New memorial fills void by honoring children lost before birth

The Unborn Memorial at Calvary Cemetery in Delano, Minn.
Photo By: Mary Meehan
Anne Judine Knudsen
Anne Judine Knudsen, right, stands in front of the Unborn Memorial.
Photo By: Mary Meehan
The churches held a mass to bless the Unborn Memorial at Calvary Cemetery.
Photo By: Mary Meehan
“Having this memorial inscription in their name has given those feelings of sadness and loss some closure." -- Anne Judine Knudsen

When Anne Judine Knudsen, 56, saw the engraved names of her two babies lost through miscarriage on the “Unborn Memorial” wall in Delano, Minn., she cried.

“It was special to see (their names) for the first time and to know that those little babies were being remembered in this peaceful place … They have a place to which we can return and remember,” said Knudsen, who lives in Park Ridge, Ill. but has Minnesota roots.

She decided to etch the children and her family’s names on the memorial. “Having this memorial inscription in their name has given those feelings of sadness and loss some closure,” she said.

The “Unborn Memorial” is made up of two granite walls where children lost before birth either through miscarriage or abortion are memorialized. St. Peter and St. Joseph’s Churches of the Delano Catholic Community built the walls.

Any baby who dies at less than 20 weeks gestation, by law, does not require a death certificate and most times there are no remains to bury. The churches have received requests from parents about whether or not they could place a marker in the cemetery. The Unborn Memorial fills a void and is an interdenominational service for anyone who shares the belief that life begins at conception.

Delano Catholic Community priest Father Paul Kammen, 34, said the walls help his community offer compassionate support to grieving parents. The walls also “promote the sacredness of life,” he said. “Life is precious from 10 weeks to 89 years.”

The pastors at St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s Churches also confer a blessing on the child memorialized on the wall in a ceremony.

Knudsen thinks that any mother who has lost an unborn baby can find comfort and peace in a memorial wall, and they are a good idea for future generations. “It has always been a sad and painful experience for mothers who hardly knew what to do with their feelings. As a result, most babies lost in miscarriages were privately mourned by the mothers who carried them and soon forgotten by others,” she said.

In the Catholic faith, this engraving serves as the one final resting place for the baby. The engraving helps to offers tangible proof the soul existed, and this physical marker can be the start of the healing process.

I witnessed the Knudsen family’s first visit, the first time they saw and touched the etched inscription on the wall. It was a tearful, yet a joyful experience for all there.

As a promoter of the Unborn Memorials, I work to spread the word about the memorial in the Delano community and the Wright County area. I chose to involve myself in this ministry of the Delano Catholic Community because I have had two siblings who died due to a miscarriage. Their names are on the memorial, and that helps me honor and remember them.

Assisting an individual or family to reach a state of peace after losing an unborn child can be emotionally challenging, but also rewarding. “After experiencing the joy of three healthy pregnancies and the births of three beautiful children, one takes for granted that those following will come into the family in the same healthy, joyful manner,” Knudsen said. “When a little brother or sister anticipated with such love and happiness by us the parents and his or her siblings, it is truly devastating when that little one doesn’t make it.”

For more information about the Unborn Memorial, call (763) 972-2077.

The cost for an engraving is $125.

For the past two years I have met with doctors, nurses, priests and social workers to give them pamphlets describing the wall and this ministry. They seem open to receiving the information. I hope making caregivers aware of these services can help them better serve their patient’s spiritual health needs. I feel blessed to be a part of this ministry.

“If mothers and their families have the opportunity to inscribe the names of their unborn babies on a Memorial that is visible to all, it reaffirms that life at every stage is real and always a blessing,” Knudsen said.