Some of the participants in the service of remembrance at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Dedham pose around the parish's memorial to the unborn Sept. 18. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
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DEDHAM -- Several communities in the archdiocese held memorial services on Sept. 18, the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children, to humanize the unborn and give women who have had abortions an opportunity for healing.
This annual event is co-sponsored by Priests for Life, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, and the Pro-Life Action League. On this day, prayer services honoring victims of abortion are held across the U.S. at cemeteries or monuments to the unborn, many of which have been set up by Knights of Columbus councils. According to the event website, there are approximately 30 memorial sites throughout Massachusetts, and one, Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, is a burial site for the remains of 12 aborted children.
St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Dedham installed a monument earlier this year, on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation. Since then, the parish has celebrated a Mass for unborn children on the 25th of each month.
On Sept. 18, the community at St. Mary's observed the National Day of Remembrance by holding a Mass and a period of adoration in which they prayed for the unborn by reflecting on each month of Christ's life in the womb of the Blessed Mother. They then gathered near the garden with the monument to pray a rosary and hear from speakers.
Maria White shared the story of her late brother, Steve Costantino, who passed away in February of this year. He was born with prune belly syndrome, a disease that caused serious defects in his kidneys and stomach. Most babies born with this disease do not survive, but Costantino lived to the age of 62.
White shared how Costantino had an "epiphany" in the 1990s after seeing a sonogram of their unborn niece. He realized that if such technology had existed before he was born and he had been diagnosed in utero, he would have been a candidate for abortion due to his disease.
"This troubled him deeply, because he cherished life. He valued his life. He wanted to be here, in spite of his difficulties," White said.
That day, Costantino asked God what he should do. When he got home, he sat down at the piano, and within 15 minutes, he wrote a song, "Point of View," from the perspective of an unborn child. White distributed copies of the lyrics and played an updated version of the song at the memorial service.
"It's a compassionate and passionate appeal to the mother," she explained.
Another speaker at the gathering was Mary Burton, who helped begin the Kiss of Mercy Apostolate. During and after the service, she shared her prayer cards dedicated to women who have been hurt by abortion.
After the service, pink and blue carnations were distributed, and people exchanged information about different pro-life groups and activities.
Linda Doherty, a Milton resident who comes to St. Mary's frequently for daily Mass and adoration, had not planned to attend the memorial service; but the day before, she felt "inspired," she said, "like I need to be here."
She said she was especially moved by Costantino's song.
"It was such a beautiful song, and I just pray that it becomes another anthem of the pro-life movement, which hopefully will be seeing some great victories this year," she said.
A smaller, but no less moving, service took place at St. Joseph Cemetery in Chelmsford, where a monument was installed last year by Knights of Columbus Council 9275. James Barrows, the Knight who organized the event, said he was pleased with the turnout of 16 in attendance.
"I was happy. Considering that we're still in this COVID thing, I thought the numbers were okay. I would have liked to have seen a lot more, but hopefully (we will) next year," he said Sept. 20.
The service included music and a scripture reading. Prayers were led by Father Brian Mahoney, pastor of the Holy Rood Collaborative. Ellen Rene from Pregnancy Care Center in Lowell spoke about their work.
Barrows asked the attendees to give a name to an unborn child and to keep that child in their prayers. Speaking to The Pilot on Sept. 20, Barrows said that this pleased several people, including some who had suffered miscarriages and had never thought of naming their child.
Names also played an important part in a service in North Attleborough, which was attended by about 40 people. It was organized by Kathy Hill, the Massachusetts regional coordinator of Silent No More, a campaign to raise public awareness of the pain caused by abortion. Hill also runs a Bible study for post-abortive women, Surrendering the Secret.
During the service, Hill read a list of 50 names that women who have gone through her Bible study gave to their aborted children.
"This National Remembrance Day is really dedicated to giving dignity and honor and identity to all those lost babies," Hill told The Pilot on Sept. 21.
The other speakers included Father Albert Faretra, pastor of St. Blaise Parish in Bellingham, and Pastor Jeff Bailey from Grace Baptist Church in Attleboro. Sister Therese Maria from the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light led the attendees in song.
Six women who have gone through Hill's Bible study were present, two of whom shared their testimonies.
"When we talk about abortion and 60 million babies, you can't fathom that; it's just a huge black hole, the numbers are just so incomprehensible. But when you see the two women who stand in front of you and say, 'I had an abortion, and it broke me, and God saved me,' that's what I think defines the moment. I think that's the whole point of this National Day of Remembrance, to remember these actual babies and these actual women," Hill said.
The women also participated in the flower-laying ceremony, which Hill described as "something tangible for them to memorialize and mourn the loss of their own children."
"Only women who go through healing can do that and be comfortable and find joy in that. And they were just so delighted to be able to do that," Hill said.