Perth Catholics honour the Unborn on special day

08 Apr 2021

By Eric Leslie Martin

The International Day of the Unborn Child was celebrated at St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday, 20 March, 2021, in honour of families who have experienced the devastating loss of a child, even before being able to celebrate their birth. Photo: Ron Tan.

Some 200 people gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday morning, March 20, to celebrate the International Day of the Unborn Child and hear the heartfelt words of encouragement and thanks delivered by Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton to the many people who work to promote and safeguard the life of the unborn, here in the Archdiocese of Perth.

“May I say how grateful I am for your commitment to caring and supporting so many women and men at Pregnancy Assistance and the other agencies: the impact of losing a child remains with a parent for life,” Bishop Sproxton said.

“There are so many factors at play in the lives of those who come to us seeking help – one of the newsletters from Pregnancy Assistance last year named them: unexpected pregnancy; abortion concerns; financial hardship; foetal anomaly; domestic violence; homelessness; isolation and loneliness; relationship breakdown; drug addiction; mental health issues; migration and grief and loss.”

“None of these situations is easily or quickly resolved.”

Flowers were placed into baskets on the sanctuary to remember children who had died at birth through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion or other causes. Photo: Ron Tan.

As Bishop Sproxton shared in 2018, sitting with a person who is weighing up options after they have discovered that they are pregnant can be harrowing – ‘it is never easy as there are no arguments that you can offer that clinch the decision to keep the child.’

“Patient accompaniment and compassion are essential, as is being there regardless of the decisions that have been made – being convinced of the presence of God in each encounter is important to sustain us,” he said on Saturday.

“Listening to the Spirit and drawing on the grace provided through the Spirit brings humility and a willingness within us “to go the extra mile”… Let us pray for one another that our faith will continue to grow and we may stand by those who seek us out for support.”

Chair of Pregnancy Assistance, Laura Craig, spoke similarly of God’s great comfort and healing, reminding the congregation that God not only loves us, “but generously forgives us and wants us to be with him.”

“Whatever our situation, we can come to him and receive his peace,” she said.

The heartfelt ceremony, established by then-Pope John Paul II to coincide with the Feast of the Annunciation, was an opportunity for parents who have experienced the death of a child, either through abortion, miscarriage or SIDS, to come a little closer to terms with the grief and loss experienced with the untimely death of an (unborn) child.

Those who attended were given a flower and invited to put it into baskets on the sanctuary to remember children who had died at birth through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion or other causes.

The Mass was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop of Perth, Donald Sproxton, who shared his heartfelt gratitude with those who have taken on this mission to share God’s love and forgiveness with parent’s who have experienced such loss. Photo: Ron Tan.

Pregnancy Assistance was founded in 1996 by Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, triggered by the need in society for an organisation that would “offer counselling and practical support for women, especially for those distressed by an unexpected pregnancy”.

Based in East Perth, the organisation primarily works with mothers who are pregnant and (due to life’s circumstances) find themselves facing a difficult choice as to whether or not to keep their baby, as well as providing support for fathers, who can also find themselves ‘feeling alone, stressed out and completely confused’.