls thinking and coordination. Often, the remaining parts of the brain are not covered by bone or skin.
“As a mom,” Mary Kate said, “my first instinct was, ‘How do we fix this? What does this mean?’ I thought maybe he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life or something.”
The reality, she was told, was grim. His passing was inevitable.
The doctor suggested the couple call Alexandra’s House.
Founded in 1997 by a woman who prefers to be known simply as Patti, Alexandra’s House calls itself “a very special place for very special babies” and provides support, free of charge, to families through an array of services.
Just one day after the ultrasound, Mary Kate and Austin found themselves at Alexandra’s House, trying to make sense of their situation.
After the initial shock wore off, Mary Kate started researching anencephaly to learn more about her son’s prognosis. She and Austin learned a startling reality. Approximately 95% of children with anencephaly are aborted.
“I was trying to get the medical facts, but it was so upsetting to learn these babies are aborted because doctors tell the parents the babies are not compatible with life,” Mary Kate said.
“Joseph was literally kicking me and more active than our other babies were,” she continued, “and my pregnancy was the same as my other two pregnancies.”
As the pregnancy progressed, Patti checked in on the couple, offering them a listening ear, prayers and support.
“She’s incredible,” Austin said of Patti.
Mary Kate agreed.
“I mean, we met her that day,” said Mary Kate, “and she talked about how she wished she could just take the pain away from us.”
Despite the pain, the couple said they experienced God’s grace.
Austin is a theology teacher at St. James Academy in Lenexa. Every year during Holy Week, the entire student body of St. James, along with the faculty, takes one day to engage in community service around Kansas City. Assignments are based on the organization’s needs and the number of students within a group, known as a “house.”
By “coincidence,” Austin’s “house” of 16 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, was the smallest one, making it the perfect fit for Alexandra’s House.
So Debbie Nearmyer, vice president of faith and mission at St. James, approached Austin about serving there, not realizing Austin had prayed for that very opportunity.
When the day came, the group started out in the chapel at Alexandra’s House. Austin shared his family’s story and prayed with his students. Then, everyone worked to put the names of babies on the “Scala Sancta” (“Holy Stairs”), which features a picture of every single baby served by Alexandra’s House. Students also assisted with landscaping needs.
“It was really cool to help out,” Austin said. “Alexandra’s House won’t accept monetary donations from couples the organization has served, which is great, but I want to give back.”
Another special moment in Joseph’s story took place on May 14. The couple hosted a baby shower at St. James Academy for a mother in need, a client of the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic in Kansas City, Kansas.
The generosity of people, Mary Kate said, was overwhelming. Cribs, strollers, diapers and clothes were donated by family, friends, coworkers and others.
“It felt good to do something in his name, and people were so generous,” said Mary Kate. “This was right around the time the ‘leak’ came out about the Supreme Court [Dobbs case]. I was sharing videos of all these gifts in my living room for this mom who was in one of those pregnancies where they’re telling her it’s better to just abort. It was just perfect timing.”
Timing, as they say, is everything.
The couple selected June 24 as the day to induce Mary Kate’s labor.
Shortly after labor began, the couple turned on the TV, literally just minutes after the Supreme Court’s landmark announcement overturning Roe v. Wade.
“I don’t think we realized how crazy it was that Joseph would be born that day,” Mary Kate said.
As labor progressed, it became clear that the baby was in distress and Mary Kate would need a cesarean section.
“It was terrifying. I had literally a priest on one side of me and Austin on the other,” Mary Kate said, adding both men prayed over and with her.
The priest was Father Keith Chadwick, an associate pastor at Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa and a longtime friend of Austin’s. The priest baptized Joseph with holy water from the Lourdes Grotto in France.
Most babies born with anencephaly die within minutes or hours, but on June 27, both Mary Kate and Joseph were sent home from the hospital. Little did they know it would be “the hardest night of their lives.”
Austin later wrote the following on the CaringBridge page the family had created to help share their journey with family and friends:
“As we edged towards bedtime, I took him into my arms so that Mary Kate could get a head start on sleep. . . . It was in these moments that Joseph went from being held by his earthly father to his heavenly father.”
Hurrying to tell Mary Kate, he realized he didn’t know how.
“I just stared, not knowing what to say or how to say it,” he said. “Words were no longer an option, as tears burst forth to wake up Mary Kate.”
The moment, Austin wrote, “brought the meaning of love out. Love poured out between Mary Kate and I and towards Joseph. We allowed ourselves to grieve together. This was the moment that we knew was coming but longed to escape.”
Later, in ending the post, he wrote: “Suffering is never easy. It isn’t even redemptive in and of itself, but it can be. When embraced, it sanctifies us. It allows our hearts to become like children. To embrace the joy of each infinitesimal moment. To wonder at the glory of God.
“Joseph allowed us to do that. We had him for three days outside the womb and, man, what an impact he had. We have entered into our Calvary, and now our son is experiencing the blissfulness of the fruits of the Resurrection. May we become childlike and see things for what they actually are: gifts from God for the salvation and rest of our souls.
“Joseph Anthony Krause, one of the Holy Innocents, pray for us.”