By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
Just 12 weeks after conception, a baby living inside his mother’s womb has every organ he will ever need for life “on the outside.”
To put this amazing fact a different way: 12 weeks after conception, the main thing a baby needs is time to grow.
This 12-week milestone of prenatal development was made tangible to students at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Kenner at the conclusion of their school Mass on Oct. 4. In observance of October’s “Respect-Life Month,” members of St. Elizabeth’s Grandparents Club donated and distributed soft plastic models representing a 12-week-old unborn baby to nearly 500 students.
The tiny models, blessed before Mass by Divine Mercy’s pastor Father David Dufour, were wrapped in blankets hand-crocheted by parishioners. The effort, called “The Snuggle Project,” was hatched by Divine Mercy parishioners Barbara Sutphen and Gloria Jean Capiton to enhance the elementary school’s long-standing practice of having the entire student body name and spiritually adopt unborn babies – from conception to birth – over the course of the nine-month school year.
“All your prayers for your spiritually adopted babies are amazing! It’s actually helping babies be born safe and healthy,” said St. Elizabeth respect-life coordinator and teacher Natasia Kissinger, who launched a respect-life club with just a handful of St. Elizabeth students back in 2007. That club, now called “Footprints for Life,” currently numbers some 75 St. Elizabeth students in grades 4-7.
“God knows each one of these babies before they were born,” Kissinger said, addressing students after Mass. “He knew you before you were created and born.”
At St. Elizabeth, grades 1-5 adopt and name a “class baby” for the school year and learn about his or her physical progression. Sixth and seventh graders are given the privilege of naming and praying for their own individual babies.
Earlier, during the procession, students from each homeroom carried up white roses representing babies saved in the womb through their school’s annual prayer effort. Once a month, Footprints for Life members go to the altar to display a medically accurate poster that tracks the in-utero development of their spiritually adopted babies. Club members also make a poster for each classroom with a prayer and a picture of a baby.
To further remind students to pray for the unborn, the tiny models handed out on Oct. 4 had the following prayer, written by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, attached to their blankets: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of (baby’s name), the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted.” The prayer is also incorporated into St. Elizabeth’s daily pre-lunch grace.
In January, near the Jan. 22 anniversary of the court case legalizing abortion in the United States, a “baby shower” for the safely delivered babies will be held, with all the gifts donated to organizations and ministries dedicated to life.
“When our students leave (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton), most of them go on to join the pro-life club at their high school,” noted Joan Kathmann, school principal.
“We think the best way to change things in the world is to go through our children,” Kathmann added. “There’s a Communion song that goes, ‘See the unborn baby, the forgotten one.’ I feel great that this is not us, here at St. Elizabeth. We do remember the unborn baby. We pray for them. We spiritually adopt them. We’re so blessed here!”
Kissinger’s “Footprints for Life” program is recognized by the Office of Catholic Schools for use as a classroom supplement or as a club. Kissinger is available as an events planner and speaker on respect-life topics. To learn more, visit www.choosethechild.com.
Beth Donze can be reached at email@example.com.