By Ken Newton
Special to the Catholic Key
ST. JOSEPH – The mysterious ways of God’s work took Diane Ricci to a church in Arizona, there as one more visitor attending Mass.
But the St. Joseph woman, a parishioner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, noticed something by the building’s door, something that stuck with her.
It was a memorial to the unborn.
“It was just a little gray stone, nothing special,” she said. “It just spoke to me.”
From that grew an idea that became a plan that became a granite monument alongside St. Joseph’s Frederick Boulevard. Guadalupe parishioners gathered between Masses on May 29 to dedicate the “Choose Life” marker placed on the southeastern part of the church grounds.
The monument proved about a year in the making. Ricci informed the parish’s Respect Life Committee about what she had seen. As it happened, Pat Baker, another committee member, had thoughts to share about her travels to the National Memorial for the Unborn in Chattanooga, Tenn.
They wondered, why not here?
“Sometimes, you know, you have to pray for God to send the right people,” Baker said. “You pray for the right person, and Diane was the right person.”
Ideas coalesced in the committee, and the Guadalupe parish proved an ideal fit for such a monument. Its patroness has long guided church members to issues involving mothers and children. The Virgin of Guadalupe is both Patroness of the America’s and Protector of the Unborn.
In addition, its location abuts Frederick Boulevard in the east side of St. Joseph, a high-traffic thoroughfare with excellent visibility from motorists and recreational walkers using the adjoining sidewalk.
The monument, with its “Choose Life” inscription above an engraved psalm (“Babies are a gift from the Lord”), will be within view of hundreds of people daily.
The parish pastor, Father Tom Ludwig, presided at the dedication, attended by about 55 people. The priest said those who pass the memorial would see it as a sign of hope and an opportunity to reflect on the gift of life.
“The angel, bowed in sorrow and in prayer, is truly symbolic … of the tragic and lasting impact of abortion and is also symbolic of the love, the comfort and the compassion that comes from our God through Jesus Christ,” he told those gathered.
Father Ludwig cited the story of Rachel, inconsolable over the loss of her children in the Book of Jeremiah.
“Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward, says the Lord,” reads the scripture.
The story, the pastor reminded, stands as the driving force behind Project Rachel, a broad-based ministry that provides spiritual and emotional help to men and women after their involvement in abortion.
“We pray in a special way that all of us will have a greater respect for the dignity of all people and of all life,” Father Ludwig said.
Prayers at the dedication focused not just on those unborn lives lost due to abortion but to lives cut short by miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects. Prayers were also said for expectant mothers and pregnant women in crisis.
Of the monument, committee member Linda Ortiz said, “For all the mothers and fathers who have lost children through miscarriage or abortion, it gives them a spot to come and pray.”
For committee members, the monument had some special significance. Baker and her husband lost a child at birth. And Ortiz gave birth to a son seven weeks premature, a delivery that precipitated an emergency helicopter flight to a Kansas City hospital.
At the dedication, her healthy son, Nathan, carried a wreath to place by the monument.
An anonymous donor supplied funding for the memorial.
Roger Van Vickle, whose family runs a third-generation monument business in St. Joseph, attended the dedication. He bought the granite piece for a display about a year ago, saying its design touched him.
“I bought it because I liked it, because it said something without saying something,” he said. “Now it really says something.”