Port Townsend parish cemetery honors babies ‘conceived but never born’

  • Written by Nathan Whalen
  • Published in Local
Parishioners of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Port Townsend gather for the Aug. 26 dedication of the Garden of Hope at the parish cemetery. The garden honors unborn children. Photo: Kay Harper/Deja View Photography Parishioners of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Port Townsend gather for the Aug. 26 dedication of the Garden of Hope at the parish cemetery. The garden honors unborn children. Photo: Kay Harper/Deja View Photography

PORT TOWNSEND – The newly dedicated Garden of Hope at St. Mary Star of the Sea Cemetery is a sacred space where people can remember babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion.

“We provide a fundamental place to these families to pray and meditate and come together,” said Deacon Bill Swanson of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish, who helped guide the memorial’s development from concept through construction.

A plaque in the garden reads, in part: “In loving memory of all babies conceived but never born, especially the victims of abortion.”

The garden, dedicated Aug. 26 by Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, soon will have two columbarium-like vaults where families can place small items memorializing their unborn children. The vaults will be dedicated in spring 2018, during a memorial service for the unborn.

“The parish committed to this project to comfort the many people who have been touched by such devastating loss,” Deacon Swanson said in an email. “Various studies by mental health counselors and support groups show that the healing power of a tangible memorial is an integral part of the answer.”

Bishop Elizondo Garden of Hope DedicationAuxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo dedicates the Garden of Hope at St. Mary Star of the Sea Cemetery in Port Townsend on Aug. 26. Photo: Kay Harper/Deja View Photography

Although the vaults aren’t ready yet, people are already leaving items at the memorial. Kathleen Wadkins, St. Mary’s pastoral assistant for administration, checks the garden regularly and has seen flowers and small flags placed there.

“It’s a beautiful, serene place to go,” Wadkins said, noting that the Garden of Hope is helping revitalize the parish cemetery, located more than a mile from the parish church.

The garden also features an 8-foot wall and three statues: Mary with the child Jesus, St. Joseph, and the Risen Christ (donated to the memorial by parishioners of St. Pius X Parish in Mountlake Terrace). A pavilion over the memorial space provides shelter where Masses can be celebrated.

“It’s tastefully done,” said Jesuit Father John Topel, who was St. Mary’s pastor when the project began about two years ago. The work has continued under the guidance of the current pastor, Father Peter Adoko-Enchill.

Garden of Hope Knights of ColumbusThe Knights of Columbus from St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Port Townsend participate in the Aug. 26 dedication of the Garden of Hope, honoring unborn children. As part of the project, members of the Knights erected a flagpole and planted shrubs around the memorial. Photo: Kay Harper/Deja View Photography

Wadkins said the community came together to help complete the project. The Knights of Columbus installed the flagpole and planted shrubs around the memorial, and discounts from vendors and contractors helped make the garden construction affordable.

Parishioners and others have purchased memorial brick pavers engraved in honor of “lost children, family members and marriages,” Deacon Swanson wrote. So far, 95 pavers have been purchased, Wadkins said.

Families also can enroll the name of an unborn child in a memorial book that will be kept in the vault. For details, call the parish at 360-385-3700 or visit the parish website.